Categories: Problem Solving
Problem Solving and Prevention, and Decision Making, Part 5

Problem Solving and Prevention, and Decision Making, Part 5

By Bob Sproull

Review of Problem Solving and Prevention, and Decision Making, Part 4

In my last post, I introduced, explained, and illustrated two new road maps to help manufacturers methodically address problem solving and problem prevention. In advocating that every manufacturing organization have the problem-solving road map at its disposal, I detailed the reasons why a logical, systematic, and structured approach to solving problems is an absolute necessity. As for the problem prevention road map, I explained that it makes much more sense to tie up resources working on preventing negative performance than it does spending time trying to understand why the negative performance happened in the first place.

As has been the case throughout this series, much of what you will be reading in this post is taken from my soon to be published book entitled, The Problem-Solving, Problem-Prevention, and Decision-Making Guide—Organized and Systematic Roadmaps for Managers, CRC Press (Taylor & Francis Group, LLC), scheduled for release in April.

Completing the “glove box”

In this, the final post of the Problem Solving and Prevention, and Decision Making series, I will introduce the final two road maps for your “glove box.” The decision-making road map will clarify the murkiest of decision making processes and the needs assessment road map will help you determine whether to use the problem-solving road map, the problem prevention road map, or the decision-making road map in any given situation.

Decision making road map

Teddy Roosevelt had an applicable quote that illuminates the importance of the decision-making road map as brightly as possible:

“In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.”

Every day in life, one thing that is almost certain is that we will be called on to make a choice between multiple alternatives. We start each weekday deciding whether we will get up and go to work, what to wear, what to eat for breakfast, and when to leave for work. Fortunately for us, these decisions are simple and instinctive decisions. They are routine, undemanding, and uncomplicated.

As we move through the day at our jobs, the decisions and choices we make become more complex and difficult. Each of our decisions involve determining what we need and want, imagining alternative methods for meeting these objectives, evaluating any risks and consequences that might arise, and then making a choice. Soon after we choose, we begin wondering if our choice of alternatives was the correct one. We worry until the results of our decision come to light. When they do, we often find out right away if we have made the right decision or the wrong decision.

For many, decisions are stressful, but do they really have to be? Absolutely not! Making difficult decisions can be accomplished with little or no worry if we follow a structured and systematic process. I’m sure by now you’ve noticed that in both problem prevention and problem solving, there were decisions that needed to be made. Deciding which solution is best for a problem or choosing which area of your company is the highest risk area are two prime examples. Just like the road maps for problem solving and prevention, effective decision making will only result from following a structured and systematic approach. Fortunately, I have another tool for you that should help you make better decisions—the decision road map.

Decision Making Roadmap

So, what then constitutes a good choice or decision? Being able to make a good decision really depends on how well you have prepared yourself to make it. There are five important fundamental steps in making a well-supported decision:

  1. Decide that there is a choice to be made. As obvious as this may seem in detailing the steps, manufacturing professionals often come to this realization too late, if at all.
  2. State the purpose for your decision, or why it is considered important to you and your organization.
  3. Fully define the criteria that you need to satisfy for the decision to be considered a good one.
  4. Determine the options that will best address the important criteria. Remember you will typically have multiple options to choose from.
  5. Weigh the potential risks associated with your choice of options. One option might meet all the criteria needed to satisfy your decision requirements, but it may also carry a large risk factor. In this case, consider that the option may not be worth the risk to you or your organization.

The important thing to keep in mind as you proceed through the decision process is that whatever decision you ultimately make, you must live with the consequences. Because the consequences matter to your organization and in your career, you must take your time and weigh the benefits against the risks. Consider facts rather than emotions, and then make the right call. 

If you follow my decision road map, I am convinced that your decisions will be better supported and your rate of decision making success will improve. When you use this decision-making road map in conjunction with the problem solving and problem prevention road maps, you will have a reliable methodology for every scenario you face, and you will continually improve in applying and teaching these methods. But there is yet one more road map to hand you before your “glove box” will be complete.


Putting it all together with the needs assessment road map

So far in this series, you have learned about preventing and solving problems, as well as making decisions. I have given you road maps to follow for each of the three actions that you and your team will face as you do your jobs. When or where to use each of these road maps will be obvious to most of you in most circumstances, but it won’t be obvious to everyone in every circumstance. It is for these people and occasions that I end this series with one last tool—the needs assessment road map.

But before I talk about assessing your needs, let’s consider the purposes of these road maps. Think about what you do before you head out in your car to a new destination. Most people do one of four things: 1) They open a driving directions application, 2) Find a website like MapQuest with the same features, 3) Plug in their GPS, or 4) Highlight directions on a map.

If this location is one that you will be visiting frequently, then after several trips you will no longer need the GPS, maps, or directions, because you will know the way. These road maps work the same way; use them habitually for a while and they will become committed to memory. You will know exactly what to do next on your own. The adage that “practice makes perfect” applies here.  

As I indicated earlier, there will be some murky situations in which it is not clear which road map to use. For this reason, I have developed a needs assessment road map. This is a series of questions in flowchart format that you must answer as the circumstance you are faced with presents itself.

Needs Assessment Roadmap

This straightforward tool will complete your problem solving and prevention, and decision making “glove box” by bringing clarity to any confusing scenarios that remain after using and practicing each of the methodologies in this series.  

Until next time.

Bob Sproull

Bob Sproull

About the author

Bob Sproull has helped businesses across the manufacturing spectrum improve their operations for more than 40 years.

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