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Focused Problem Solving

Training course in Focused Problem Solving

Creative thinking strategies and problem solving tools

Two Day Course

Course Brochure Download
Focused Problem Solving brochure
  • Master a powerful seven-step problem solving process
  • Learn how to identify the ‘root cause’ of a problem
  • Acquire strategies for building consensus


This highly interactive two-day course provides an insight into creative thinking strategies and problem solving tools and techniques. The training provides practical help to enable professional people to grasp the mindset of an expert problem solver. The training is based on applying Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) techniques to the problem solving process. During the course, discoveries will be made as to how to consistently get to the heart of an issue and generate high quality solutions to resolve the root cause of a problem. It will also build self-confidence when conducting problem-solving meetings.

Learning objectives

  • Gain an insight into the golden rules of successful problem solving
  • Understand the difference between ‘conversations for possibility’ and ‘conversations for action’ when solving problems
  • Acquire a ‘toolbox’ of tried and tested tools for ‘root cause analysis’
  • Discover a simple yet powerful seven-step method for solving a problem in an efficient and effective way
  • Master an elegant approach to facilitating a problem solving meeting

Who should attend?

All professional people who want to acquire a methodical and professional approach to solving problems, issues and challenges.

Day 1

The inner game of problem solving

The phrase the ‘inner game’ is a term borrowed from sports psychology. It is a reference to the fact that what is going on inside a person’s head (their state of mind) is crucial to good performance. Here we consider the role perception and beliefs of people who are excellent at influencing others.

  • Examining your current beliefs
  • Reviewing expert beliefs
  • Making changes that you feel are appropriate for you

Exercise: applying the ‘affirmation’ technique

Day 1 (cont)

Key concepts in problem solving

Looking at the concepts that underpin the problem solving theory.

  • What is a problem?
  • Closed ended Vs open ended problems
  • Frame size
  • Systems approaches
  • Creative approaches
  • Common mistakes
  • The rational method

Group exercise: applying the theory to current work practice

Day 1 (cont)

Focused problem solving system™ and managing a problem solving meeting

The Focused problem solving system™ is a logical step-by-step guide to problem solving and decision-making. It asks us to adopt a structured seven-step approach to dealing with a problem. When run in a meeting format there are an additional set of tools and techniques to ensure that ((i) there is active participation from the people present (ii) a high degree of consensus is achieved and (iii) the time is managed well.

  • The seven steps of the Focused problem solving system™
  • Data squares and decision matrixes
  • Control the environment
  • Formulate the problem
  • Define the process
  • Establish visual control
  • ‘Bringing in’ & sharing the pen
  • Summarising, testing understanding and checking for commitment

Group exercise: running a series of problem solving meetings

Day 2

Formulate the problem

In this part of the course we consider the preparatory steps that need to be taken in order to formulate a problem in depth.

  • Describe the problem by listing the symptoms that are occurring
  • Is the problem open or closed?
  • Go/No go?
  • Get into the ‘right’ frame of mind to take action
  • Do I need to buy time?
  • Outcome definition; what specifically do I want to see when the problem is solved?

Pairs exercises: defining a problem thoroughly

Day 2 (cont)

Organise data collection

How to get the facts as they relate to the problem in question.

  • Mapping the areas to research
  • Planning the investigation
  • Acquiring and analysing the data
  • Operational definitions
  • Data collection tools

Pairs exercises: designing a data collection tool

Day 2 (cont)

Clarify the root cause

Tracking down the root cause means that we use our processed data to work out what has caused the symptoms to occur.

  • Is/is not table
  • Identifying Key distinctions
  • Finding the probable cause
  • Testing the probable cause

Pairs exercises: root cause anaylsis case study

Day 2 (cont)

Uncover Options

Having identified the likely root cause of the problem the next step is to suspend judgement and list the various possible alternative solutions or methods of solution.

  • Brainstorming
  • Metaphor Analysis
  • Meta planning
  • Logical levels diagrams

Exercise: role play to uncover options

Day 2 (cont)

Select an option

Selecting an option involves us in deciding which of the possible courses of action we have identified should be acted upon. This can be done through the use of a decision matrix.

  • Absolute criteria
  • Desirable criteria
  • Scoring and ranking schemes

Exercise: case study to develop a decision matrix

Evaluate the risks

Risk assessment is about considering the things that could go wrong with a given approach before it is put into action, then taking preventative and protective action.

  • Six step risk assessment process

Exercise: case study to assess risks

Day 2 (cont)

Decide next steps

Once the ‘solution’ to the problem has been agreed upon and the possible risks have been identified the final step is to implement the decision.

  • Identifying actions
  • Monitoring results
  • Standardising implementation across sites & departments

Exercise: case study on identifying actions



Feedback is based upon peer review using Boulden assessment checklists. Completing the assessment checklists is not only valuable to the people involved in a given case study, it also helps those completing them to gain an in-depth understanding of the building blocks that make up an effective problem solving approach.

Remote Training

All of our workshops can be delivered as Remote Training via e-learning modules plus Zoom based virtual workshops. Please see our Virtual Training page for more information.


Further information on this course is available by contacting
Boulden Management Consultants:
via our Contact form
Tel: 0844 394 8877