Problem solving and decision making
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Problem Solving and Decision Making. Problem solving involves making a series of decisions: deciding that something is wrong, deciding what the problem is, and deciding how to solve it. . Successful problem solving depends on good decisions.

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  • Much of the supervisor’s job is making decisions.

    • In many cases, decisions are made without giving any thought to the process of deciding.

      • Supervisors will automatically decide something

        • because it feels right or

        • because a decision has been made on a similar issue in the past.

      • Decision making can be improved by understanding how the decision-making process works in theory and in practice.


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Rational Model

  • The rational model of decision making includes:

    • a. identify the problem

    • b. identify the alternative solutions

    • c. gather and organize the facts

    • d. evaluate the alternatives

    • e. select and implement the best alternative

    • f. get feedback and take corrective action.


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  • Identification of the real problem is extremely important. the decision will be the result of facts and analysis rather than of opinions and feelings.

  • If the wrong cause and solution for that cause is selected, the problem will still be there.

  • Deming says that most problems are unknown or unknowable.


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  • Simple problems occur suddenly, and the cause of the problem may be obvious.

    • An example is when the electricity goes off because a fuse is blown.

  • The chronic, or recurring, problem is usually more complex, and it is difficult to determine the causes and solutions.

    • This type of problem can benefit from the conscious use of a problem-solving or decision-making model.


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Bounded rationality may be obvious.

  • Choosing an alternative that meets minimum standards of acceptability.

    • Solutions that meet minimum standards will likely result in a return of the problem, since there is no margin of safety that will allow for slight changes and desirable outcomes.


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Recency Syndrome may be obvious.

  • The tendency to most easily remember events that have occurred recently.

    • To test this concept, try to remember what happened yesterday.

    • Now try to remember eight or ten days ago with the same kind of detail.


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Stereotyping may be obvious.

  • Rigid opinions about categories of people.


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Compromises follow all these steps to make a good decision.

  • Given the human and organizational limitations, supervisors tend to make compromises most of the time.

  • If the supervisor is aware of the kinds of compromises people make, he or she is more likely to be aware when using them.

  • Some kinds of compromises are useful in some situations, others are to be avoided as much as possible.


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Reasons for compromises follow all these steps to make a good decision.

  • Sitnplicity.

    • Usually what we do is think over our experiences and consider some of the ways similar problems have been handled in the past.

      • The downside of this approach is that it tends to bypass new and innovative solutions that may deliver better results.


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Bounded rationality follow all these steps to make a good decision.

  • When it seems impossible or unreasonable to find the best alternative in the universe, decision makers settle for an alternative they consider enough .

    • The process is also known as bounded rationality, that is, the decision maker places limits, or bounds, on the rational model of decision making.

    • The decision maker considers alternatives only until he or she finds one that meets his or her minimum criteria acceptability.


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Subjective rationality follow all these steps to make a good decision.

  • This considers alternatives that are the result of intuition and instincts, rather than impartial data.

    • Even when the process for arriving at the decision otherwise rational, the numbers used in the process may be subjective.

    • As a result, they maybe less than completely accurate.


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Rationalization follow all these steps to make a good decision.

  • People tend to favor solutions that they believe they can justify to others.


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Personal perspective follow all these steps to make a good decision.

  • People may assume that everyone sees things the way they do.

    • They think if something is clear to them it is also clear to everyone else.

    • Decision makers must find out what other people are thinking and take those views into account.


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Stereotyping follow all these steps to make a good decision.

  • Rigid opinions about categories of people distort the truth that people offer a rich variety of individual strengths and viewpoints.

    • The cure for stereotyping is not to assume that everyone is alike.

    • The supervisor should be aware of what his or her stereotypes about people and situations are.

    • In making a decision, the supervisor should consider whether those stereotypes truly describe the situation at hand.


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Consider the Consequences follow all these steps to make a good decision.

  • When the consequences of a decision are great, the supervisor should spend more time on the decision.

    • He or she should try to follow the rational model of decision making, collecting information and including as many alternatives as possible.

  • When the consequences are slight, the supervisor should limit the time and money spent in identifying and evaluating alternatives.


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Respond quickly in a crisis follow all these steps to make a good decision.

  • In a crisis, the supervisor should quickly select the course of action that seems best

    • This is an application of satisficing.

  • Rather than waiting to evaluate other alternatives, the supervisor should begin implementing the solution and interpreting feedback to see whether the solution is working.


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Inform the manager situations.

  • The supervisor’s boss doesn’t want to hear about every minor decision, but the boss does need to know what is happening in the department.

    • The supervisor should inform the boss about major decisions.

      • These would include decisions affecting

        • the department,

        • meeting objectives,

        • responses to crises, and

        • any decision that might be controversial.


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  • When the boss needs to know about a decision, it’s usually smart to discuss the problem before reaching and announcing the decision.

    • The boss may have some input to the decision-making process that may modify the supervisor’s decision.

    • In a crisis, the supervisor may not have time to consult with his or her boss and has to settle for discussing the decision as soon as possible afterward.


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Be decisive yet flexible smart to discuss the problem before reaching and announcing the decision.

  • Sometimes it is difficult to say which alternative solution is best.

    • Perhaps none of the choices looks good enough.

      • In this case, it may be difficult to move beyond studying the alternatives to selection and implementation.

  • However, avoiding a decision is just another way to decide to do nothing.

    • Being decisive means reaching a decision within a reasonable amount of time.

      • The supervisor should pick the best alternative or at least an acceptable one, and then focus on implementing it.


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  • A decisive supervisor keeps his or her employees informed of what they are expected to do and how they are progressing relative to their objectives.

  • Being decisive should not mean that a supervisor is blind to signs of a mistake.

