Problem-solving should not be new to policing, it’s been formally around since 1990 when Prof. Herman Goldstein published his work on the subject.

Every police officer today ought to know what it is and how to do it. (See for more on this and what’s been done.)

How important is critical thinking and problem-solving abilities? Very. “In a study… to evaluate the readiness of US workers, it was discovered that ‘57.5 percent of employer respondents say Critical Thinking/Problem Solving is ‘very important’ for high school graduates; 72.7 percent for two-year college graduates, and 92.1 percent for college graduates…”

So why can’t today’s police start using this process to find solutions to their most intractable problems?

The following list outlines the seven most common problem solving methods:

  1. The Deming- Shewart Cycle. This is based on Plan, Do, Check and Act with the overall aim of process improvement. In some instances the Check phase is replaced by Study. The concept behind this approach is that problem solving and process improvement is a continuous process.
  2. The Eight Discipline Methodology  (8D)This system is a team based approach to solving product and process problems It is used to correct and identify recurrent problems by using statistical methods to initiate data collection, root cause analysis, and problem resolution.
  3. Five Why Methodology. This is a system of asking “why” five times until the root cause of the problem is uncovered. It is also important to apply critical thinking principles during use of this method in order to eliminate irrelevant assumptions and logic traps. The Toyota Motor company has used this method successfully to solve manufacturing problems.
  4. Appreciative Inquiry. Unlike the traditional problem solving methods of breaking problems into manageable smaller units analyzing the problem, this method looks at what works in an organization identifying the positive and stating what can be done to do more of the same. It is based on Discover, Dream, Design and Destiny.
  5. Kepner-Tregoe Decision Analysis. This is a rational system based on unbiased decisions. It is also a structured analysis for gathering information, prioritizing and evaluating data. There are four steps to this analysis -, situation appraisal, problem analysis, decision analysis and potential problem analysis .The overall aim is to minimize the risk of problems.
  6. Kaizen. This is a team based method of problem solving oriented to continuous and incremental improvement at all levels of the organization. The line operators, middle level managers and the CEO are to be invested in this method if the goals of continuous improvement are to be achieved
  7. Lean Six Sigma. This methodology uses the approach of Design Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control and focuses on the use of data, root cause analysis, implementing improvement actions and implementing system actions to sustain improvements. Lean Six Sigma emphasizes the use of statistical tools, project selection and project management.

Read more about problem-solving methods HERE.


  1. Not being an officer, I can’t speak about application of this on the streets in individual investigations. However, one large issue in terms of the schism between police and many communities of color is that no police departments and few individual officers (in my experience) recognize that there is a problem in the first place…rendering the solving moot.


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