In 2014, a group of people founded a volunteer organization called the Robin Hood Army (RHA). The RHA’s mission is to feed India’s poor with help from volunteers comprising individuals, informal groups and restaurants. 

Six years later, they have more than 50,000 volunteers, serving people in 14 countries, including India.

The founders recognized that there was a problem that needed their attention and found a creative solution that impacted thousands of lives.

Whether it’s fighting for a cause or solving work-related problems, we encounter new challenges each day. Some are big and some are small, but they all need attention, assessment and solutions. Problem-solving is an essential skill for both personal and professional success.

The challenges may differ based on how easy or difficult they are to solve. Let’s learn more about the types of problems at work and how to solve problems.

Types Of Problems At Work

Problems are inevitable in today’s workplace. You could be close to a project deadline when you suddenly face a technical glitch. Or your plan could go awry because of a sudden policy change.

Such problems can be overwhelming. But they are not insurmountable. You need to first zero in on the cause of the problem to start solving it. 

Leadership expert Ronald Heifetz from Harvard Kennedy School categorizes problems into three types based on their nature: technical, adaptive and blended. 

Let’s look at the three types of problems:

  1. Technical Problems

Say you’re working on an important sales report for a client presentation and your computer crashes at the last minute. This is a technical problem that’s easy to identify. A technical problem is one that can be solved by an expert or an authority with the right knowledge or solution. For instance, you can take your laptop to the IT department and request them to recover a file for you.

  1. Adaptive Problems

Adaptive problems are abstract and hard to define. They are adaptive which means they are fluid and change with circumstances. They have no obvious solutions or experts to help find solutions. Dealing with adaptive problems is more complicated. Adaptive problems require attention to detail, time and effort from not one but many people. Collectively, an organization has to devise a strategy to tackle these types of problems. This requires a complete change in attitudes, habits, behaviors and roles, which people often resist. The coronavirus crisis is an example of an adaptive problem that has forced organizations across the world to change the way they work.

  1. Blended Problems

The types of problems you face at work are often a blend of technical and adaptive problems. Blended problems have both an adaptive and technical component. If you’re able to categorize your problems into technical and adaptive, you’ll find it easier to come up with sustainable solutions.

How To Solve Problems At Work

There are many types of problem-solving techniques you can use to deal with setbacks at work. One of them is the Problem Definition Framework to help you identify and define problems, the first step in understanding how to solve problems at work.

Here’s a five-step toolkit for solving problems at work:

  1. Define the problem statement

  2. Identify the stakeholders associated with the problem

  3. Discuss measures of success to decide whether to act on the solutions using quantitative or qualitative metrics

  4. Understand the scope or extent of the problem

  5. Work with constraints such as resources, budget and time

Problem-solving isn’t difficult once you’re able to identify the types of problems you may encounter. If you can learn to recognize whether a problem is technical, adaptive or blended, you’ll be better equipped to find the best solution. 

Harappa’s Defining Problems course will teach you about the different types of problems to put you on course to understand different types of problem-solving techniques. It offers useful resources such as the Problem Definition Framework to help you learn how to define the types of problems you’re facing. Sign up for the course now to become an efficient problem-solver with the right skill set to tackle work-related challenges.


Explore topics such as Problem Solving, Problem Analysis, What is a PICK Chart & the Barriers to Problem Solving from our Harappa Diaries blog section and develop your skills.

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