At its heart Interest Based Problem Solving is inherently simple. There are four steps.
Step 1: Define the Problem
This step leads a team to develop an issue statement. An issue statement creates the boundaries for the problem solving, usually begins with “What can/might we do to …”, is open ended and lends itself to multiple solutions. There is an art to making sure the issue statement is not too broad so as to avoid “boiling the ocean” and not too narrow so as to limit the solutions. The issue statement may change in later steps as the problem is understood in more depth.
Step 2: Determine the Interests
In a fast paced world it is common for us to go straight to a solution. When a particular solution has a strong emotional attachment it becomes a position. Competing positions cause compromise and usually result in a win/lose, lose/win or lose/lose situation. Behind every position is an interest or a need that requires satisfaction.
By discovering the interests relating to an issue statement and identifying common interests a foundation for a win/win situation is created.
A key aspect of understanding the interests is to identify the stakeholders.
Step 3: Develop Options
There are many ways to develop options for satisfying interests. Engaging subject matter experts, seeking out best practice, brainstorming, straw design, a pre-requisite tree can all assist with developing a range of options that can be used to craft a solution.
Step 4: Craft a Solution
Crafting a solution involves bringing appropriate options from step 3 together to satisfy as many interests as possible in relation to the issue statement. This involves identifying dependency between options, screening, testing and resourcing options. A complex problem usually requires a complex solution with many options being combined to develop a full solution and, because it is interest based, consensus that it is the best solution is highly probable.
It is impossible to predict all new problems that could turn up as you implement your solution to solve your problem. At this stage it is more important to focus on achieving the result than getting a perfect plan.
Practice brings speed:
While the process is inherently simple, for most teams, it takes a bit of getting used to. Traditional problem solving will often lead a team straight to Step 3 and 4. With interest based problem solving most of the time is spent in Step 1 and 2.
With practice a team can become proficient in the process and guide themselves through it without the need for a facilitator. When it becomes the normal way of working breakthrough results become the norm.