One thing all managers do, regardless of their place in the organizational hierarchy, is to make decisions. These decisions may include: what product to introduce into the market, who to hire, or whether to acquire another company. Sometimes we believe that in trying to be so rational, all our decisions should be based on merit. The question is, “How well do you define merit? Good decision-making forms a vital part of management because decisions determine how the organization solves problems, allocates resources, and accomplishes its goal.
A systematic process serves as a guide and helps us to make good decisions. It also allows us to minimize cognitive biases affecting our choices and judgments. In this article, we will be looking at the various steps in problem-solving.
STEPS IN PROBLEM-SOLVING
- Understand the situation or the business dynamics – Most people ignore this step in the decision-making process. It is not a step to be brushed aside despite not being a concrete step in the decision-making process. Here you need to understand the situation first if you are trying to solve a problem. You can use the 5Ws (what, when, where, who, why, and how) approach, and with this, you have a good grasp of the problem. At this stage, you must be able to identify relevant and irrelevant information to define the problem statement.
- Define the decision problems – This means being clear about the issue and getting to its root cause. A problem is a gap between a current state and a desired destination or goal. It is a deviation from what should or could be. It is expected that once you have understood the context or the situation, it is then easier to identify the problem statement. Earlier, we stated that you could use the 5Ws; also, the problem tree approach can be adopted. A problem tree helps us understand an existing situation by identifying the major problems and their main causal relationships. The output is a graphical arrangement of the issues differentiated according to “causes” and “effects” joined by a core or focal problem. You can choose whichever approach is suitable to define decision problems.
- Be guided by objectives – It is important that before you make a good decision, you need to be clear about the objectives to be achieved. It is impossible to make relevant alternatives if you don’t clearly state your goals and purposes. This means that every stage of this process is important and, thus, must be well thought out, as one stage will lead you to the other.
- Brainstorm on alternatives – What are the options by which you can achieve your objectives? As we all know, there are multiple ways to solve a problem. You need to think and brainstorm to identify the various alternatives.
- Develop criteria – What are the standards or parameters by which you will evaluate your alternatives? How can you tell which option to choose from? This is why you need to identify various measures or criteria which would be used to evaluate the different alternatives you have specified in your previous step. Although there are instances whereby you may exhaust all your objectives criteria; however, you need some cosmetic standards to help you tick the balance or help you make a more sustainable decision.
- Evaluate alternatives using the established criteria – All decisions aren’t weighted equally, but regardless of significance, each decision has a unique set of factors or criteria that need to be evaluated. At this stage, you examine all qualitative and quantitative issues. You analyze the Long-term and short-term outcomes of your alternative solutions and then develop the tradeoffs, opportunity costs, and consequences of your options.
- Take a decision – Your decision is based on the evaluation or the analysis you have carried out. The most optimal decision is the one that meets the criteria you have set and that ultimately fulfills your objective.
- Develop an Action plan – An action plan is a checklist of tasks and resources required to complete a project. Please note that there is a distinctive difference between a to-do list and an action plan, as most people find it difficult to differentiate. An action plan focuses on a project or achieving a specific goal, while a to-do list is ongoing and includes tasks for different purposes and projects.
There are often many competing factors when deciding, and figuring out which of these choices should take priority isn’t always easy. It is important to note that you cannot arrive at a decision based on your rational reasoning because not all business contexts or situations are the same. Analysis of Business Problems and decision-making aims to arrive at a reason that is peculiar and dependent on each context or data provided in every business situation.
Written by Tutty Tero