Effective Problem-Solving & Decision-Making
"Houston, we have a problem!!" We all remember that classic line from the movie Apollo 13. Interestingly, that phrase is uttered in offices around the world on a daily/ hourly basis. Remove "Houston", and insert your name and we have the title for the next film classic. Or better yet, we have a line that will keep you up at night.
Over the years, we at Everson Consulting have helped organizations around the country address their "problems", but we also realize that seldom are "problems" clearly definable and treatable. In fact, often a problem is not a problem, but instead, a decision that needs to be made or is a potential problem that needs to be averted.
Instead of jumping into a major problem solving exercise, consider a first step assessment initiative, a separation process. One of the most common problems we experience is a "communication" problem. This problem may be made up of a number of related but clearly definable issues, to include lack of a clear message from the executive team, the lack of follow thru on the part of middle managers after the marching orders are passed down, or even a breakdown of hardware and software that results in delayed or confusing messages.
The Separation Process allows you to better define exactly what you are facing. Once you know whether you are facing a technical problem, a people or process problem, a decision that needs to be made, or a plan that needs to be implemented, the correct tools can be selected.
In problem solving and decision-making, all issues are not like a nail, and a hammer is not necessarily the correct tool to use all the time.
We often see very creative people who want to use a brainstorming, outside the box technique to address a technical problem. This often results in severe delay and wasted resources. If the issue is a true technical problem, the preferred method of attack should be a very Deductive, analytical approach to finding the “root cause”. (See illustration of systematic problem-solving using "situation analysis")
Imagine you have a light bulb that stops working. You don’t want to jump to the creative conclusion that perhaps a bolt of lightening stuck your house and fried your wiring. Why call in an electrician if a few easy-to-follow steps can diagnose and treat your “problem”?
Conversely, if you have a process or people issue, there is a seldom a clear-cut, “root cause” solution. By using a more creative, Inductive reasoning approach you avoid jumping to a quick and tidy resolution that often just treats one symptom of a much bigger “problem”.
Finally, if Decision Making is the appropriate action a whole new set of tools need to be pulled out of the toolbox. From defining the reason for the decision to listing what must be accomplished, from identifying the "nice to haves" to comparing alternatives to accomplish the end goal, too often we just do all the work in our heads and hope things go well. At Everson Consulting we use a very structured decision making matrix that greatly enhances your decision analysis phase and exponentially increases the likelihood of success.
We also stress the importance of Preventative and Contingency Planning in the decision making process. You often can prevent unwanted roadblocks by anticipating them in advance. You also may not be able to totally prevent a roadblock from slowing your progress but by implementing a “contingency planning” technique you can lessen the impact of an unwanted delay or new “problem”.
At Everson Consulting your “problem” is our problem. We can help right now. Our Problem Solving/Decision Making training uses your real-life situations to put our tools into practice.