Problems and Solutions
Problems and Solutions
Problems and Solutions
Everyone faces problems and are forced to make decisions. Problems and solutions seems to be at the core of human existence. While many problems are small and do not require a great amount of thought, others are really big and need a considerable about of time and consideration before a solution is found. While there is no “golden rule” of problem solving and decision making, a systematic approach to both has proven to be an effective method when one is faced with a problem that needs attention.
A problem is a “gap between an existing problem and a desired solution,” and a decision is a “choice between two are more alternatives,” (DuBrin, A., p. 96). The process seems quite simple: encounter a problem, decided on a solution to the problem, and then the problem is solved. While in words the process seems simple, the actual actions that are involved to solve a problem are actually more difficult. They are so difficult that some people have a really hard time encountering problems and deciding on effective solutions for those problems.
A systematic approach to problem-solving and decision making will more than likely ensure that the problem or conflict is resolved so that it does not occur again (Rooney, J and Hopen, D., 2004). The underlying force behind systematic problem-solving is the belief that if one knows the cause of the problem and fixes the cause, then the problem will not occur again. On the other hand, if the root of the problem is not solved, then the problem will return again and again.
Systematic problem solving has three points of focus: get to the root of the problem to solve it permanently, enable one to understand and control the work process, and involving everyone is the effort by utilizing all the brain power of everyone in the organization (Rooney, J and Hopen, D., 2004). In basic terms, systematic problem-solving uses a technique much like that of the scientific method to identify and solve problems and make decisions. The process is broken down into six steps that allows a person to use data and facts to solve problems.
The first step is to identify the problem. It also means having the realization that solving one problem may lead to a series of other problems (DuBrin, A., p. 96). Identifying the problem means getting to the root or true cause of the problem. The problem may be critical or mundane, but in the end all decisions will effect the operations of an organization. For example, a director may have to lay off ten people. The problem is does the director have to lay off ten people.
The second step is to analyze the problem and the true causes (DuBrin, A., p. 97). Some decisions prove to be wrong because the decision-maker has not gotten to the true root of the problem. Remember that the main idea behind systematic problem-solving is to identify the main cause of the problem to be solved. For example, the director that has to lay off ten people may want to look at the reason for having to lay off ten people. Is is because there is no money to pay those ten people, is there no work for those ten people, or maybe costs in another area are preventing ten people from keeping their jobs.
The third step to systematic problem-solving is to look for creative alternatives to the problem (DuBrin, A., p. 97). According to Andrew DuBrin, author of Applied Psychology, a sound decision is likely to come from being able to choose from many different solutions. For example, the director may want to look at cutting costs in other areas to be able to keep the ten employees, or maybe costs could be cut and only five people would have to be laid off. The director should take time to look for and acquire facts of each possible decision.
The fourth step is to choose one of the solutions that were thought up in the third step. During this stage, the decision-maker should list the pros and cons of each solution. Ideally, the solution with the most pros is probably the best one (DuBrin, A., p. 97-98). For the director, this may take some time to acquire data on each proposed solution to see which one would have the most benefits for everyone involved. The director would then be responsible for choosing a solution.
One of the final steps of this problem-solving process is to implement which ever decision was chosen (DuBrin, A., p. 98). This may mean that different people are assigned to different tasks and documenting activities and results (Rooney, J and Hopen, D., 2004). The director, for example, may make the decision to try and cut costs, rather than employees. This may mean that the director will have to have employees perform additional duties, cut costs in other areas, or find additional work for the employees to do. Whichever option the director chooses should be monitored for results.
The final step to a systematic approach to problem-solving requires evaluating the decision to see if it is working (DuBrin, A., p. 98). The truth is that the solution may not have been the best one and the process would have to start all over again. Even if the decision that was made was not the best one, at least the process allows a person to figure out where things went wrong so that changes can be made for the next big decision. For example, the director may realize that even after shifting jobs around and cutting costs, there is still a need to lay off employees, he or she could use the same process to decided who to lay off.
Some problems are easy to solve, some are not. Some require ten minutes to figure out, some require ten weeks. Whatever problem one is faced with, the systematic approach to problem-solving and decision making seems to be a very sound option for those really tough decisions. Even the easy decisions that all are faced with on a daily basis could benefit from this process. By using data, facts, creativity, and brain power, problems and solutions might not seem so big after all.
DuBrin, A. (2004). Applying psychology: Individual and Organizational effectiveness (6th ed). Upper Saddle River: Pearson/Prentice Hall.
Rooney, J., & Hopen, D. (2004). Part 1: Problem Solving Should be Like Treasure Hunting. The Journal for Quality and Participation, 27(3), 20-24. Retrieved January 6, 2010, from ABI/INFORM Global. (Document ID: 733698111).
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