- Slides: 59
Problem Solving and Decision Making
n Problem solving involves making a series of decisions: q deciding that something is wrong, q deciding what the problem is, and q deciding how to solve it.
n Successful problem solving depends on good decisions. q Decision: A choice from among available alternatives.
n Much of the supervisor’s job is making decisions. q In many cases, decisions are made without giving any thought to the process of deciding. n Supervisors will automatically decide something q q n because it feels right or because a decision has been made on a similar issue in the past. Decision making can be improved by understanding how the decision-making process works in theory and in practice.
Rational Model n The rational model of decision making includes: q q q a. identify the problem b. identify the alternative solutions c. gather and organize the facts d. evaluate the alternatives e. select and implement the best alternative f. get feedback and take corrective action.
n The importance of understanding and using a model is that the decision will be the result of facts and analysis rather than of opinions and feelings.
n Identification of the real problem is extremely important. n If the wrong cause and solution for that cause is selected, the problem will still be there. n Deming says that most problems are unknown or unknowable.
n There are two basic types of problems: q q simple, or acute and long-standing, or chronic, problems.
n Simple problems occur suddenly, and the cause of the problem may be obvious. q n An example is when the electricity goes off because a fuse is blown. The chronic, or recurring, problem is usually more complex, and it is difficult to determine the causes and solutions. q This type of problem can benefit from the conscious use of a problem-solving or decision-making model.
Bounded rationality n Choosing an alternative that meets minimum standards of acceptability. q Solutions that meet minimum standards will likely result in a return of the problem, since there is no margin of safety that will allow for slight changes and desirable outcomes.
Recency Syndrome n The tendency to most easily remember events that have occurred recently. q q To test this concept, try to remember what happened yesterday. Now try to remember eight or ten days ago with the same kind of detail.
Stereotyping n Rigid opinions about categories of people.
n Supervisors often have neither the time nor the desire to follow all these steps to make a good decision. q q They may have trouble thinking of all the alternatives or gathering all the facts they need.
Compromises n n n Given the human and organizational limitations, supervisors tend to make compromises most of the time. If the supervisor is aware of the kinds of compromises people make, he or she is more likely to be aware when using them. Some kinds of compromises are useful in some situations, others are to be avoided as much as possible.
Reasons for compromises n Sitnplicity. q Usually what we do is think over our experiences and consider some of the ways similar problems have been handled in the past. n The downside of this approach is that it tends to bypass new and innovative solutions that may deliver better results.
Bounded rationality n When it seems impossible or unreasonable to find the best alternative in the universe, decision makers settle for an alternative they consider enough. q q The process is also known as bounded rationality, that is, the decision maker places limits, or bounds, on the rational model of decision making. The decision maker considers alternatives only until he or she finds one that meets his or her minimum criteria acceptability.
Subjective rationality n This considers alternatives that are the result of intuition and instincts, rather than impartial data. q q Even when the process for arriving at the decision otherwise rational, the numbers used in the process may be subjective. As a result, they may be less than completely accurate.
Rationalization n People tend to favor solutions that they believe they can justify to others.
Personal perspective n People may assume that everyone sees things the way they do. q q They think if something is clear to them it is also clear to everyone else. Decision makers must find out what other people are thinking and take those views into account.
Stereotyping n Rigid opinions about categories of people distort the truth that people offer a rich variety of individual strengths and viewpoints. q q q The cure for stereotyping is not to assume that everyone is alike. The supervisor should be aware of what his or her stereotypes about people and situations are. In making a decision, the supervisor should consider whether those stereotypes truly describe the situation at hand.
Consider the Consequences n When the consequences of a decision are great, the supervisor should spend more time on the decision. q n He or she should try to follow the rational model of decision making, collecting information and including as many alternatives as possible. When the consequences are slight, the supervisor should limit the time and money spent in identifying and evaluating alternatives.
Respond quickly in a crisis n In a crisis, the supervisor should quickly select the course of action that seems best q n This is an application of satisficing. Rather than waiting to evaluate other alternatives, the supervisor should begin implementing the solution and interpreting feedback to see whether the solution is working.
n Supervisors should be careful in identifying crisis situations. q Sometimes it is easy to define more and more situations as a crisis or pseudo crisis using crisis decision-making methods.
