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Reasoning for Problem Management

When it comes to Problem Management two things should come to mind: Root Cause Analysis (RCA) and finding a permanent resolution. How often have you thought about what it takes to conduct these aspects of Problem Management? An important underlying aspect of conducting a Root Cause Analysis and finding the permanent resolution are the reasoning approaches used.

Three types of basic reasoning approaches are:
  • Inductive: Reasoning from specific examples to general rules
  • Deductive: Reasoning from general rules to specific examples
  • Abductive: Reasoning to the most likely answer
Each has its own uses and can be applied to problem solving and Problem Management at different times and for different reasons. However, when performing the Problem Management process we should be open to using all three reasoning approaches. They all complement each other with Inductive and Deductive reasoning forming two ends of a spectrum while Abductive thought looks for the balance between the other two approaches.

Let's take a look at some ways we can use these reasoning methods to help us with Problem Management.

Using an Inductive approach we should begin by looking at specific Event or Incident data. Turn this data into information by sorting and categorizing it into meaningful groups. You can do this by looking for commonalities or trends among the data or facts. Once you have grouped the data into information, ask yourself: “What is this information trying to tell me?” By answering this question you will produce knowledge which will lead to identifying root cause or help to identify a proper permanent resolution.

Using the Deductive approach we would begin by establishing a general set of characteristics against which we will then compare data or facts to see if it matches. This allows us to begin with knowledge and decompose (deduce) it into information and then into data or facts. Then ask yourself the question “Do these facts, data and examples still fit the rule?” Once we have specific examples that fit our general rules or criteria we can then turn again to Induction for validation!

Using an Abductive approach would allow us to start with the data, information, knowledge and most important, wisdom, at hand. From our personal and professional experiences we can draw conclusions that would help us eliminate unlikely causes or ineffective fixes and thus save ourselves from going down dead ends of problem solving. Ask the question “Are the proposed root causes or fix recommendations likely, plausible or even possible?” We must be careful with abductive thought because we can often throw out what might in the end turn out to be an unlikely but actual root cause or identified fix.

When attempting to perform the Problem Management process we should see these reasoning methods as three parts of a triangle that should be used altogether and in an iterative fashion. Look at your problem from multiple sides and use different tools and approaches to understand the problem. This varied approach will allow for more effective and efficient efforts at Problem Management!

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