Problem Solving for Managers - Free eBook in PDF Format

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Business Strategy eBook  

Book Description - ISBN 981-1-29632-487-2 (42 Pages)
This free eBook describes six key principles for problem solving that all successful managers should know. Problems are an inevitable consequence of business and the following techniques will help you to identify and resolve them in a structured way.

Chapter 1 - Root Cause Analysis
Problems and issues occur in every organization. For these to be properly resolved then the underlying causes of those problems or issues needs to be identified and fixed. Organizations that conduct root cause analysis will see both long and short-term improvements occur. This analysis tool is ideal for teasing out the root cause of complex problems and finding a timely and workable resolution. This important concept allows corrections to be introduced preventing its recurrence in the future.

Chapter 2 - CATWOE
Problem solving tools such as CATWOE are the ideal method of addressing major problems you face now and in the future. The CATWOE method of solving problems requires you to look at an issue or problem from six unique perspectives - Customers, Actors, Transformation Process, World View, Owner & Environmental Constraints. This enables you to have a better understanding and appreciation of the problem and the best way to resolve it for the organization to benefit.

Chapter 3 - Five Whys Tool
The ‘Five Whys’ tool relies on the experience and knowledge of the people involved in the problem solving exercise to reach a satisfactory conclusion. When using this method it is essential to have the necessary ‘knowledge base’ within your problem solving group. This method simply requires you to continue asking ‘why?’ as many times as you need to identify the root cause of the problem you face.

Chapter 4 - Cause and Effect Analysis
A proven method of problem solving is known as ‘Cause and Effect Analysis’. This process requires a problem to be precisely defined and preferably narrow in scope, such as, ‘Why is production in City Ville always lower in December? In this example, you know what the problem is and can start to develop solutions based on the underlying causes that you determine in your analysis and research.

Chapter 5 - Interrelationship diagrams
Managers in large complex corporations cannot keep up-to-date with every facet of its organization. So when needing to solve problems they will use Interrelationship diagram (ID) to visualize exactly how a number of issues relate to one another within their organization. They are easy to use and extremely flexible so they can be used in a wide variety of situations.

Chapter 6 - Barriers to Problem Solving
These barriers are things that prevent individuals from identifying a practical resolution to a problem. They are often referred to as - cognitive blocks – how we think and feel – as well as, physical and social blocks. Every individual has their own specific cognitive blocks and these affect which of the barriers they will encounter. Being aware of problem solving barriers helps us identify the best tools and techniques to use in our, or team, problem solving activities to remove such pitfalls.

You will learn:
  • How to use Root Cause Analysis to tease out the root cause of complex problems and finding a timely and workable resolution.
  • How to use the CATWOE method to look at an issue or problem from six unique perspectives.
  • How to use the Five Whys method to get to the root cause of any problem you face.
  • How to use Cause and Effect Analysis to identify possible causes of a problem and to sort ideas into useful categories.
  • How to use Interrelationship Diagrams to visualize exactly how a number of issues relate to one another.
  • How to avoid cognitive blocks that impede the ability to correctly solve problems.

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What is Root Cause Analysis?

  • Root Cause Analysis is a method that is used to address a problem or non-conformance, in order to get to the ‘root cause’ of the problem.
  • Organizations often respond to problems with short-term solutions that require staff to repeat the same tasks over and over again without addressing the underlying problem.
  • If this is to be avoided then root cause analysis should be a systemic process that is ingrained into the culture of an organization.
  • Root cause analysis involves five steps: define the problem, understand the problem, take immediate action, take corrective action, confirm the solution.
  • The process is often met with resistance because it has the potential to expose mistakes made by people inside the organization.
  • Without the commitment of everyone involved, this is a method of analysis that will fail to yield results.


What is CATWOE?

  • CATWOE is an acronym that stands for: customers, actors, transformation process, worldview, owners and environmental constraints.
  • CATWOE was defined by Peter Checkland as a part of his Soft Systems Methodology.
  • Soft systems methodology (SSM) is an approach to business process modelling that can be used both for general problem solving and in the management of change.
  • The primary use of SSM is in the analysis of complex situations where there are divergent views about the definition of the problem.
  • SSM is a seven stage process: Enter situation considered problematical, express the problem situation, formulate root definitions of relevant systems of purposeful activity, build conceptual models of the systems named in the root definitions, comparing models with real world situations, define possible changes which are both possible and feasible, and take action to improve the problem situation.
  • It was observed that SSM was most successful when the Root Definition included the elements captured in the mnemonic CATWOE that contribute to the problem under investigation.


What is the Five Whys?

  • 5 Why Analysis is a technique used to explore the cause-and-effect relationships underlying a particular problem.
  • The goal is to determine the root cause of a defect or problem by repeating the question ‘Why?’.
  • Each answer forms the basis of the next question.
  • There is anecdotal evidence that five iterations are usually needed to get to the root of the problem.
  • It is important that investigators do not stop at symptoms, but rather go on to identify the lower-level root causes.
  • The technique cannot be used to find causes that the investigators can not imagine. In other words, it is dependent on their knowledge and experience.
  • There is no guarantee that the investigators will ask the ‘right’ questions and that a different team would not reach an alternative conclusion.


What is Cause and Effect Analysis?

  • A cause and effect diagram, often called a ‘fishbone’ diagram, can help in brainstorming to identify possible causes of a problem and in sorting ideas into useful categories.
  • They are commonly used in product design and quality defect prevention to identify potential factors causing an overall effect.
  • Each cause or reason for imperfection is a source of variation.
  • Causes are usually grouped into major categories to identify these sources of variation.
  • The 5 Ms used in manufacturing industry are: machine, method, material, man Power, and measurement.
  • The 8 Ps used in marketing industry are: product/service, price, place, promotion, people/personnel, process, physical evidence, and packaging.
  • The 4 Ss used in service industry are: surroundings, suppliers, systems, and standard documentation skills.


What are Interrelationship Diagrams?

  • Interrelationship diagrams (ID) show how different issues are related to one another and help identify which issues are causing problems and which are a result of other issues.
  • A diagram consists of a set of circles representing each issue to be considered organized in a radial pattern on the page.
  • Connecting lines between the boxes indicate relationship with arrows showing the direction of the relationship.
  • There are 5 steps involved in an interrelationship diagram analysis: Identify the problem, identify the issues, connect the issues, analyse the relationships, solve the problem.
  • Although they do not identify detailed reasons for the problem, interrelationship diagrams allow causes and effects to be clearly seen.


What are the Barriers to Problem Solving?

  • Common barriers to problem solving are cognitive blocks that impede the ability to correctly solve problems.
  • These can be perceptual, emotional, intellectual, expressive, environmental, and cultural.
  • Everybody has cognitive blocks, and each person will have different types and at different intensities.
  • Five of the most common are: confirmation bias, mental set, functional fixedness, unnecessary constraints, and irrelevant information.
  • Confirmation Bias arises when the approach taken is to confirm a preconceived solution.
  • Mental Set results from reusing what has been successful in the past, rather than assessing and evaluating the problem.
  • Functional Fixedness comes from people thinking that an object has only one function.
  • Unnecessary Constraints links to trying to solve a problem using previous experience of what has worked in a situation and trying to force it to work in the current situation, rather than looking for a new solution.
  • Irrelevant Information is often caused by people diverging from the problem itself, onto other topics they feel are related or presenting too much information.
  • These barriers can be removed by awareness of the pitfalls in problem solving, and training in how to use a problem solving method correctly.


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