The Solution Cycle is a simple tool that has been developed over the years and proved successful in achieving goals. The chronological steps to the Solution Cycle are as follows:
Develop a succinct goal:
- In one or two sentences
- Create SMART goals
Identify the single biggest problem that keeps you or your organization from achieving this goal:
- List as many problems as you can.
- Be very realistic in your assessment of what can be a problem.
- People can be problems, too, if they choose to block change or aren’t getting their job done.
- Choose the one most impacting problem as your target “fix.”
- Only work on the most impacting problem.
- Do not choose more than one problem even if it feels like several problems all need major attention.
List potential solutions targeted to this specific problem:
- Brainstorm as many solutions as possible but make sure each solution targets the specific problem you identified as your “biggest” problem.
- Limit your brainstorming time to 10-15 minutes.
- There are no wrong answers in a brainstorm.
- Have several people be part of the brainstorming team.
- Give yourself freedom to suggest solutions that are outside the normal box.
Choose the single best solution:
- Give each idea a fair look, even if it seems “over the top.”
- Develop 5-point criteria and weigh each solution against each other with a standard measure.
- Even if two solutions seem like they may work equally well, choose only one solution to implement.
Make a plan that puts the solution into action:
- List the activities necessary to implement this specific solution.
- Organize the activities into a step-by-step strategy.
- Make sure you balance your plan with other activities so that you solve the first problem and don’t create others.
- Think about who will do the work and how much it will cost. Make the plan simple.
Create a schedule to implement the plan:
- Determine when to start – give yourself plenty of lead time.
- Make sure everyone involved completely understands what you are trying to accomplish and the schedule.
- Get the schedule in writing – you have to think through details to write it down.
- Leave it lay a day or two and come back to the project with fresh eyes.
Report on progress:
- Establish the times for reports.
- Develop a format that gives accurate reports.
- Get the reports to the right people.
- Is the corrective action actually impacting the original problem and are you moving toward the original goal?
- What new problems have been created by implementing this solution?
- Is what you are doing worth the effort (common sense look)?
- Are the costs more than the benefits?
Brainstorm potential revisions to the plan to increase effectiveness:
- Can we be more effective by changing the plan a bit?
- Should we throw out the idea and start over?
- Is there something that will make this plan more user-friendly or reduce the costs?
- All ideas are good, but generally only one or two will really work.