Chapter 5: Successful Problem Solving& Task ManagementLearning outcomes:• Understand what is meant by problem-solving• Develop techniques and approaches associated withsuccessful problem solving• Develop the confidence to take on tasks, problems andprojects• Become a “good-starter”• Understand all the processes involved in basic projectmanagement• Audit your own “competitiveness”
Contents• Introduction• Tasks and Problem• Basic Approaches• ‘Similarity Approach’• The ROSA-E strategy• Problem Solving Techniques
Introduction• Problem-solving skill is highly valued by employers.• They want graduates being able to manage problemsand pressures effectively, being able to apply skills tonew situations and deal with new tasks withminimum supervision.• Almost every activity, task or problem will draw onthe following set of processes and skills:
1. Strategy: tactics and an overall plan.2. Techniques: methods to use.3. People skills: working with others in appropriate ways toachieve the goal.4. Self management: managing your time, personal issues,feelings and performance.5. Creativity: finding ideas that contribute towards asolution.
• People who are very good at problem-solving usuallybring people skills, self management and creativityto the task.• These three factors are so important that they eachhave chapters dedicated to them.
Tasks & Problems• Task can be defined as “a piece of work assigned ordone as part of ones duties”. It also referred as “afunction to be performed or an objective”.• It covers a wide range of circumstances.• Task is used flexibility to refer to any activity or partof a larger project.
• On the other hand, problem refers to:- any question that calls for an answer- a puzzle waiting to be solved- a situation requiring a response- a challenge to be met• To solve a problem, it involves a few tasks that needto be undertaking before we could reach for a finaldecision. This process called as “decision-making”.
• Decisions could be classified whether as structured(programmed) decision or un-structured (non-programmed) decision.• Programmed decisions are made using a rule,procedure, or quantitative method. For example, tosay that inventory should be ordered wheninventory levels drop to 100 units is a programdecision because it adheres to a rule.• This kind of decisions are easy to solve because theproblem is routine, and it can easily computerizeusing traditional information systems.
• Meanwhile, non-programmed decisions refer to adecision that deals with unusual or exceptionalsituations.• Not easily quantifiable.• E.g.: determining the appropriate training programfor a new employee, deciding whether to develop anew type of product line, and weighing the benefitsand drawbacks of installing an upgraded version of asystem within an organization.
• Unique characteristics (where standard rules orprocedures might not apply to them)• Today, decision support systems (DSS) help solvemany non-programmed decisions, in which theproblem is not routine and rules and relationshipsare not well defined
Types of decision-makingCharacteristics Programmed Decisions Non-programmed DecisionsType of problem Structured Un-structuredManagerial level Lower level Upper levelFrequency Repetitive, routine New, unusualInformation Readily available Ambiguous, incompleteTime-frame solution Short Relatively longSolution relies on Procedures, rules, policies Judgment & creativityGoals Clear, specific Vague
Activity: Structured or Un-structuredDecision?Define each of these problems/decisions whether it isstructured or un-structured:1) A bakery shop need to decide how many quantities ofingredients need to be ordered from suppliers to produce10,000 piece of sandwiches.2) A company must determine how many workers that need tobe employed for operating its new production plant in Spain.3) A CEO of a big company has been resigned recently, so theBoard of Directors (BOD) conduct a meeting to discuss who’sthe best candidate to replace him.
4) You just been appointed as a new operation manager atKLIA. You must make sure that all passengers manage toboard on the plane on time (on time departure), so you mustcoordinate all aspects related to selection and managementof cabin crews, cargo, passengers, air-traffic control and so onto be effectively done.5) Nokia Corp conduct a meeting to find solutions to increasetheir market value due to inflation in Europe and decline ofsales in North America market.
Basic Approaches to Problem SolvingThere are few basic approaches that might be use inorder to solve a specific problem as listed below:Talking to othersListsFinding out informationCalculatingFollowing the rulesTrial and errorVisualizingCharting
1) Talking to othersAsk other people for ideas, their experience , what theyknow about the persons and places involved.People are a key resources in problem-solving.
2) ListsMany people organize their lives by lists.They are quick and easy tools to use and excellent startingpoints for any problem.
3) Finding out informationMay have included approaches such as browsing theInternet, checking catalogues and looking in books.
4) CalculatingSome problems are solved more easily by usingmathematical formula.For example: You may have used calculations to work outhow much time there would be different aspects of eachof the two essays, or how to meet budget for the meal orholiday.
5) Following the rulesIt is easier to follow procedures laid down for the activity.For example: mixing chemicals for a particular purposerequires very precise measurements specific chemicals.Another example: if you are not used to cooking, followingthe recipe step by step will be very helpful.
6) VisualizingYou may also have visualized each of the differentactivities, seeing yourself performing each.For example: successful sportspeople tend to usevisualizing techniques to see the exact details of how theywill achieve victory.
7) ChartingWe may used a chart, flow diagram or other graphicdevice to draw out the problem, so that you could work itout visually.For example: finding a solution on how to increase salesfor product A based on results obtained from a surveyusing questionnaires.
