Teaching Millennials How to Solve Problems Using the I.R.S.T.D. Method

Millennials absolutely suck at solving problems.

The amount of bullshit they will go through just to get out of solving a problem is unbelievable.

Excuses normally sound something like:

“Well it wasn’t me”

“I’m not sure what happened”

“I tried to fix it”

Then they will do this shrug or puppy dog eyes type thing. I see this all of the time because I have worked with or work with a bunch of them. They just cannot think through shit on their own.

Maybe this has something to do with coddling, safe spaces, and participation trophies but that is not my place.

Previously when a problem would occur, I would just curse all millennials / coachella week 1 & week 2 / avocado toast / True Detective Season 2 under my breathe and just fix the problem myself.

Of course, doing the work myself instead of building a system to fix the problem is actually the dumbest thing... even dumber than everything else I mentioned before (and believe it or not I am also a millennial).

If your organization has a problem solving problem, then it's your problem to fix (extreme ownership anyone?).

You'll never scale without this and I would like to take this moment to apologize to everyone who ever took a chance to work with me where I was not prepared to be the right kind of manager / leader to make it a success for everyone. Sarcasm aside, I think it's good to admit your faults and grow from them. This is obvious as hell but hard as hell. I'm getting better at it.

Sarcasm on... so with a love dumb acronyms, I developed the I.R.S.T.D. Method for problem solving and taught it to my teams.

I thought it would be funny to combine the two things people probably hate dealing with more than anything else.


I - Identify

What is the exact issue?
When does the problem occur?
Why does this problem matter?
What technologies are involved?
What departments are involved?
Under what other scenarios / conditions would this problem occur?

R - Replicate

Draw exactly what is happening (people + interactions + technology)
Go through the problem as the user
Who or what else could experience this same problem?

S - Solve

This is where you want to involve other people
Model out what a solution would look like and then build it
Does this solution affect any other part of the business?
Does this solution scale? What will it look like at 5x volume?

T - Test

Go back and test the problem again
Is it solved? Did you miss anything?
Test each scenario to make sure everything works
Can we add anything to the solution that would improve it?

D - Document

Write down everything in the appropriate SOP
Report back to appropriate teams
Demonstrate the solution

Important things to remember:

Be specific and concise with the technology and verbiage
Do not use dumb acronyms like IRSTD
Everything should be easy to understand

Eventually, I will build this into a typeform so we can all get in the habit of logging these together. It could even use Zapier to send the update to the appropriate SOP in Google Docs.

If you have suggestions or better methods to teach your team how to solve problems on their own, please leave a comment.

edit: I probably meant to talk about iGens and not millennials. Currently I am reading The Coddling of the American Mind.