Thank you for the opportunity to help you with your question!
pin the problem
Clearly define the issue at hand. Look at the problem from multiple perspectives. What would your CEO identify as the problem? Your customers? Your front-line associates? You get the picture. Problems look different to different people.
identify the issue
Start breaking down the problem into subcomponents. For example, your profit problem breaks down into revenue issues and cost issues. The revenue side breaks down further into price and volume issues. On the other side, you've got fixed-cost, variable-cost, and semi-variable-cost issues. As you break the problem down and identify all the possible issues, your odds of finding the true root cause skyrocket. This process also lends structure to your problem solving so you can be deliberate in your investigation and analysis.
Once you've laid out all the issues, start thinking about ways to solve each one. Don't actually begin putting solutions into action--just identify possible solutions for each issue. Those possible solutions become the hypotheses you're going to prioritize,
You can stop twitching now--we finally get to open Excel. But again, the analysis is a focused effort designed to prove or disprove your primary hypothesis. If you prove it's a valuable solution, you'll have some impact and then move on to the next most likely idea. Ring the cash register, folks. You may not find the biggest idea on the first shot but at least you're making a contribution (unlike those folks who analyze everything but implement nothing).
Remember--you don't need all the analysis. You need the right analysis. If you can focus your efforts on proving or disproving your primary hypothesis, you'll be more efficient and get to answers quickly versus getting stuck in the muck of analysis paralysis.
Now you need to start selling that recommendation so it gets implemented. Begin by transforming that hypothesis into a clearly worded recommendation. Have the core analyses required to prove your case and not one bit more. People aren't impressed by your million spreadsheets. They're impressed when you can pull out two or three core analyses that prove your case.
Please let me know if you need any clarification. I'm always happy to answer your questions.
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