8) Trial and ErrorsYou may prefer to jump in at the deep end, trying outvarious ideas until you hit the right one.For example: run a computer-programming script using C++
The ROSA-E Strategy• This is a method or tool that could be use forproblem analysis purpose, so it might help you findthe best solution to solve your problem later on.• ROSA-E strategy is a cycle that can be applied to theoverall project and also for tasks within a project.Reflection is at the core of the cycle, and is applied toall processes.• Step involved in ROSA-E strategy:o Orientationo Strategyo Actiono Evaluationo Reflection
Problem-Solving TechniquesThis section introduces some common problem-solving techniques difficulties. These include: Setting goals; Setting criteria to evaluate a solution; Identifying priorities; Setting targets and drawing up an action plan; Planning project time; Getting down to it; Becoming a good ‘self-starter’; Sticking with a task; Completing a task
1) Setting goals• Is an important part of the orientation stage of yourstrategy. When considering your goal:– Visualize what it would be like to achieve it.– Identify how will know when you have achieved it: whatwill be different?– Evaluate whether it is realistic;– Identify what you will have to sacrifice in order to achieveit. It is worth it?– Think about your beliefs and values. Is it’ you’?
2) Setting criteria• Develop criteria that give you what you want but which areachievable.• Identify relevant criteria for a solution in term of:– Maximum cost– Value for money– Total time in hours– Desired finish date– Meeting deadlines– Quality issues– Design features– Meeting assignment criteria– Meeting client criteria– Health and safety issues– Legal considerations
3) Identifying priorities• One common reason for not getting under way witha many problem or project is that there are too manythings competing for your attention.• To help set priorities, Neenan and Dryden(2002)suggest dividing tasks into one of four categories,called priorities sheet:– Urgent and important– Not urgent but important– Urgent but not important– Not urgent and not important
Priorities SheetREDUrgent and importantYELLOWNot urgent but importantORANGEUrgent but not importantBLUENot urgent and not important
1. Red – Category 1: urgent and importantDeadliness, crises, tasks timed for today, task which mustcome first in a sequence.2. Yellow – Category 2: not urgent but importantCategory 2 activities enables you to plan ahead. Theseshould be addressed before they become urgent.3. Orange – Category 3: urgent but not importantIf possible, leave these until category 1 tasks are completed.Email are a good example of this.4. Blue – Category 4: not urgent and not importantThese are often are good time wasting activities.
4) SMART-F target setting• Most tasks benefit from clear, achievable goals.SMART targets make it easier to see what must bedone and then to evaluate the success.• SMART-F targets build in reasonable flexibility, soyou can plan for unexpected contingencies. SMART-Fstands for:
1. Specific: ‘I will complete the first section of my essay by thisevening.’2. Measurable: ‘I will produce the first three draft pages of myessay by this evening.’3. Achievable: ‘This should be achievable because I havecompleted the research, organized my notes, and alreadyproduced the outline plan.’4. Realistic: ‘I should be able to write three pages as I havewritten up to ten pages in a day before, and have done thepreparatory work.’5. Time-bound: ‘I will finish by 8:30 p.m.’6. Flexible: ‘I could continue until 10:30 p.m. if necessary. If I findI have additional research to do for those pages, I can slot thatin tomorrow between 9:00 and 11:00 a.m.’
5) Planning project timeGood time management may require you to useseveral time-management tools simultaneously:– Actions plans: set targets and deadliness for each step.Action plan are organized according to theme.– Schedules: organize all tasks and steps in the order theymust be completed. For large projects, there is softwareavailable to organize the work schedule.– Diaries: organize tasks more closely within a week or day.
Action PlanTarget Milestones (steps tobe taken)By date By whom Evidence that milestone iscompletedDone (√)123412345123
6) Getting down to it• Do you delay beginning an activity because:You get easily distracted into irrelevant activities?The time isn’t right?You need more experience?You work better at the last moment?Tomorrow is better?You worry that the outcome won’t be right?You think something will go wrong?Everything else is more important?• If so, procrastination prevents you from followingthrough on an action plan.
7) Becoming a good “self-starter”• Self-starters tend to be:Highly motivated;Have strategies for ‘getting going’Open to the possibility of successSolution focusedOrganizedSelf-confidentGood at finding support and asking for help when theyneed itGood at people skillsAware of their own limitations• Each time you undertake any assignment, you canpractice techniques that are relevant to being a goodself-starter.
8) Sticking with a task• One of characteristics of successful people is awillingness to ‘do what it takes’, even if this meansworking very long hours, and developing patience.• In general, how good are you at sticking with tasks sothat you finish what you start?
9) Completing a task• The following characteristics are usually needed totake tasks through to completion on a consistentbasis:– Enthusiasm– Ability to see or conceptualize the ‘end product’– Perseverance– Patience– Self-belief– Being prepared to practice– Accepting constructive criticism– Searching out a point of interest– Keeping the goal and benefits in mind– Pride in a job well done
Conclusion• Problem solving is essentially a way of getting things done,and therefore can be applied to a very wide range ofcircumstances.• This includes such processes as defining the task, elaboratingthe problem, setting priorities, developing an appropriatestrategy, setting SMART-F targets, developing an action plan,monitoring performance against targets and indicators, andtaking a task to completion.• A good problem-solving strategy, along with developedpeople skills, will enable you to take on such new tasks withdeveloped skills, will enable you take on such new tasks withgreater confidence.