Inform the manager n The supervisor’s boss doesn’t want to hear about every minor decision, but the boss does need to know what is happening in the department. q The supervisor should inform the boss about major decisions. n These would include decisions affecting q q the department, meeting objectives, responses to crises, and any decision that might be controversial.
n When the boss needs to know about a decision, it’s usually smart to discuss the problem before reaching and announcing the decision. q q The boss may have some input to the decision-making process that may modify the supervisor’s decision. In a crisis, the supervisor may not have time to consult with his or her boss and has to settle for discussing the decision as soon as possible afterward.
Be decisive yet flexible n Sometimes it is difficult to say which alternative solution is best. q Perhaps none of the choices looks good enough. n n In this case, it may be difficult to move beyond studying the alternatives to selection and implementation. However, avoiding a decision is just another way to decide to do nothing. q Being decisive means reaching a decision within a reasonable amount of time. n The supervisor should pick the best alternative or at least an acceptable one, and then focus on implementing it.
n A decisive supervisor clears his or her desk of routine matters when a problem arises. q The supervisor n n refers the question or problem to the proper people, delegates appropriately, and keeps work moving. He or she takes complete responsibility for getting the facts needed.
n n n A decisive supervisor keeps his or her employees informed of what they are expected to do and how they are progressing relative to their objectives. Being decisive should not mean that a supervisor is blind to signs of a mistake. If the feedback indicates the solution is not working, the supervisor must be flexible and try another approach
Avoid decision-making traps n Avoid making a major issue out of each decision. q q Good planning can avert many crises, and life-and -death issues are not the usual stuff of the supervisor’s job. Put each issue into perspective so that alternatives can be evaluated an appropriate amount of time can be devoted to finding the solution.
n Avoid inappropriate responses to failure. q Acknowledge mistakes, but do not dwell and agonize over them. n It is more important to learn whatever lesson the mistake can teach, and then move on.
n Remember to draw on easily available information. q q q Have some of the alternatives been tried before? If so, what was the outcome? Also consult with other members of the organization or with outside experts.
n Beware of promising too much. q Don’t make promises you can’t keep to your employees or your boss.
Probability Theory q A body of techniques for comparing the consequences of possible decisions in a risk situation.
Decision Tree n A graph that helps in decision making by showing the value of expected outcomes of decisions under varying circumstances. n Decision trees can be used to present a variety of conditions to help familiarize others who are involved in the decision-making process.
Decision-making Software n A computer program that leads the user through the steps of the formal decisionmaking process. q Software programs can construct the tree diagram and other decision-making tools, such as matrices that consider multiple factors.
n The decision tree is a graph or picture of all alternatives under consideration. q Decision-making benefits from a logical process that will present alternatives in a format that displays the alternatives and consequences of selecting each of the possible alternatives. n It is useful to the supervisor because it can show relationships and potential outcomes of each step of the decision-making process, and allows mathematical calculations by including probability factors or risk involved in each decision.
n n In constructing the decision tree, the consequences for each alternative are considered. The decision tree can also be used to inform and communicate with the supervisor’s boss. q q A decision can be selected with a fair amount of certainty. However, with the decision tree, if the selected alternative not working as anticipated, another alternative has already been considered with its consequences.
Groupthink n The failure to think independently and realistically as a group because of the desire to enjoy consensus and closeness.
Symptoms of Groupthink n n n n An illusion of being invulnerable Defending the group’s position against any objections A view that the group is clearly moral--”the good guys” Stereotyped views of opponents Pressure against group members who disagree Self-censorship, that is, not allowing oneself to disagree. An illusion that everyone agrees (because no one states an opposing view) Self-appointed “mindguards”--people who urge other group members to go along with the group.
n Some organizations allow or expect supervisors to work with others in arriving at a decision q Supervisors might encourage employees to come up with a solution themselves.
Advantages of Group Decision Making n n n Group members can contribute more ideas for alternatives than an individual working alone. The group will have a broader perspective since the experience of the group is broader than an individual’s experience. People involved in the decision will better understand an alternative selected and also be more likely to support the decision.
n Involvement by employees in decision making provides an opportunity for improving morale and employee self-esteem. q Recognition of the contributions of groups is a powerful motivator.
