Wednesday, July 7, 2010

On Problem Solving

I attended a training workshop in our company which talked about Problem Solving and Decision Making using KT (Kepner-Tregoe) process.  KT process includes a very systematic way to analyze and address problems.  We run this training program in our company to boost our Managers' problem solving and decision making skills in work.  But the KT process can also be used beyond our career...it can also be used in our daily lives.  And I'm going to share with you some insights I gained from the training workshop, which could be helpful in solving problems in any aspect of your lives.

Do you argue with your husband in some things most of the time?  Does your kid have school dilemna?  Can't you sleep peacefully at night because there are lot of things you're thinking and worried about? Can't choose between two or more good options?  Problems are obstacles that hinder you to achieve your goal.  It's the gap between the actual state and the desired state.  Moreover, problems can be anywhere and can come up anytime.  But  we can minimize, avoid, and solve them.  And we can effectively solve them by having the right decisions.

Sometimes, we just tend to address the problem by a "reaction".  We do whatever that comes into our minds or do the traditional solutions we know just to solve problems.  And the problem occurs again the future.  Let's ask ourselves...are we really solving the problem?

Here are some tips in Problem Solving and Decision Making, from the popular KT Process (I will not elaborate the whole process because it's a long discussion.  Just leave a comment if you're interested to learn more.  I'm willing to share the whole thing with you).

1. State the problem.  When you feel grumpy or angry, a friend tells you, "hey, what's your problem?!".  The next time you hear that, don't just let it pass through your ears.  Ask yourself, "what is my problem?".  By answering that, you would know your actual state.
2.  State your goal.  Knowing now what's your problem, ask yourself, "what is your goal?" Given the problem, ano ang gusto mong mangyari? By this, you would now know your desired state.
3. Know the root cause of the problem.  Knowing the root cause of the problem is like knowing the main illness of a sick person, not just the symptoms. This is important so that we can provide the right medicine (solution) to the illness (problem).  Because if we wouldn't address the real root cause of a problem, it will just come back again and again.  You can use the Fishbone Diagram in knowing the root cause.  In doing this, you ask yourself why did the problem came up? Then you ask yourself again, "why?".  Ask it again for 5 times until you have reached the real root cause or root causes (if there are many).

Fishbone Diagram template

4. Think of possible solutions or options.  Write all the options you can think of.  If the problem involves other persons such as your husband or your mother, encourage them to brainstorm with you and come up with possible options.  But we'll consider those as options as for now, because later, we'll pick the best solution among them.

5.  Know your MUST Criteria.  MUSTs are the criteria you would set that are necessary in picking the right solution.  Cross out one or more options (from step 5) if they do not meet this MUSTs.

6.  Know your WANTs Criteria.  WANTs are the criteria you would set that are not necessarily the basic needs but what you prefer in picking the right solution. 

7.  Rate your options.  For each options left from # 5 step, rate if each of them has attained your WANTs Criteria.  You can scale the rate from 1-10, 10 being the highest.  Then get the average rating from all the options. Consider the option with the highest rating the best solution for your problem.  (P.S.  Reflect also on the solution.  It must be harmless, safe, and humane.  For example, terminating an employee because he / she is not delivering properly her responsibilities may not be a likable solution.  Hmmm...you cannot even terminate your husband if he is not doing his job as a good husband, as well...though it seemed like a pretty good idea for some.  It is better if you choose a win-win solution for the problem.)  Also check if your solution will take you to your desired state (from # 2 step).

8.  Delegate tasks and make a commitment.  Knowing the right solution doesn't end the whole Problem Solving process.  You have to DO IT.  And you can do it by either delegating tasks to yourself and to other people who are involved in the problem and/or making a commitment with yourself or with them.

9.  Follow up.  Review how the solution changed your life.  Has it eliminated the problem or do you have some improvements to do?  What are the things you should do in order to prevent it in the long run?  Prevention is really important so that the problem would not happen again.

10.  Celebrate!  Hey, you're 1 problem down! (this was not originally in the course module.  I just added this step because I believe that we should give ourselves a pat on the back because we did something good and right.) :)

I hope you enjoyed reading this article, and you have gained some insights which could be used in your daily lives, especially at home.  Happy problem solving everyone!


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