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gone through steps 1 through 3. That is, they react to a problem by trying to implement a solution before they have defined it, analyzed it, or generated and evaluated alternative solutions. It is important to remember, therefore, that “to get rid of the problem” by solving it will most likely not be successful without the first three steps in the model.

Implementing any problem solution requires sen- sitivity to possible resistance from those who will be affected by it. Almost any change engenders some resistance. Therefore, the best problem solvers are careful to select a strategy that maximizes the proba- bility that the solution will be accepted and fully imple- mented. This may involve ordering that the solution be implemented by others, “selling” the solution to others, or involving others in the implementation. Several authors (e.g., Dutton & Ashford, 1993; Miller, Hickson, & Wilson, 1996; Vroom & Yetton, 1976) have provided guidelines for managers to determine which of these implementation behaviors is most appropriate under which circumstances. Generally speaking, par- ticipation by others in the implementation of a solution will increase its acceptance and decrease resistance (Black & Gregersen, 1997).

Effective implementation is usually most effective when it is accomplished in small steps or increments. Weick (1984) introduced the idea of “small wins” in which solutions to problems are implemented little by little. The idea is to implement a part of the solution that is easy to accomplish, then publicize it. Follow that up by implementing another part of the solution that is easy to accomplish, and publicize it again. Continue implementing incrementally to achieve small wins. This strategy decreases resistance (small changes are usually not worth fighting over), creates support as others observe progress (a bandwagon effect occurs), and reduces costs (failure is not career-ending, and large allocations of resources are not required before success is assured). It also helps ensure persis- tence and perseverance in implementation. Calvin Coolidge’s well-known quotation is apropos:

Nothing in the world can take the place of perseverance. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with tal- ent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.

Of course, any implementation requires follow-up to prevent negative side effects and ensure solution of the problem. Follow-up not only helps ensure effective

implementation, but it also serves a feedback function by providing information that can be used to improve future problem solving.

Some attributes of effective implementation and follow-up are:

  • 1.

    Implementation occurs at the right time and in the proper sequence. It does not ignore con- straining factors, and it does not come before steps 1, 2, and 3 in the problem-solving process.

  • 2.

    Implementation occurs using a “small-wins” strategy in order to discourage resistance and engender support.

  • 3.

    The implementation process includes opportu- nities for feedback. How well the solution works is communicated, and recurring infor- mation exchange occurs.

  • 4.

    Participation by individuals affected by the problem solution is facilitated in order to create support and commitment.

  • 5.

    An ongoing monitoring system is set up for the implemented solution. Long-term as well as short-term effects are assessed.

  • 6.

    Evaluation of success is based on problem solu- tion, not on side benefits. Although the solu- tion may provide some positive outcomes, it is unsuccessful unless it solves the problem being considered.


Most experienced problem solvers are familiar with the preceding steps in analytical problem solving, which are based on empirical research results and sound rationale (March, 1994; Miller, Hickson & Wilson, 1996; Mitroff, 1998; Zeitz, 1999). Un- fortunately, managers do not always practice these steps. The demands of their jobs often pressure man- agers into circumventing some steps, and problem solving suffers as a result. When these four steps (defining the problem, generating alternatives, evaluat- ing alternatives, and implementing the solution) are followed, however, effective problem solving is markedly enhanced.

Simply learning about and practicing these four steps does not guarantee that an individual will effec- tively solve all types of problems. These problem-solving steps are most effective mainly when the problems faced are straightforward, when alternatives are readily




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