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5 Activities to Accelerate Problem Solving in Any IT Team

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Every manager knows what it is like to solve a problem. This is a daily activity for many people and it usually leads to the best outcomes. If you ignore or admit problems in your business, competitors can quickly pass you and your company will hang behind.

Any action that is aimed to solve a problem should identify this particular problem and its causes. Understanding the causes, you'll be able to set priorities and choose alternatives for the best solution, as well as directly implement this solution. The ability to solve internal and external problems timely and make responsible decisions is what managers should learn from the very start of their career. In this article, we’ll identify powerful problem-solving activities and analyze some effective techniques and exercises for teamwork.


The idea of problem-solving

Well-arranged problem-solving strategies have benefited many companies and helped them to eliminate obvious and hidden barriers.

There is a systematic approach to problem-solving that includes 5 stages:

  1. Identifying the problem. The right definition of the problem is the first step towards its solving. This important stage directly influences how you try to solve it.
  2. Defining the reasons. When the problem is determined, it is time to figure out what causes are. The popular Ishikawa diagram (or fishbone diagram) is often used to determine cause-effect relationships. This effective analysis helps managers to make sure that their decisions are aimed at eliminating the actual causes, rather than the symptoms of the problem.
  3. Generating ideas. It's about a team's creativity and proposing the best ideas. A brainstorming session or discussions within any team building activity will be a great solution.
  4. Choosing the best solution. This stage is for selecting a single method of solution and the powerful prioritization techniques and frameworks will assist you to get all things done. Even a simple matrix used in Lean Prioritization will help you clearly define what is urgent and what is not. You may visualize it on a piece of paper or utilize any modern online product management tool with the relevant feature.
  5. Action. Having the relevant solution, you may act. It's better to have a clear action plan and treat it as a mini-project.


This simple five-step framework may certainly improve the effectiveness of your problem-solving skills. This approach with optional changes was used as the basis for many popular methods.

Popular problem-solving methods

Root Сause Analysis

The Root cause analysis (RCA) approach identifies the main causes of a problem. This method is typically used when something goes wrong.

According to the method, problem-solving and root cause analysis are fundamentally based on 3 questions:

  • What is the problem?
  • Why did it happen?
  • What should be done to prevent it from repeated happening?

To apply the RCA method, you have to follow these steps:

  • Define the problem by its impact on overall goals.
  • Visualize and analyze the problem to reveal causes.
  • Solve it by choosing the best solution. The effective solution should change the way how people execute processes.

Typically we face the following causes:

  • Physical causes (material and tangible).
  • Human causes, when people did something wrong or did not do something that was required.
  • Organizational causes connected with the system, processes or policy that people use to make decisions.

Root Сause Analysis looks at all three types of causes and includes finding hidden flaws and defining specific actions that contributed to the problem.


The method of 5 Whys

The 5 Whys technique was described by Sakichi Toyoda, a Japanese industrialist, (and the founder of Toyota Industry) in the 1930s.

The method is rather simple: when a problem happens, you drill down to its cause by asking «Why?» five times. Then, when the solution becomes apparent, you follow it through to prevent the issue from recurring.

There is a 6-step flow:

  • Team gathering with the group discussion.
  • Determining the problem and agreeing with all team members.
  • The main “Why?” — ask why the problem occurred.
  • The rest “Whys” — ask this question 5 times again. Continue until the main problem is found. Actually, there may be more or less questions.
  • Action plan. Discuss the list of measures and actions to avoid a recurrence of the problem in the future.
  • Analysis. Discuss how effective the measures were, whether they helped to solve the problem or reduce it.

Move quickly from the answer to the next question. It will allow you to define the overall picture before consciousness comprehends the problem.


Using powerful problem-solving strategies like CATWOE Analysis can help you improve how you deal with the challenges that you may face in the future.

The acronym stands for:

  • Customers
  • Actors
  • Transformation process
  • World view
  • Owners
  • Environmental constraints

You may think that it's just a simple checklist to find solutions to problems. However, this method will be really helpful in identifying problem areas, defining what companies desire, and which solutions can influence the stakeholders.

Each segment is attended with the following questions:

  1. Who are the customers and how will the problem affect them?
  2. What actors are involved in the problem? Who should be involved to solve this problem?
  3. What processes are affected by this problem?
  4. What is the general picture of what is happening?
  5. Who owns the process and what role will they play in the decision?
  6. Are there any restrictions that can affect the end result?

The CATWOE analysis provides comprehensive data about the problem and its elements help to delve into the study of the problem. The method helps to determine the severity of your challenges before involving other team members in the decision.

All the methods and techniques mentioned require study and deeping into details. If you don't want to deal with them, there are more simple exercises and fun games for team problem solving that can be applied without special preparation.

Problem-solving games and fun activities

Sometimes a simple and fun decision can be more effective than the most rigorous scientific approach. Nonformal business games may also assist you in problem-solving.

These fun activities are aimed to develop team communication, delegation, adaptation, mutual assistance, and other useful qualities and skills.

They are not suitable for each team as most of them require quite a sufficient level of receptivity from team members, creativity and flexible thinking.

Organizing such activities, managers should understand that there will be no winners or losers. Here are a couple of great examples:

Eggs Drop

Eggs Drop is a simple game that can improve decision-making skills od particular employees and team collaboration.

To run the activity, you need a box of eggs, tapes, old newspapers, straws, plastic wrap, balloons, rubber bands, and other office stuff that can be used for manual construction.

Occupy a free area that you can make messy. Then divide all participants into two groups and give everyone an egg and some of the construction materials.

Each team member will have above 20 minutes to create a carrier for eggs with the help of the construction stuff that will protect it from breaking.

You aim is to drop every carrier off a table or ladder (surprisingly for everyone) and see who’s carrier can protect the egg better. If several eggs survive, keep increasing the height until only one egg is left.

Wool networks

This simple game that requires concentration and clear directions will help to evolve decision-making skills and increase collaboration inside the group.

All you need is to divide your team into the groups of equal numbers. Give each team a ball of yarn and ask to create a web using their yarn.

10 minutes will be enough for this objective. Then mix the groups so that every team has a web other than their own.

Each group should choose one person and blindfold him/her. This participant should unwind the web using the verbal instructions of the teammates. The first team that has dismantled the web wins.


To sum it up

Facing problems is a rule for any company. There is no team escaped challenges during its work.
The main idea is to care about problems and take the right decisions. Various scientific methods, gaming techniques, and management tools may rescue teams and help to find successful solutions. Try them all and choose your favorite!
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