In this activity, you will complete a problem analysis for a problem that you think would benefit from applying the 6-step model described in the commentary. Follow these steps:
- Identify a problem; it can be a current problem, one that you faced recently, or one you anticipate facing in the near future. The problem can be one that you solve by yourself or one that requires collaboration with others to solve. In addition, it should be sufficiently complex and/or novel to warrant applying the model.
- Once you have selected the problem, consider each step in the model. Refer back to the information provided in the readings and videos for this lesson, and respond to the questions posed for each step.
Step 1: Clarify Goals
- What is your goal in solving the problem?
- What might happen (or not happen) if the problem isn’t solved?
- Make sure your goal statement meets the criteria (results oriented, measurable, clear, controllable within time frames, challenging but not unattainable).
Step 2: Define the Problem
- Write a clear definition of the problem.
- What is your role in solving the problem? Is it your problem to solve on your own? Are you in charge but accountable to others for the solution? Or are you a member of a group asked to address the problem?
- Be clear about any assumptions you have made about the problem or its potential solution. How can you test your assumptions?
- What constraints and/or conditions are imposed?
- Try to reframe or restate the problem statement as it was given to you, or originally defined by you. It may be helpful to use one or more of the tools from the University of Michigan site: http://www.umich.edu/~scps/html/05chap/html/summary.htm (Links to an external site.).
Step 3: Gather and Analyze Data
- Are there any records and/or documents that contain relevant information?
- Who has relevant information? Identify as many individuals or categories of people who know about or are affected by the problem. For each person and/or category, describe how that information can be gathered.
- How can you validate the facts?
- What process will you use to reveal the root cause?
Step 4: Generate Alternatives
- If multiple people are involved in solving the problem, which tool will you use to generate alternatives?
- What can you do to keep your alternatives open to ensure a reasonable number of choices? (Hopefully some have breakthrough potential.)
- What criteria are best to use to evaluate and compare the alternatives? (Note: The criteria should be clearly related to the goal and problem definition.)
Step 5: Implement the Best Solution (Follow Option A if this is a problem you already worked through; follow Option B if it is a problem yet to be solved.)
- Option A: What solution did you select? Was your selection based on choosing the alternative (from multiple options) that best fit your pre-established criteria? If not, explain how your solution was chosen. If this was a group effort, how would you assess the decision-making process in terms of the criteria suggested by Yukl (pp. 108-109): quality, acceptance, satisfaction with process, development of skills?
- Option B: Although you haven’t yet gathered data and generated alternatives, consider any negative results from action taken to solve the problem. Are there resource usage limitations that might affect a successful implementation? Do you know all the parties whose approval is necessary? Are there any unintended consequences about which you can speculate? If this is to be a group effort, how do you plan to assess the decision-making process in terms of the criteria suggested by Yukl (pp. 108-109): quality, acceptance, satisfaction with process, development of skills?
Step 6: Follow-up and Evaluate (Follow Option A if this is a problem you have already worked through; follow Option B if it is a problem yet to be solved.)
- Option A: Has the solution (action plan) been evaluated? If so, did it solve the problem fully, partially, or only a little? If it was not evaluated in a formal sense, what would you recommend be done to gather information about its effectiveness? After the plan was put into effect, were there problems with acceptance? Were modifications made after implementation? What would you change in your approach to follow-up and evaluation for subsequent problems?
- Option B: It is not uncommon for individuals or organizations to skip this step; that is, they fail to use any kind of formal evaluation. Why do you think that is the case? How can more rigorous follow-up and evaluation actions improve the quality of problem solving?