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Solving Problems in CSS

Reviewed Content on March 18, 2024

Problem-solving is a tool, a skill, and process. Child Support Services has special groups dedicated to solving problems with this 5-step process.

Step 1 – Identify the Problem

Before you are ready to take any steps to solve the problem, make sure that you know what the problem really is. It can be easy to get distracted and end up working on the wrong problem and not accomplish the original task. This step involves gathering as much information as possible.

  1. Brainstorm possible causes and investigate.
  2. Gather and evaluate data (compare & contrast)
  3. How is the current situation different from what I actually want it to be? (AS-IS)
  4. What do I actually want, or how do I actually want things to be? (IF-THEN

It can be very helpful to write down the answers to these questions as you are identifying the problem. Just thinking about things in your head can cause confusion, especially if you are working in a group, and end up distracting you from the actual problem. Prioritize your results if you discover multiple problems. That way you can either focus on each one individually, or assign them to different group members to give them all the attention they require.

Step 2 – Explore information and Create Ideas

Once you have defined the problem, you can start to develop ways to eliminate it. Take your AS-IS and IF-THEN statements from step 1 to determine what change you want to occur, and start developing ways to pursue that change.

  1. Document how the situation is affecting people, the organization, or otherwise causing difficulty
  2. Develop multiple solutions for the problem
  3. Is there an existing solution in place for this problem?
  4. Use flowcharts and graphs to map out the problem and possible solutions

After you have completed this step, check to make sure that your definition of the problem still fits.

Step 3 – Select the Best Idea

During this stage, you will examine each alternative and write down both the advantages and disadvantages. Judge solutions by asking:

  1. Is it relevant to my situation?
  2. Is it realistic?
  3. How would I measure success?
  4. What are the consequences – both good and bad?
  5. What is the likelihood that it is going to help me reach my goal?

Once you know how you want to address the problem you van begin creating an action plan to implement the chosen solution.

Step 4 – Build and Test the Idea

Once you know the problem and choose a solution you can begin implementing the changes needed to eliminate it. This step involves identifying all the steps needed to implement it, and planning how you will evaluate success.

  1. Gather technical resources
  2. Set specific deadlines and goals for action items
  3. Make sure evaluation metrics are part of the solution

Step 5 – Evaluate the Results

Gather information on how the plan is working and compare it to how the process worked before the change. Ask yourself:

  1. Is this the result that I planned?
  2. Do I need to address a different problem?
  3. Would another solution work better?
  4. Evaluation is an ongoing process that does not end – even if the solution fixes the original problem. In fact, evaluating the solution to one problem may point out new problems that were not visible before. The process can start over at step 1 with Identifying the Problem.

You may also want to access CSQuest articles for CSS Guide for Process Improvement Teams (PITs) or Consistent Excellence Business Process Documents.

The accuracy of this CS Quest Article is up to date as of 3/18/24.