FREE Problem Solving Technique

This method of Problem Solving can be used just not in business, but almost in any seemingly unattainable goal such as buying a car, starting a rock band, making repairs to a home, recruiting for a sports team, etc.

Fred’s Business

My friend Frederick had a burning desire to accomplish his business goal. He would dream about it and wake up in the middle of the night, playing it over and over in his mind. For years it drove him a little crazy. He didn’t know whether it was attainable or not. Finally, he shared his idea with me. Drawing upon my 20-years consulting experience, I offered him some help based on 2 simple and FREE techniques.

In this 2-part series I’ll share exactly how we addressed his dream project in less than 3 months – mostly thinking and planning – to get him moving. After we finished Part 2, he was ready to bring to market his idea, knowing the cost and the timing. It’s hoped that this technique will help others solve their complex issues.

Getting Started

Fred had already completed the hardest part – a well thought-out goal. But his mind was constantly bombarded with the same ideas over and over. His brain was clogged worrying about forgetting his ideas and nuances. What he needed was an organized approach to clear his mind. This would make certain he wouldn’t forget them to they could be developed at a later time. So, I introduced him to a modified technique called S-L-C-O.

S-L-C-O Use for Problem Solving

SLCO is short for Strengths, Limitations, Conditions and Opportunities. It categorizes every pertinent item about a goal, so nothing is forgotten. This efficient tool allows this information to be updated, identified and considered thoroughly at a more convenient time.

At our first meeting we drew this table on a blank piece of 8-1/2 by 11 paper. (The table is drawn by orienting the paper sideways, then dividing it into 4 columns. Each column had a title (left to right); 1st column – STRENGTHS; 2nd – LIMITATIONS; 3rd – CONDITIONS and 4th – OPPORTUNITIES. (See the example below.) Later, we made it into a neater and easier-to-manage EXCEL spreadsheet and reentered the information there.

Column 1 – Strengths

Under Strengths we listed everyone of his positives related to his goal. It included traits, talents, contact and abilities as well as other strengths including financial, experience, friendships, relations etc. Two items began this long list. Fred was a terrific engineer and exceptional in math.

Column 2 – Limitations

Sometimes, thinking about our weaknesses serves to discourage us. There is good news, however. You can take most of them and turn them into strengths. It’s like turning the sourness of lemons into lemonade! So, Fred faithfully wrote down all his negatives, limitations and weaknesses. For example he was very uncomfortable as a salesman. He told me “I couldn’t sell a life jacket to a drowning man.” Being brutally honest, allowed us to turn each limitation into an opportunity.

Column 3 – Conditions

There are some facts not easily changed. For example large companies may have an advantage; government regulations may play a part; it’s not easy to export products overseas. (Some may be too hurtful to consider, but can be reworded to make them neutral.) In Fred’s case his place of business was very cluttered, but he didn’t feel it was a negative. So, we listed it as overcrowded working conditions.

Column 4 – Opportunities

Now for every entry in the first 3 columns, we listed at least one opportunity. For example since he was a terrific engineer with many engineering resources available, we listed these as opportunities. Because he was a poor salesman we listed several opportunities: Hire a full-time salesman; Hire a retired salesman part time; hire an independent sales person who would work 100% on commission; and on and on.

In the first 5 minutes, here’s how Fred’s SLCO looked.

Strengths Limitations Conditions Opportunities
-Great Engineer
-Wife Support
-Use CAD at work
-Unique idea

-Bad Slsmn
-Stealing idea

-Overcrowded work conditions
-People don’t like change

-Hire a great salesman
-Hire retired salesman
-Hire Independent Sales Rep
-Do all eng using company tools
-Build prototype in basement
-Have co. vendors evaluate

Tips I provided to help

1- Keep the SLCO problem solving handy and immediately add all new information or thoughts.

2- Have a sheet of paper handy at his bedside to write down his thoughts during the night. That curtails fear he would forget fresh ideas he had during the night. Then worry free, he could simply roll over and go back to sleep.

3- Don’t get discouraged by the negatives.

When we finally finished Fred’s SLCO table, he identified 34 Strengths; 23 Limitations; 25 Conditions; and 82 Opportunities. Naturally, he wouldn’t use all these opportunities, but they easily made up for the puny number of his Limitations, giving us many options to help him make his goal a reality!

But how were we going to sift through all these opportunities to help Fred reach his goal? That’s the subject of Part II.

Photo by Sean MacEntee

Photo by Daniel Suarez™