Visualizing Problems … and Solutions!


February 1999

Visualizing Problems … and Solutions!


The November 1998 issue of Technical Communication, 45(4), focuses on the concept of visualizing information. In “Visualization Strategies for Team-Oriented Problem Solving, Analysis, and Project Planning,” Paul Lewis outlines a method for visualizing material throughout a group discussion. By presenting information in both a visual and relationship-based format, this system facilitates a project-planning session in order to successfully and efficiently complete problem analysis and arrive at a solution.

Lewis’ model focuses on the problems analysis and objectives analysis phases of the development process. During the problem analysis phase, individuals write problem ideas on cards. The group facilitator then clusters the cards according to theme on a pin board. Next, the group determines specific cause and effect relationships between the clusters and organizes a problem tree based on these relationships. In the objective analysis phase, the group converts the problem tree into an objective tree by changing each problem to a future desirable condition, thereby creating a set of means-ends relationships. Ultimately, the group uses information determined from the problem and objective trees to select a set of means-end chains that will best address the problem.

This type of project planning session allows large quantities of information to be collected and processed efficiently in a group situation. Since all information is visible throughout the discussion, ideas and relationships are presented in a clear, easy-to-organize manner. The system eliminates inefficient cyclical discussion, results in a clear means-end solution, and improves the overall efficiency of the problem-solving, project-planning process.