3V: A Method for Problem Solving
[method] 3V. [persona] problem solver.
- an approach for ensuring a problem space is well understood, all potential solutions are considered, and the best solution is chosen given the circumstances
The other day at work I found myself in a situation where as a team, we didn’t properly think through whether a proposal we had in front of a client was the best way to address the client’s need. The result was that the client decided to take a different path with a competitor, and we were beat out on the deal.
As we went through our postmortem exercise to understand what went wrong and how we could have performed better, it became very obvious to us that in this case, we let the client lead us to what we proposed instead of critically considering whether what the client was asking for was actually the best solution to overcome their challenges and ultimately solve their problem.
I came up with the 3V Method to remind us to proactively assess the client’s situation, understand the the problem they are solving, and consider all possible solutions.
Viewpoint, Validate, & Verify
The idea is that whenever you are in a problem solving situation – whether you are working through a problem yourself or helping someone else – it’s important to consider the following three dimensions:
- Understand the Viewpoint of the problem holder
- Validate the problem
- Verify the solution
Considering the viewpoint of the problem demands that you fully understand why the problem needs to be solved and what positive impact solving the problem will have from the perspective of the problem holder. Thinking through this dimension helps you understand the underlying challenges, reasons, and motivations for why the problem is viewed as something that needs to be addressed and what results are expected when the problem is solved.
Given the set of challenges expressed by the problem holder, validation considers whether the focus is on solving the right problem. Sometimes, there’s a tendency to put the cart in front of the horse and jump right into a specific tactical solution to a challenge. In other cases, failure to see the forest for the trees results in attempts to fix specific side effects of a much larger underlying issue. Validation is a step that helps you focus on bringing the underlying issue to the surface.
With an understanding of the underlying issue and the right problem in focus, verification is the process for considering all potential solutions and finding the best solution for solving the problem. In some cases, there is no single solution that will satisfy all of the requirements of the problem space; thus, when verifying a solution, one must consider the solution’s strengths/weaknesses and any trade-offs associated with implementing the solution. Ultimately, the verification step should result in the “best solution for the job.”