Disadvantages of Group Decision Making n n n Group decision making is slower than individual decision making. There is an opportunity cost to the organization when employees spend time in meetings rather than producing or selling. If one person dominates the decision-making process, the value of multiple inputs is lost.
Brainstorming n An idea-generating process in which group members state their ideas, a member of a group records them, and anyone may comment on the ideas until the process is complete.
n Brainstorming is the process of coming up with as many ideas as possible. q q It may be structured, that is, each person takes a turn suggesting an idea. An unstructured session calls for individuals calling out whatever comes to mind. In the use of either method, no value judgments should be made about the suggestions.
n A brainstorming session can be held for generating ideas about problems to be solved, causes for identified problems, and alternative solutions for the problem. q Individuals with knowledge about the issue should be included, although an “outsider” may also be useful. n This person will help clarify and question why suggestions are or are not made.
n The supervisor is wise to involve employees in some but not all decisions. q q q When a decision must be made quickly, like in an emergency, the supervisor should probably make it alone. When the supervisor needs to build support for a solution, such as in cutting costs or improving productivity, the group process is useful. When the consequences of a poor decision are great, the benefits of the group’s collective wisdom are worth the time and expense of gathering the input
n The supervisor may use the employees for input or they may be asked to make the decision. q Whenever supervisors ask for employee input, they should be sure they intend to use the information.
n Since a primary benefit of group decision making is the variety of opinions and expertise, a supervisor leading a decision-making meeting should be sure that everyone is participating. q The supervisor should concentrate on listening and encouraging the input of others. n If someone is not participating, the supervisor may have to ask for his or her opinion or thoughts on the matter at hand.
n Brainstorming is another way to generate ideas in a group. q q Group members state their ideas no matter how farreaching they may seem. No one may criticize or even comment on an idea until the end of the process. All ideas are recorded on a flip chart or black (white) board. Evaluation or follow-up on ideas takes place after all ideas are suggested.
n Fifty to a hundred ideas may be generated in a single brainstorming session. q q The value of generating ideas in a free and open forum is to have group members build off each other’s ideas. Some ideas are likely to be only slightly different from others or a combination of previously mentioned ideas.
Creativity n The ability to bring about something imaginative or new.
n In decision making, creativity means being able to generate alternatives that are innovative or different from what has been used in the past. q Thinking outside the box
n n There is a common notion that some people are creative and the rest of us are stuck with following routine and ordinary courses of action. A fundamental way to become more creative is to be open to your own ideas. q q q think of as many alternatives as you can jot them down don’t evaluate them until after you have finished the list.
Five Step Technique for Generating Creative Ideas n n Gather the raw materials by learning about the problem and by developing your general knowledge. q Constantly expand your experience. Work over those materials in your mind q q As you think of partial ideas, jot them down so you can refer to them later. If you’re stuck on a problem, try leaving it for a while.
n Incubate q q n Identify an idea. q n Let your subconscious do the work. Stimulate your imagination. Ideas often pop into your head unexpectedly. Shape and develop the idea to make it practical q Seek out constructive criticism.
n The most important step a supervisor can take to establish a work climate that encourages creative thinking is to show that he or she values creativity. q q When employees offer suggestions, the supervisor should listen attentively and look for the positive aspects of the suggestions. Then the supervisor should attempt to implement the suggestions and give the employee credit for the idea. n n Failure should be acknowledged as a sign that people are trying. Help employees see what can be learned from failures as well as from successes.
n Creating an environment that fosters creativity is not simply listening to alternative solutions when problems occur. q The environment is developed daily and by all levels of the organization. q The supervisor can nurture a creative environment by the way he/she treats people and their ideas on an ongoing basis. q Respect for all employees and appreciation of daily contributions will create an environment where employees feel valued and are willing to think about the problems of the workplace.
n Often supervisors and employees have difficulty being creative because they are afraid their ideas will fail. q n Another barrier to creativity is being overly busy. q n Focus on learning from failures Creativity requires time to think. Isolation also interferes with creativity. q Get i