Problem Solving And Decision Making - Houston PDF

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Problem Solving andDecision MakingStudent Manual

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TABLE OF CONTENTSSession One: Course Overview . 1Session Two: Definitions . 2Defining Problem Solving and Decision Making . 2Problem Identification . 3Eight Essentials to Defining a Problem. 4Problem Solving in Action . 8Session Three: Making Decisions. 9What it Means . 9Types of Decisions .10Facts vs. Information .11Decision-Making Traps .13Session Four: Getting Real .16Session Five: The Problem Solving Model .18Model Overview .18Real Problems .21Phase One .23Phase Two .25Phase Three .28Session Six: The Problem Solving Toolkit.30The Basic Tools .30The Fishbone .33Degrees of Support .34Creative Thinking Methods .35

Brainstorming and Brainwriting .40More Methods .41Session Seven: Aspirinia .42Decision Information .42Individual Action Steps .44Session Eight: Making Good Group Decisions .46Working Toward the Decision.46Avoiding Fatal Mistakes .50Session Nine: Analyzing and Selecting Solutions .51Selecting Criteria .51Creating a Cost-Benefit Analysis .52Session Ten: Planning and Organizing .54Introduction .54Follow-Up Analysis.55Evaluate .56Adapt, Close, and Celebrate .57Personal Action Plan .58Attendee Evaluation.59Recommended Reading List .60

Problem Solving and Decision MakingSession One: Course OverviewCourse OverviewWe make decisions and solve problems continually. We start making decisions before we evenget out of bed (shall I get up now or not?). Sometimes, we will have made as many as 50decisions by the time we leave for work. Despite all the natural decision making that goes onand the problem solving we do, some people are very uncomfortable with having to makedecisions. You may know someone who has a hard time making decisions about what to eat,never mind the internal wrestling they go through in order to take on major decisions at work.Likewise, we’ve probably all looked at a solution to something and said, “I could have thoughtof that.” The key to finding creative solutions is not just creativity, although that will certainlyhelp. The answer rests in our ability to identify options, research them, and then put thingstogether in a way that works. Having a process to work through can take the anxiety out ofproblem solving and make decisions easier. That’s what this two-day workshop is all about.Learning ObjectivesAt the end of this workshop, you will be able to:Apply problem solving steps and toolsAnalyze information to clearly describe problemsIdentify appropriate solutionsThink creatively and be a contributing member of a problem solving teamSelect the best approach for making decisionsCreate a plan for implementing, evaluating, and following up on decisionsAvoid common decision-making mistakesPersonal Objectives 2017 OptimaTrain.1

Problem Solving and Decision MakingSession Two: DefinitionsDefining Problem Solving and Decision MakingWhat, specifically, is a problem? A problem can be a mystery, a puzzle, an unsettled matter, asituation requiring a solution, or an issue involving uncertainty that needs to be dealt with. Youare dealing with problems every day.While doing some research on problem solving, we found some interesting arguments. Thereare quotes attributed to different people that say very different things about problems.Albert Einstein is quoted as saying that if he had an hour to save the world, he would spendfifty-five minutes defining the problem and only five minutes finding the solution. While peoplehave argued with Einstein’s numbers, the point is that a problem needs to be properly definedbefore you can come up with a solution that is worth implementing and deals with the problemadequately.Problems can be classified in three ways:Problems that have already happenedProblems that lie aheadProblems you want to prevent from happeningThere are three ways to approach problems:You can stall or delay until a decision is no longer necessary, or until the problem hasbecome even greater.You can make a snap decision, off the top of your head, with little to no thinking or logic.You can use a professional approach and solve problems based on sound decisionmaking practices.Think of someone you know who is a great problem solver. Describe the traits,characteristics, and behaviors that make them a good problem solver. 2017 OptimaTrain.2

Problem Solving and Decision MakingProblem IdentificationThe first and most important undertaking of your problem solving efforts needs to be definingthe problem. You cannot work on something if you don’t know what it is. You have to resist thetendency to start working on the problem as soon as you know one exists, and instead developan understanding of whether we are addressing the problem or merely a symptom of it.We should go after the problem rather than attack symptoms. This way, we can create higherquality solutions that in turn will eliminate or reduce the symptoms. As well, this will resolvethe problem much more easily than when you attack the surface only. Most importantly, you’llalso know that you are taking on a worthwhile problem.Can you think of an example of when someone looked at the symptoms instead of the root ofa problem? What happened? 2017 OptimaTrain.3

