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Text comes from the book: “The career driving license: Tips for success for everyone who starts to work” (2011), published by Campus Verlag, reprinted with the kind permission of the publisher.

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Define exactly what your problem is: The CIA Checklist

If we want to think purposefully and want to focus on a problem or its solution, one thing above all helps: Visualize. A good method is the CIA checklist.


Where the name comes from

During my studies, I was working as a student in the quality management of a small company from the chemical industry. My task then was to introduce a quality management system according to ISO 9001.

Since I myself had little idea of ​​this topic, I was once sent to an intensive training.

Like the CIA

Methods for problem analysis and solution were part of the training. We received the "CIA checklist" from the lecturer.

The trainer said the agents of the US intelligence agency, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), would use this checklist to look at a problem from different angles.

CIA checklist for problem analysis / solution

Regardless of whether it is true: I have used the list often in the case of professional problems and would like to pass it on to you.

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  • Why is it necessary that we solve the problem?
  • What is the benefit of solving the problem?
  • What is known to us?
  • What do we not understand?
  • What information is available to us?
  • What is not the problem?
  • Is the information sufficient? Are they insufficient? Are they redundant? Are they contradictory?
  • Can we describe the problem graphically? Can it be quantified?
  • Can the problem be broken down into sub-problems?
  • How are the subproblems related?
  • What are the variables that can be influenced by the problem?
  • Have we seen this problem before?
  • Have we seen a similar problem before?
  • Do we know any related problems?
  • Is there a known problem with the same unknown quantities?
  • If there is a related problem we have already solved, can we use the solution to our current problem?
  • Can we apply the same methodology?
  • Can we reformulate our problem?
  • In how many different ways can we describe it?
  • Can it be generalized or specified?

How hard do we take the little everyday problems

Whoever looks up in the dictionary will find that happiness exists only in the singular - but there are misfortunes. And they bump into us all too often in everyday life. But important is how we deal with it.

I am not talking about fate, such as death or dismissal, but of everyday life, such as a missed customer presentation or a missed train.

How we catastrophy every day

I suspect that all such things happen to us at the same frequency. And yet there are big differences in how we react.

If you mentally look around in your family, friends and colleagues, then you will certainly be able to name a lot of people for whom life is a single drama. There are, for example

  • The blouse has a saucy spot. O God!
  • The daughter has a five in the math work. How tragic!
  • The colleague forgot to give the monthly figures in time. Awful!

Everything a question of the point of view!

Perhaps you yourself are such a guy and miss everyday problems a catastrophe? No wonder life seems to consist of nothing but an endless series of disappointments, mishaps, shortcomings and annoyances.

But, soberly, is the situation that weighs on you, is actually as dramatic as it is being perceived? In general it is not! It is about proportionality.

The worst job in the world?

I also think of a cartoon that I discovered many years ago. In the first picture you can see a toothbrush that says: “I have the worst job in the world.” In the second picture you can see a toilet roll that only emits a laconic “Oh no”.

It sounds a little bit sarcastic, but it's not meant to remind you that there is always someone who has got it even worse than you do. All you have to do is look in the news or take a look at the paper.

Keep the relationship

Compared to really far-reaching and negative events such as a serious traffic accident or a serious illness, most of our daily problems are absolute nullities.

Therefore, always try to understand the proportionality of your situation and react accordingly.

The one-year question

The simple question: "Will I still think about this event in a year, will it still bother me?" Miraculously helps to recognize the importance of problems.

Don't you believe me this will work? Then do the "cross check": Please state exactly what exactly upset you a year ago! You can't think of that anymore? Then it couldn't have been that tragic ...

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4 responses to “define exactly what your problem is: the CIA checklist”

  1. The talent workers says:

    RT @karista_de: You have a problem to solve in the #Job and don't know how to get started? Try looking at the #CIA

  2. Karista says:

    Do you have a problem to solve in the #Job and don't know how to get started? Try looking at the #CIA

  3. Competencepartner says:

    Define exactly what your problem is: The CIA checklist: If we think purposefully u… #profession #education

  4. Simone Janson says:

    Define Exactly What Your Problem Is: The CIA Checklist -

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