What is Focus Model Problem Solving: A Guide to Effective Decision-Making

focus model problem solving

What is Focus Model Problem Solving: A Guide to Effective Decision-Making

Have you ever felt stuck when facing a tricky problem or important decision? You’re not alone! Solving problems and making choices can be tough, especially when there are lots of factors to consider.

But don’t worry, there’s a super useful approach called the “Focus Model” that can help guide you through the process step-by-step. By breaking it down into clear stages, the Focus Model makes problem-solving much easier and more organized.

In this blog post, we’ll dive deep into the Focus Model and learn how to apply it to all kinds of situations. Get ready to become a master problem-solver!

What is the Focus Model?

The Focus Model is a simple but incredibly powerful framework for solving problems. It breaks the process down into six clear stages:

Define the problem
Identify alternatives
Evaluate options
Choose a solution
Use the solution
See if it worked

This step-by-step approach helps you analyze a situation from every angle before taking action. By methodically working through each stage, you can make well-informed decisions with confidence.

The Six Stages of the Focus Model

Let’s take a closer look at what each stage involves:

Define the Problem

The first step is to identify and describe the challenge you’re facing. Ask yourself:

  • What is the core issue?
  • Who is affected by it?
  • What are the constraints or requirements?

Getting super specific about the problem upfront is crucial. It sets you up to find the best possible solution later on.

Identify Alternatives

Next, you want to generate as many potential solutions as possible – even the crazy or “out there” ideas. The goal here is to explore all available options without judging them yet.

Some effective techniques for this stage include:

  • Brainstorming
  • Reversal (considering the opposite approach)
  • Adapting solutions from other situations

The more alternatives you have on the table initially, the better your final decision is likely to be.

Evaluate Options

With a full list of possibilities in hand, it’s time to start evaluating the pros and cons of each one. Carefully consider factors like:

  • Feasibility and potential obstacles
  • Costs and resources required
  • Risks involved
  • Alignment with goals/values

You can use tools like decision matrices or cost-benefit analyses to compare options objectively.

Make a Decision

Weighing all the information from the previous stage, you’re now ready to select the best course of action. Don’t be afraid to get input and buy-in from others who may be affected by your decision.

If you’re torn between two strong options, techniques like Ben Franklin’s “Pros and Cons” approach can help you determine which one is superior.

Execute the Solution

With a solid decision made, it’s time to put your plan into action! Develop a roadmap that breaks the solution down into specific, manageable steps.

Assign roles, responsibilities, and deadlines to keep things on track. Communication is key during this stage to ensure everyone stays aligned.

Review and Learn

After executing your solution, take a step back to evaluate how well it worked. What went right? What could have been improved? Use this reflection to update your knowledge for the next problem you face.

Continuous learning is vital for becoming an even stronger problem solver over time. Adopt a growth mindset and always be open to adjusting your approach.

Combining Focus with PDCA

In many organizations, the Focus Model is used in conjunction with the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle for maximum effectiveness:

  1. Plan: Use the Focus stages 1-5 to methodically analyze the problem and identify the optimal solution approach.
  2. Do: Execute the planned solution through a pilot implementation or rolled out in contained batches. Gather feedback along the way.
  3. Check: Evaluate whether the solution had the intended impact and achieved goals using measurable metrics. Identify unintended consequences.
  4. Act: Based on the checked results, decide whether to adopt and scale the change solution further, or loop back and revisit the Focus Model with newly uncovered insights.

This integrated approach enables data-driven problem-solving and change management through a controlled, continuously improving process.

Why Use the Focus Model?

At this point, you may be wondering – why bother with this whole rigid process? Doesn’t it just make problem solving more complicated?

Actually, the opposite is true! The Focus Model simplifies decision-making in several key ways:

It Provides Structure Rather than getting overwhelmed, you can systematically work through the problem one piece at a time. The clear stages act as guideposts to keep you on track.

It Minimizes Biases
We all have unconscious biases that can lead us astray when solving problems. By forcing you to lay out all the information, the Focus Model reduces the impact of flawed assumptions or emotional decision-making.

It Improves Collaboration
Because each stage is so well-defined, the Focus Model facilitates productive discussion and input from multiple people. Everyone understands the process and can contribute meaningfully.

It Enhances Accountability With defined roles, deadlines, and solution plans, there’s a clear record of how decisions were made. This level of transparency leads to better accountability.

It Drives Continuous Improvement The final “Review and Learn” stage pushes you to extractlessons and insights from each problem you solve, enabling more effective decision making over time.

So while it may seem rigid at first, the Focus Model actually results in smarter solutions reached through a more cooperative, unbiased, and intentional process.