Problem Solving and Decision MakingEight Essentials to Defining a ProblemAlthough we make decisions all the time, some decisions come easier than others. The first stepis to define the problem clearly. We have eight suggestions to help you do this as easily,efficiently, and effectively as possible.Rephrase the ProblemSometimes what we want to see is not what other people see. When the boss sees productiondrop and he tells his team to work harder, he’s not likely to see much of a result. He’s tellingpeople what to do for his benefit, and that does very little to engage people. Instead, he couldrephrase the problem and ask people what they feel connects them to their work. He can takean interest and ask what they can do to make their jobs easier or make work processes moreefficient. In this way he engages people, finds out what could be dropping their production, andcan come up with solutions instead of just telling people to be “more productive.”If you have a hard time with wordsmithing, grab a dictionary and thesaurus (or look at onlineversions) and play with your problem statement by changing it several times. Start with oneword or short phrases. If you don’t enjoy word games very much or feel yourself struggling, askfor help from a colleague or friend.Here’s an example. If the problem seems like “Our sales are decreasing,” start replacing wordsto become clearer about what’s going on:“Our market share is decreasing.”“Our new sales are the same as last year.”“Repeat sales have decreased 16% over last year.”“Our outgoing sales call volume has increased 18%.”“Our incoming complaint calls have increased 22%.”By doing this type of rewording, you can narrow things down and determine that the realproblem isn’t that your sales team is neglecting their work or needs more training. The problemappears to be that repeat sales are down and correlating with that is an increase in complaints.Finding out why will be your next step.Expose and Challenge AssumptionsWe assume a lot. It’s human nature. Unfortunately, assumptions can really interfere withgetting an accurate problem statement.If you pull up to the gas pumps, you might assume that you can buy regular, mid-grade, orpremium gas. And yet, when you pull up to a rural station and there is only one option (regular) 2017 OptimaTrain.4

Problem Solving and Decision Makingfor your car, which usually gets premium, you have to decide whether you have enough fuel leftto make it to the next gas station.When defining your problem, write a list and include as many assumptions you can think of,especially the obvious ones. This helps to clarify the problem. Then, test each assumption andfind out if some of them are actually wrong, or if you imposed them on yourself.One common assumption is to say, “We’ve never done it that way, so we won’t be allowed todo it in the future.”Use FactsSometimes we see a problem and just want to jump in and fix it. However, we are alsogenerally responsible for things like time and money, so it’s important that we look at thedetails and determine what the problem really is. If a problem is too vague, it might not even beserious enough to warrant solving. Find the data you need to define the problem. If you candraw a picture or a graph, do so. Ask questions and gather information that honestly describesthe problem so that you can get specific about it.“You’re always late” is a very vague statement of a problem. “You’ve been late three days in arow” is specific. With straightforward problems like this one, you will find that defining theproblem and bringing it to the other person’s attention will often resolve it. There are very fewpeople who will continue to challenge the supervisor once they demonstrate an awareness ofthe late behavior being repeated.Grow Your ThinkingProblems are often related to other problems. They can be a small element of a larger issue, sothis element of problem definition includes considering the problem as part of somethinglarger. To do this, you make the problem more general.Ask questions such as“What’s this connected to?”“What is this an example of?”“Where have we seen this before?”Leveraging the word play we used earlier, replace specific words with more general ones.“Budget” becomes “finances,” “office desk” becomes “furniture,” “mouse” becomes “pest.”Shrink Your Environment TemporarilySince each problem is likely made up of smaller problems, one way to figure out the issue is tosplit it into smaller pieces. This allows you to consider specific details. This will help you gain an 2017 OptimaTrain.5

Problem Solving and Decision Makingunderstanding of the bigger problem, as well as the effect that the smaller problems have onone another.Shrinking your environment is very effective when you have a problem that is overwhelming. Itallows you to focus on something tangible. You can again use word play to great benefit here,using words that are more accurate in their definition. “Vehicle” becomes “taxi” or “car.”“Budget” becomes “our department’s budget” and then “our department’s travel budget.”Practice Multiple PerspectivesAlthough the problem may be very clear from where you are looking right now, that may not bethe case from everyone else’s perspective. If our sales are decreasing, we may think it’sbecause our sales team is not being effective, but maybe our competition has dropped theirprice and added a feature to their product that makes them more appealing than we are.Rewrite the problem from several different perspectives. How does your customer look at thisproblem? What about your sales team? Your courier? Add perspectives for people in differentroles. How would your spouse see this? A former teacher? A local business association? Thepeople at the café down the street?Turn it Upside DownOne powerful perspective is defining your problem is to look at it from the reverse direction. Ifyou want more of something, figure out what you get less of as a result. Investigate whathappens to decrease sales, or to sell fewer products, or to lose more games. If you feel thatsending an employee to a conference is too expensive, consider what happens when you dosend them.Change your perspective and consider things from angles you had not yet considered, andconsider the consequences. What about setting up a bare bones product that does not have allthe same elements as the fancy ones people are buying from your competition?Frame the Problem Purposely and PositivelyT

Problem Solving and Decision Making 2017 OptimaTrain. 2 Session Two: Definitions Defining Problem Solving and Decision Making What, specifically, is a problem? A problem can be a mystery, a puzzle, an unsettled matter, a situation requiring a solution, or an issue involving uncertainty that needs to be dealt with. You