Problem solving

A problem solving framework is one of many useful tools that can assist you in analyzing the key questions that need to be asked and answered in order for negotiators and mediators to develop an effective strategy to deal with conflict.

1. Define problem

Define the problem in very specific terms.

2. Determine goal or objective

What is your preferred solution to the problem? Do you want to eliminate the problem or reduce the frequency with which it occurs? Do you want to minimize the impact or the harm? Do you want to redefine responsibility for the problem?

3. Brainstorm possible causes

Think of as many causes of the problem or sources of the conflict as possible. What is the history behind the problem?

4. Actors

Who are the important “actors?” What actors are directly involved in the problem? How do they perceive the issues/problems? What actors need to be involved in order to reach your objective? What are the relationships between the actors?

5. Action plan

Develop an action plan in relation to your objective. Brainstorm as many ideas as possible for overcoming the causes of the problem. When determining the feasibility of the individual ideas, consider:

  • What resources do you control?
  • What resources do you need?
  • What time constraints are you operating under?
  • What options can be undertaken immediately?
  • What options may be done over a longer period?

For any options you wish to pursue, determine what specifically needs to be done, i.e., who will do what, where, when and how? You should also develop an evaluation component for your action plan, and consider the likely impact as well as potential consequences of your action.