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People-Centric Problem-Solving – The End-to-End Guide

People-Centric Problem-Solving is a concept we have uncovered over years of running CRO programmes; you can read more in our previous post on our route to discovery, but in this post we want to discuss how we turned a theory into a problem-solving approach.

Knowing that people are at the heart of problem-solving is only half the battle – knowledge and recognition alone won’t actually solve the problem!

Let’s start with the basics of the concept:

Problems are barriers to goals, created by decisions made by people.

Therefore, to achieve goals, we must solve problems by driving positive decisions from people.

And now let’s take each of those elements in turn:

Goal – identify what you want to achieve; then identify the micro-achievements (or stepping stones) that would lead to the accomplishment of that goal; bear in mind that there might be multiple routes to the same goal

Problems ­– what are the barriers blocking your path to those stepping stones and therefore your goal?

Decisions – what decisions would unblock those paths?

People – who could make the decisions that would unblock those paths? Are there multiple decision-makers involved?

Once you’ve sketched those out, you should have a pretty good view of the challenges that you face. So what’s the next step?

What do you already know about those people? Are they individuals like a manager or a friend even with which you know many specific things? Or are they a group of unknowns such as website or shop visitors where you might need to assign them into segments or types?

People-Led Perspective
List out each of your people or types in a column and then add three extra columns for Drivers, Needs and Stepping Stones/Goals.
Their Drivers are their reasons for interacting with you in the first place; so your manager might do this because they need regular updates on your work, whereas a website visitor might interact with you through your site because they saw an ad for some shoes they wanted.
Their Needs are the outcomes they are looking for from that interaction; the manager’s might be that they need to show their boss that they have everything under control. And the website’s visitor might be to find out what price those shoes are.
The Stepping Stones/Goals are the outcomes you want to achieve from those interactions; convince your manager that you have everything under control, or to show your website visitor that they won’t find those shoes at a better price anywhere.And once you’ve completed it, it should look something like this:

Goal Flows
The Goal Flows represent the routes you need to take to accomplish your goal. And in most cases, there are multiple routes (and therefore multiple flows) to achieving the same goal. At a basic level, the further from the end of the goal you are, the more likely it is that there will be more disparate flows. For example, for a goal of a higher salary, one flow could be through your current job, but there could also be alternative flows that lead to you getting a new job that still achieves the same outcome. Just remember that when you’re sketching these out, it is the goal (or stepping stone) that you are trying to reach that is most important; the possible routes are dictated by the goal, not the other way around.

Goal Narratives
If it were simple enough just to follow the flows to the goal, then we’d all be able to get what we wanted pretty quickly! Unfortunately, the story (or narrative) that you weave along the way is an essential part of achieving your aims. For example, a (simplified) goal flow for an agency looking to turn a casual customer into a long-term client on a retainer might look something like this:

But of course it is never that simple; that customer would need to be convinced of the value of the retained partnership along that flow. Making sure that the customer understands the costs and benefits would be essential for the agency to achieve their goal of a retainer agreement and therefore a narrative must be constructed along that flow to ensure the right information is delivered at the right time to the right people. After all, if you walked into a restaurant as a health inspector (wrong person) at lunchtime (wrong time), you wouldn’t expect to be told that the restaurant closes at 10pm or that today’s special is the lamb (wrong information); the information is accurate, but it isn’t relevant.

So using the same example of the agency retainer flow, the associated narrative might look something like this:

So you now have a great view of your goals and the problems, decisions and people involved in reaching them. Plus you’ve gathered everything you know about those people and focused on what drives them to interact with you and what they want to achieve. You’ve then matched that with the goal flows that show the steps you need to take and the goal narratives that you need to sow along the way.

So now you just need to start following your own advice, remembering that you’ve almost certainly made a number of assumptions along the way that you may well need to revisit when you have more data.

Try out the first steps on the flows that you’ve created, start using the narratives that you’ve constructed and see how they play out – and each time you do, make a note of how it went and that’s the data that you’re going to use to update the model.

Problem-solving isn’t a constant; as we discovered at the start, problems are created as new decisions are made and so you’re going to need to treat this as a living model. But the one thing that is constant is people; they’ll always be at the centre of the path to your goals and the sooner you can start working with that, rather than denying it, the sooner you will be able to knock those barriers down and move forwards.

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