Alternative name(s)
Source: Behaviour Advisor. March 2013.


Problem solving is bringing a group of individuals together to analyse a situation, determine the real problem, look at every possible solution, evaluate each of the solutions, and choose the best one for their purpose, (Knippen & Green, 1997). The process may involve mathematical or systematic operations and can be a gauge of an individual’s critical thinking skills, (, 2013).
Problem solving involves various steps like identifying the problem, defining the problem, forming a strategy, organising information and allocating resources (, (2013)).
Problems vary from project to project and situation to situation. Identifying problem is the key to problem solving. Many people have defined problems in different ways. Two broad categories of problems that have been done by Gary Hadler is :
1) Problems when current situation is not what was expected and 2) Problems faced due to some obstacle where we want to change some current situation.
Problems are also categorized according to their types example human problems, technical problems, business problems etc.

Agile values
Agile Values Comparison with Problem Solving:
1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools:
Problem Solving involves individual and their interactions. As said by Ming Ming Chiu in his article (Ming, (2007)) working as groups bring success to projects in some cases and in some cases problems are solved not working together. Tools and processes are also involved in problem solving however individual interactions and team work is mostly done in case of resolving a problem.
2. Working Software over comprehensive documentation:
When working software is discussed over documentation than it is said to have a ready software instead of lengthy document which is preferred by almost 99% customers. For this a definition of done needs to be defined. We see that in problem solving also we define a done and is more focused on achieving workable solution than the plan.
3. Customer Collaboration:
It has been seen that projects have achieved lot of success focusing their emphasis on customers and getting regular feedback from customers. Problem Solving however looks at all possible aspects by which issue can be resolved. Problem Solving involves customer with high priority however other aspects are also considered while coming up with various solutions.
4. Responding to Change over following a plan:
This is one of the key agile values that has brought projects great success. Problem Solving varies from person to person , team to team , place to place. It is important that in problem solving responding to change should be embedded instead of traditional coming up with a solution and just following the plan. Most Problem solving techniques are traditional and follow a plan once made instead of responding to change method.

Five Main SCRUM values which is focus, commitment, openness, courage and respect are all found in problem solving. To find out the solution of a problem problem needs to be understood. Once the problem is understood half the problem is solved and solution becomes easier. Focus, commitment and courage are very important to get to the solution.

Agile principles
From the Agile Principle Manifesto, Agile Manifesto (2013), the following principles would be appropriate to this knowledge area.
  • Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.
  • Welcoming changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer's competitive advantage.
  • Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.
  • Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.
  • Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the work done.
  • The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.
  • Working software is the primary measure of success.
  • Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
  • Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.
  • The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organising teams.
  • At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behaviour accordingly.

Each of these principles displayed above relates to this knowledge area. This is primarily due to problem solving being an area whereby a high level goal is to avoid problems and at the same time overcome problems if they arise. Some of the principles would be described as best practice which would prevent problems from arising such as having face-to-face communication regularly, and developing iterations on a shorter timescale preferably a couple of weeks.

Agile practices

Agile teams need to be creative and address the relevant agile practices that will help yield the best results to solve their problems. Scrum focuses on agile practices that are closely related to project management, the use of Scrum for example in problem solving the product owner, scrum master and team member will adhere to addressing their customers (or stakeholders) needs using the effective and efficient means of communication to solve the problems. Daily scrum meetings involve the project team and the client, these meetings allow for the problems to be raised, noticed and addressed in the early stages of the project. The ideal solution can then be implemented sooner, rather than in the later stages where changes are costly.

Whilst XP is more focused on the agile practise it-self. In problem solving the user stories can be used to capture and understand the client’s needs.

Refactoring/ Incremental Design allows for improving existing codes or designs, some problems require small changes to be made and this agile practise allows for this to happen. This practise also allows for continuous change which is similar to the agile value “responding to change over following a plan”. Short iterations allows for problems to be noticed in the early stages and to be addressed early too, the advantage here is that both the client and the project team can identify errors and implement the relevant changes in the most cost effective manner.

Traditional problem solving involves the organisation coming up with what they believe to be the best solution to those problems, rarely do they present or discuss these problems with the client unless the client has brought the problem up. Traditional Problem solving calls for managing these issues as showing them or making them public can at times be perceived as a sign or weakness. Unlike the use of agile practices, some issues and errors are not noticed in the early stages of development as there user stories are not broken up into small iterations making it difficult to notice the errors.

Agile development heavily focuses on adding value to its customers. Work completed during and after ever agile iteration involves customer feedback which is evaluated and results in the necessary changed being made. These changes and improvements made can present a series of problems which need to be addressed and may a create host of problems for an agile project management team. There are a number of ways or problem solving techniques that the project manager or the agile team can implement for example, it is recommended to ask probing questions, use reflective listening, avoid injecting your own ideas, and do not waste an time on meta- problems, cited by PMI & ACP in (2013)

Links from this KA to other KAs

Sustainable pace can help to solve the problems in the project over a long period of time.


Agile Manifesto. Principles behind the Agile Manifesto. [Online]. Available at: <> [Last Accessed: 9th March 2013].

BusinessDictionary. 2013. Problem Solving. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 13 March 13].

Knippen, JT, Green, TB, 1997. Problem Solving. Journal of Workplace Learning, Vol:9 Issue:3, PP: 98-99. 2013. What is problem sovling.. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 14 March 13].

Margarita Azmitia Child Development Vol. 59, No. 1 (Feb., 1988), pp. 87-96
Published by: Wiley Article Stable URL:

Ming, Ming Chiu, 2007. Group Problem Solving Process: Social Interaction and Individual Actions. Journal for the theory of Social Behaviour, Vol:30 Issue: 1, pp:1-23.

External links Agile Problem Solving Techniques Agile Manifesto Problem Solving Wikipedia Page

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