How to solve a problem using ... a block of post-it

And if you are told that you can solve all your problems with the help of a simple post-it block? It may seem unbelievable, but it is actually the truth.

The first step to solving a problem is to understand that it is divided into several interrelated pieces of information. This is valid for any problem, either it is a usual delay in the orders, or it is a communication failure between the teams of a project or successive complaints made by the customer. So, what we need to do is to understand what elements of the information are related, that is to say, how they can help us to came up with the right solution.

A block of post-it is all that you need to put order in chaos. Although they are used in brainstorming sessions, they can also be used individually to help someone think in a more organized way and to identify the various factors of a problem.

For best results with this process, each item of information must be written on a post-it note in such a way that it is easy to read and to understand. It should be as brief as possible, as long as it explains the situation. This exercise allows each person to focus on what is really important. Each post-it may include a fact, an opinion or an assumption, but it is appropriate that the distinction be explicit in order to avoid any kind of misunderstanding. Then, we must think about the information created and we look for a solution to the problems that are being mapped.

Post-its can be organized in different models, depending on the origin of the problem: in the form of a list, in trees where there is a hierarchy that can be top-down or bottom-up; or, in the form of a map for more complex relations in where each information is related to the other. So, it is possible to solve problems by identifying all the pieces of information, organizing them by models and focusing on what is really important.

There is yet another precaution that people must have: when creating more than one piece of information, though it is a problem, a cause or a solution, there is a strong tendency to identify only the obvious. For example, it is possible that we think about a solution that we find to be the best for our problem and then we stop right there. However, usually there are other possible solutions and the key to find the right one is to always consider different possibilities. All of this must be done through a divergence process (in which the different alternative elements are registered) and another one of convergence (in which, after considering all the possibilities, we need to decide which one is the best).

When post-its are well used and organized, this process can simplify any problem, clarifying each of its components and making the solution much more efficient and enjoyable. But the best way to prove it is to apply it in practice!

Kaizen Institute is a multinational company that supports organizations in the design and implementation of processes that enable continuous improvement in a sustained manner.

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