Problem solving is a key part of managing people.

Here at The Hub, we had some very big problems as a result of COVID. We had to adjust very rapidly to a change we didn’t anticipate and make decisions with incomplete information and no guarantees about the outcomes.

Those unprecedented circumstances pushed us out of our normal ways of thinking, and we came up with some really radical and sometimes incredibly effective solutions to the problems we faced.

It can be easy to fall back on familiar ways of thinking and miss the creative solutions that lead to real progress.

Here’s a list of questions you can use as a framework to improve your approach to solving problems and maybe arrive at more innovative, creative solutions.

Present situation – as is

  1. How are things now, what’s working and what’s not?
  2. How will things get worse if nothing changes?
  3. Who or what is impacted by the problem?

Desired situation – to be

  1. What would it be like if this problem were completely resolved?
  2. Who would benefit from the desired situation?

Analysis – what’s the gap between where you are now and where you’d like to be?

  1. Why does the problem exist now?
  2. Is anything working well or at all that could be improved?
  3. Are we making assumptions about the problem that we should check?
  4. Is the problem to do with people, processes, resources?


  1. What’s the next step? Will incremental steps lead to a solution or do you need a more “all in one go” approach?
  2. What actions are most likely to lead towards the desired outcome?
  3. What can you and your team do now to start closing the gap between where you are now and where you’d like to be?
  4. How can you get feedback about the changes you are making and the impact they are having on progress towards a solution?

This technique and many others are covered in our The Exceptional Middle Manager course.

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