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Table 1

A Table of Problem Solving

STEP 1. Define the problem.

2. Generate alternative solutions.

3. Evaluate and select an alternative.

4. Implement and follow up on the solution.

CHARACTERISTICS

  • Differentiate fact from opinion.

  • Specify underlying causes.

  • Tap everyone involved for information.

  • State the problem explicitly.

  • Identify what standard is violated.

  • Determine whose problem it is.

  • Avoid stating the problem as a disguised solution.

  • Postpone evaluating alternatives.

  • Be sure all involved individuals generate alternatives.

  • Specify alternatives that are consistent with goals.

  • Specify both short-term and long-term alternatives.

  • Build on others’ ideas.

  • Specify alternatives that solve the problem.

  • Evaluate relative to an optimal standard.

  • Evaluate systematically.

  • Evaluate relative to goals.

  • Evaluate main effects and side effects.

  • State the selected alternative explicitly.

  • Implement at the proper time and in the right sequence.

  • Provide opportunities for feedback.

  • Engender acceptance of those who are affected.

  • Establish an ongoing monitoring system.

  • Evaluate based on problem solution.

  • 1.

    Factual information is differentiated from opin- ion or speculation. Objective data are sepa- rated from perceptions and suppositions.

  • 2.

    All individuals involved are tapped as informa- tion sources. Broad participation is encour- aged.

  • 3.

    The problem is stated explicitly. This often helps point out ambiguities in the definition.

  • 4.

    The problem definition clearly identifies what standard or expectation has been violated. Problems, by their very nature, involve the vio- lation of some standard or expectation.

  • 5.

    The problem definition must address the ques- tion “Whose problem is this?” No problems are completely independent of people.

6. The definition is not simply a disguised solu- tion. Saying “The problem is that we need to motivate slow employees” is inappropriate because the problem is stated as a solution.

Managers often propose a solution before an ade- quate definition of a problem has been given. This may lead to solving the “wrong” problem. The defini- tion step in problem solving, therefore, is extremely important.

Generating Alternatives

The second step is to generate alternative solutions. This requires postponing the selection of any one solution until several alternatives have been proposed. Much

SOLVING PROBLEMS ANALYTICALLY AND CREATIVELY

CHAPTER 3

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