Problem Solving

& Decision Making


Problem Solving

 [There are three pages for this outline]

Defining a Problem



Example - getting to work for an appointment at a specific time

1. Car breaks down

2. What is the problem?

3. What is the solution?

a. If you think the problem is that the car will not go, then your solutions will be to try to fix it.

b. If, however, you realise that the real problem is that you will not be able to reach your target by the appointed time, then solutions to present themselves will be to catch a taxi, hitch a lift, start walking ...

c. Another solution in the latter case is to get rid of the target! Ring up and rearrange the appointment - then you can look for solutions as in [a] - ie, you now have a different problem.


You must define the real problem, be it personal conflict at work - absenteeism - uneven floor .........

can't be cleaned properly or easily?
materials can't be moved easily?
equipment balance problems?
Workplace Health & Safety problem?

Important to choose the real problem or efforts at solving are wasted [misdirected] - you may make the floor easy to clean, but there could still be a nasty accident.


- repetitive or low variance - require Standard Operating Procedures - can be in a manual, FAQs, notices on the wall, instructions inside the lid .....


- unique: need initiative & creativity but also a method of approach


- one who seeks ways round the barrier


- resolution for action - formulation of plan


- one who decides which solution and formulates plan


- choosing first option to meet minimum criteria


Types of problems

  1. communication
  2. personal - work or home
  3. new procedures
  4. new plant and machinery
  5. WH & S

Nb Difference between opportunity and problem - a matter of perspective, perhaps? If situation is regarded as an opportunity - chance to perform better, rather than danger to organisation. Forecasts - own business/home & competitors/neighbours - and budgets - comparisons with past - may give rise to problems or may give a chance to improve performance. Perhaps difference between reacting to a problem which has arisen, and sitting down to look at the future? This latter is sometimes given as one of the differences between a manager and a non-manager.

Possible problems can arise from


Confronting Problems

  1. Is it easy - quick decision?
  2. Will it go away in its own good time, ie, does it require effort?
  3. Is it my job?
    1. pass many down - delegate responsibility and authority
    2. pass few up - they may think you are incompetent!


Counter productive approaches


Go on to Making a Decision

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