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My Introspective

by Laurus Nobilis
My BrainCast

Tool Box

Problem Solving - Part 1 (E)

 

Problem Solving

 

 

 

What are the tools for approaching problem solving? How to define the problem, analyze it and to find solution?

 

Posted: Jun 2009


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Problems occur everyday. Basically, the reason why people are employed is to solve the problems, since they consume a considerable amount of working time. The problem solving efficiency is increased if we use the structured approach to problem management. First part of problem solving deals with collection of data, problem definition and solutions.

Collecting Data

Information gathering is a critical component of problem solving. The first step to identify the information needed to resolve an issue. When identifying your information needs, ensure to :

  • Consider other viewpoints. For example, if other departments will be affected by the decision, make sure you understand their perspective.

  • Learn from the past.

  • Has anyone else in the company faced a similar problem? What did they do? What were the results?

  • Have other organisations faced this issue?

  • Get input from experts. Ask knowledgeable people both inside and outside the organisation.

Once you have identified what needs to be collected, rank each item by their relative importance in solving the dilemma:

  • Gather information most likely to yield the highest results

  • Assess the difficulty in uncovering information against its potential worth and

  • Focus on the information absolutely critical to solving your problem.

Since collecting data on a problem can be very time consuming, you want to collect enough information to make an informed decision, but anything over that is not time well spent. To determine if you have gathered enough data, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What additional information could be collected?

  • What information would make me feel better about my decision, but probably would not alter my decision?

  • What information is absolutely necessary?

 

Defining The Problem

 

For every problem statement, get in the habit of forcing yourself to generate at least 5 alternative solutions. This practice helps you to not only be more creative in your problem solving, but it also ensures that you have chosen the best solution among other possibilities.

 

First, clearly define the problem. From this problem definition, you can provide the framework for the rest of the analytical process. The definition will determine 

  • What information needs to be collected,

  • How it should be evaluated, and

  • Who should be involved in the process

When confronted with a problem, define it by answering the following questions:

  • What major questions, issues, challenges, or opportunities does this problem raise?

  • What is the potential impact of this problem?

  • What other people/departments are affected by this problem?

  • What will solving this problem accomplish? What are the expectations?

As you collect information about the problem, revise your definition in response to your increased awareness and understanding of the issue.

Analyze Alternative Solutions

For every problem statement, get in the habit of forcing yourself to generate at least 5 alternative solutions. This practice helps you to not only be more creative in your problem solving, but it also ensures that you have chosen the best solution among other possibilities.

Construct a chart where you list alternatives down the left margin. Across the top horizontal margin make the following headings: long-term pros; long-term cons; short-term pros; and short-term cons.

For each alternative, list all the things you have discovered during your investigation for each category. This is to incorporate all the input you have received from others when researching the problem. Be certain to include statements that reflect the level of support and acceptance from those who need to be involved in implementing the solution.

Once your chart is complete, you have a tool that will help you weigh the alternatives so you will be better prepared to choose the best solution from the possibilities.
 


Recommended reading:
Problem Solving - Part 2

 

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