The Ministry of Problem-solving
Decision-making and problem
solving are regarded by many researchers as the most important of
management actions. It involves mainly choosing between various
alternatives. Before making a decision, the leader should diagnose
the situation, the problem it poses and the various ways of
of decision-making and problem solving
Decision-making and problem
solving involve all the work that leaders must perform to reach the
conclusions and judgments necessary for them to act in any
solving as a function of decision-making
To solve a problem, you first
make a decision as to the approach you have to take to overcome the
obstacle and achieve the objective; then you determine how to carry
out that decision.
Problem solving is the work a
manager performs to make and carry out a decision as to the
approach that will be followed to overcome an obstacle that stands
in the way of achieving an objective.
What is a
A problem can be described as
a disturbance of an unsettled matter that demands a solution for
productive functioning of an organization. A problem is an obstacle
that stands in the way of achieving an objective.
A routine problem. For
example goods out of stock, tools that break or absence of workers.
These occur frequently - so frequently that a definite procedure
can be worked out for everyone to follow.
A non-routine problem.
In this case it is always a good idea to sit back a minute and try
to identify the real problem. If a worker suddenly changes his or
her behaviour, works badly, becomes casual, the situation is more
complex than saying, “I’ve got a problem with Jack”. The problem
could be in Jack’s personal life, or his relationship with his
co-workers, or even in something you have done.
Change: If everything
remained exactly as it should be, problems would not occur.
Unwanted change is always with us. Changes occur in materials,
tools and equipment, employee attitudes, policy of organization,
and just about anything else you can imagine. The trick to
problem-solving is often the ability to spot the unwanted and
unexpected change that slipped into the normal
recognize the problem
You find a problem by
spotting a gap (deviation or variance) between actual and expected
performance. For example, you plan to reach 200 lost souls a
month; but on the last day of the month it shows that you have
reached only 90, a gap of 110 souls. It is the same with a
potential problem. You know what must happen in the future. These
are you plans. If you fall short on these targets - a gap
systematic approach to decision-
making and problem solving
Identify the problem
Stay away from a general
statement, such as, “We have a problem with quality”. Instead,
narrow it down and put figures on it if you can. It is important to
distinguish between the problem and various symptoms, and in this
way to reach the cause.
Collect information relevant to the problem
Gather as much information
regarding the problem as possible. Information systems should be
used, and suitable people consulted, like eyewitnesses to an
accident, for example. All the facts should be analyzed.
Establish the cause of the problem
Remember that a problem is a
gap between expected and actual conditions. Something must have
occurred to cause the gap. Something must have changed.
Determine alternative solutions to the problem
This step is the creative
part of decision-making. Make every effort to discover ways that
other individuals or companies have used to overcome a similar
problem. You may find journal articles containing good suggestions.
It is good to involve your people and appropriate staff groups in
seeking possible solutions. Brainstorming is a valuable technique
in developing the alternatives. The more you incorporate the ideas
and suggestions of your group, the greater the emotional ownership
they will have in the decision and the harder they will work to
make it succeed.
Evaluate the pros and cons of the alternatives
By comparing the alternatives
to given standards, some solutions will be better than others.
Evaluation requires that you make decisions base on
Choose the solution you think will best solve the
Decide which of the
alternatives is most likely to overcome the problem. Weigh all the
chances of success against the risks of failure. The strengths of
the solution should exceed its weaknesses.
Step 7: Plan
This is the problem solving
mode, where you plan the action to be taken. Be sure the program
steps, schedule and budget are included and that all involved agree
on the specific standards to be met in solving the problem. This
will enable you to ensure that the problem is solved satisfactorily
with the minimum time and attention on your part.
Evaluate the progress and results
Concentrate on problem areas
where you are not meeting standards so that you can maintain
effective control. In complex situations, an occasional personal
inspection, especially at first, will establish your concern and
serve as an effective motivator. All effective problem
solving techniques follow a similar process.