Examples of Using the Focus Model

To better illustrate how the Focus Model works in practice, let’s walk through a couple of examples:

Example 1: Choosing a New Family Pet

  • Define the Problem: We want to get a pet, but need to find an animal that fits our family’s lifestyle, living space, and financial situation.
  • Identify Alternatives: Dog, cat, bird, fish, hamster, reptile… even a potbelly pig!
  • Evaluate Options: A high-energy dog may not work well with our small apartment, but a cat could be a good fit. Fish are low maintenance but don’t allow for cuddling.
  • Make a Decision: We’ll get a cat – specifically, an older cat from the shelter who should be calmer.
  • Execute Solution: We contact the local animal shelter, go through the screening process, and finally adopt an 8-year-old tabby.
  • Review and Learn: The cat seemed anxious initially from the shelter environment change. In the future, we’ll look for ways to make the transition easier.

Example 2: Planning a Weekend Trip

  • Define the Problem: We want to take a family trip this upcoming holiday weekend, but we’re not sure where to go or what to do.
  • Identify Alternatives: Camping, going to the beach, visiting a nearby city, having a staycation at home, road trip to a national park, etc.
  • Evaluate Options: Camping could be fun but also a lot of work. A staycation is relaxing but not very exciting. Visiting a national park has activities for everyone but may be a long drive.
  • Make a Decision: We decide to road trip to a national park – it’s a new experience, has activities for all ages, and allows us to spend quality time together.
  • Execute Solution: Pick a conveniently located national park, plan activities and stops, prepare supplies and snacks, and go on the trip!
  • Review and Learn: We underestimated travel times between park attractions. Next time we’ll allow more buffer room in our schedule.

As you can see, the Focus Model provides an easy-to-follow blueprint for tackling any decision, big or small. By consciously working through each stage, you avoid overlooking key factors and increase your chances of reaching an optimal solution.

Tips for Effective Problem Solving

Even with a great framework like the Focus Model, problem-solving and decision-making can still be challenging at times. Here are some top tips to get the most out of the process:

Stay Curious and Open-Minded Avoid making assumptions or getting attached to your first instinct. Approach each problem with a beginner’s mindset, ready to explore new possibilities.

Gather Quality Information
Making an informed decision requires having comprehensive, factual data inputs. Don’t rely on guesswork – do your research from credible sources.

Visualize the Impacts
Try to anticipate all the potential consequences and ripple effects of each course of action, both short-term and long-term. Future visualization aids in better planning.

Get Additional Perspectives We all have blind spots. Seek out alternative viewpoints from others who may have different areas of expertise or experience levels. Diverse inputs lead to better outputs.

Break It Down Further If you get stuck on a particularly complex problem, break it down into even smaller parts using techniques like issue trees or hierarchical decomposition. Tackle it one piece at a time.

Take Breaks When Needed Sometimes you need to walk away for a bit if you hit a roadblock. Giving your mind a rest can allow for clearer thinking and new creative ideas to emerge.

Learn From Experience Be sure to honestly assess what worked well and what didn’t after implementing your solution. Capture those lessons to continuously refine your problem solving skills.

With practice, consciously applying tactics like these in tandem with the Focus Model process will turn you into an unstoppable problem-solving force!


Q: Doesn’t this model take a lot of time? Sometimes I need to make decisions quickly.

A: While it does involve multiple stages, the Focus Model actually saves time in the long run by leading you to higher quality, more well-rounded solutions upfront. This prevents having to backtrack or pivot later. For true emergencies, you can streamline the process – but the core principle of working through key considerations still applies.

Q: Does the problem’s complexity matter when using this model?

A: No, the Focus Model principles can be applied universally, regardless of whether the problem is straightforward or highly complex with many variables. The beauty is that it provides a consistent framework to work through any situation systematically.

Q: How can I get others on board with using this approach? Seems like an uphill battle.

A: Start small – perhaps use the Focus Model for a problem impacting your team. Once others see the clarity and effectiveness it brings, they’ll be more open to adopting it more widely. You can also explain the accountability and collaboration benefits to leaders.

Q: How does this model account for problems that are fluid and continually evolving?

A: The key is to treat it as an iterative cycle rather than a one-and-done process. For changing situations, you’ll revisit the model stages as new variables emerge, adjusting your approach along the way. The “Review and Learn” checkpoint is perfect for looping back around.


The Focus Model provides a clear, six-stage framework for effective problem-solving and decision-making:

  1. Define the Problem
  2. Identify Alternatives
  3. Evaluate Options
  4. Make a Decision
  5. Execute the Solution
  6. Review and Learn

By methodically working through each of these steps, you can analyze challenges from all angles, minimize biases and blindspots, and arrive at well-informed resolutions.

While simple in theory, consciously applying the Focus Model principles of curiosity, diverse perspectives, future visualization, and continuous learning results in higher quality outputs. With practice, it can be adapted for any situation – from simple household decisions to complex business strategies.

Give the Focus Model a try next time you’re stuck on a tough problem or decision. The systematic yet flexible approach may be just what you need to blaze a clear path forward with confidence.

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