10/1/2000 | 3 MINUTE READ

Finding Solutions

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Faced with the task of solving a problem, most people recognize that they must first gather the facts. But the facts seldom point to just one solution because problems often have many solutions varying in effectiveness and practicality.

The important thing is to keep an open mind. Let your imagination roam freely over the facts you have collected. Jot down possible solutions that occur to you. Resist the temptation to evaluate them as you go along. Draw upon the experience of others.

When there are several proposed solutions, one may conflict with the others, but this is no reason to discard it. Proposed solutions may be (1) similar in most aspects, varying only in detail; (2) completely different, yet reconcilable; or (3) mutually exclusive. Possible solutions must be evaluated. Use caution at this point. Don't debase the value of the problem solving process by choosing the solution you have wanted all along. And test the alternatives against specific, valid criteria. You do this by asking good questions.

Arrange your criteria in order of importance, depending on your needs and the factors of the situation. Some typical criteria:

  • Consistency. Is there value in making this decision consistent with others you have made in the past?
  • Timing. How fast does the decision need to be made? When is the best time to make the decision?
  • Permanency. Is this a temporary delaying action, or will it be permanent and remedy the problem?
  • Implementation. Has the solution a reasonable chance of success? Is it too costly? Can the solution be put into practice easily, with some difficulty, or only with great difficulty? Are the necessary personnel and time available?
  • Acceptability. Will the people involved in the decision commit themselves to this solution? Is it within company policy?

Sometimes high acceptance is necessary; sometimes it isn't. The ideal is to optimize high acceptance with speed and quality.

Often, but not always, as a result of testing one solution stands out as clearly the best. But few solutions will meet all criteria. You may want to draft a list of pros and cons to help you identify the best one. If you choose your criteria carefully and have good judgment, that is what you will almost certainly end up with.

It may help you to remember two things: (1) you wouldn't have been asked to decide if your boss didn't have confidence in you, and (2) the decision not to decide now is also a decision. Three Motivators that Work Getting your people to produce is a never ending challenge. But over a period of time you may unwittingly be slackening off in your efforts in this direction. Use these suggestions as reminders:

Encourage independence. A superior who cares, seeks to loosen and ultimately drop the reins of supervision. He or she allows employees to think for themselves by encouraging them to show initiative, to think critically, to ask penetrating questions about their work. In short, one of the best ways to motivate people is to help them achieve their own fullest potential through independence.

Demonstrate confidence. If you entertain doubts about your department, your staff or your firm, review them alone and in private. Exhibiting doubt to subordinates disheartens them and tends to destroy their confidence in you. If the leader is hesitant, how can he inspire followers? On the other hand, showing confidence in others builds their confidence in themselves. Demonstrate by your words and deeds that you are sure the work can be done, that you believe in your people's ability to handle the job.

Set a good example. There has never been a successful manager—a person who could motivate his people—who himself was not highly motivated, for you motivate largely by example.

Despite the hostility behind the statements that employees sometimes make about hardworking superiors, there is always a feeling of pride as well. People like to feel they are living up to an image of their boss, particularly when the boss is devoted to the job of making their company successful.

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