  • If the feedback indicates the solution is not working, the supervisor must be flexible and try another approach


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Avoid decision-making traps what they are expected to do and how they are progressing relative to their objectives.

  • Avoid making a major issue out of each decision.

    • Good planning can avert many crises, and life-and-death issues are not the usual stuff of the supervisor’s job.

    • Put each issue into perspective so that alternatives can be evaluated and an appropriate amount of time can be devoted to finding the solution.


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  • Avoid inappropriate responses to failure. what they are expected to do and how they are progressing relative to their objectives.

    • Acknowledge mistakes, but do not dwell and agonize over them.

      • It is more important to learn whatever lesson the mistake can teach, and then move on.


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  • Remember to draw on easily available information. what they are expected to do and how they are progressing relative to their objectives.

    • Have some of the alternatives been tried before?

    • If so, what was the outcome?

    • Also consult with other members of the organization or with outside experts.


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  • Beware of promising too much. what they are expected to do and how they are progressing relative to their objectives.

    • Don’t make promises you can’t keep to your employees or your boss.


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Probability Theory what they are expected to do and how they are progressing relative to their objectives.

  • A body of techniques for comparing the consequences of possible decisions in a risk situation.


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Decision Tree what they are expected to do and how they are progressing relative to their objectives.

  • A graph that helps in decision making by showing the value of expected outcomes of decisions under varying circumstances.

  • Decision trees can be used to present a variety of conditions to help familiarize others who are involved in the decision-makingprocess.


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Decision-making Software what they are expected to do and how they are progressing relative to their objectives.

  • A computer program that leads the user through the steps of the formal decision-making process.

    • Software programs can construct the tree diagram and other decision-making tools, such as matrices that consider multiple factors.


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  • The decision tree is a graph or picture of all alternatives under consideration.

    • Decision-making benefits from a logical process that will present alternatives in a format that displays the alternatives and consequences of selecting each of the possible alternatives.

      • It is useful to the supervisor because it can show relationships and potential outcomes of each step of the decision-making process, and allows mathematical calculations by including probability factors or risk involved in each decision.


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  • In constructing the decision tree, the consequences for each alternative are considered.

  • The decision tree can also be used to inform and communicate with the supervisor’s boss.

    • A decision can be selected with a fair amount of certainty.

    • However, with the decision tree, if the selected alternative not working as anticipated, another alternative has already been considered with its consequences.


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Groupthink alternative are considered.

  • The failure to think independently and realistically as a group because of the desire to enjoy consensus and closeness.


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Symptoms of Groupthink alternative are considered.

  • An illusion of being invulnerable

  • Defending the group’s position against any objections

  • A view that the group is clearly moral--”the good guys”

  • Stereotyped views of opponents

  • Pressure against group members who disagree

  • Self-censorship, that is, not allowing oneself to disagree.

  • An illusion that everyone agrees (because no one states an opposing view)

  • Self-appointed “mindguards”--people who urge other group members to go along with the group.


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Advantages of Group Decision Making others in arriving at a decision

  • Group members can contribute more ideas for alternatives than an individual working alone.

  • The group will have a broader perspective since the experience of the group is broader than an individual’s experience.

  • People involved in the decision will better understand an alternative selected and also be more likely to support the decision.


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Disadvantages of Group Decision Making opportunity for improving morale and employee self-esteem.

  • Group decision making is slower than individual decision making.

  • There is an opportunity cost to the organization when employees spend time in meetings rather than producing or selling.

  • If one person dominates the decision-making process, the value of multiple inputs is lost.


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Brainstorming opportunity for improving morale and employee self-esteem.

  • An idea-generating process in which group members state their ideas, a member of a group records them, and anyone may comment on the ideas until the process is complete.


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  • Brainstorming is the process of coming up with as many ideas as possible.

    • It may be structured, that is, each person takes a turn suggesting an idea.

    • An unstructured session calls for individuals calling out whatever comes to mind. In the use of either method, no value judgments should be made about the suggestions.


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  • A brainstorming session can be held for generating ideas about problems to be solved, causes for identified problems, and alternative solutions for the problem.

    • Individuals with knowledge about the issue should be included, although an “outsider” may also be useful.

      • This person will help clarify and question why suggestions are or are not made.


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  • The supervisor is wise to involve employees in some but not all decisions.

    • When a decision must be made quickly, like in an emergency, the supervisor should probably make it alone.

    • When the supervisor needs to build support for a solution, such as in cutting costs or improving productivity, the group process is useful.

    • When the consequences of a poor decision are great, the benefits of the group’s collective wisdom are worth the time and expense of gathering the input


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  • Since a primary benefit of group decision making is the variety of opinions and expertise, a supervisor leading a decision-making meeting should be sure that everyone is participating.

    • The supervisor should concentrate on listening and encouraging the input of others.

      • If someone is not participating, the supervisor may have to ask for his or her opinion or thoughts on the matter at hand.


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  • Brainstorming is another way to generate ideas in a group variety of opinions and expertise, a supervisor leading a decision-making meeting should be sure that everyone is participating..

    • Group members state their ideas no matter how far-reaching they may seem.

    • No one may criticize or even comment on an idea until the end of the process.

    • All ideas are recorded on a flip chart or black (white) board.

    • Evaluation or follow-up on ideas takes place after all ideas are suggested.


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  • Fifty to a hundred ideas may be generated in a single brainstorming session.

    • The value of generating ideas in a free and open forum is to have group members build off each other’s ideas.

    • Some ideas are likely to be only slightly different from others or a combination of previously mentioned ideas.


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Creativity brainstorming session.

  • The ability to bring about something imaginative or new.


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  • There is a common notion that some people are creative and the rest of us are stuck with following routine and ordinary courses of action.

  • A fundamental way to become more creative is to be open to your own ideas.

    • think of as many alternatives as you can

    • jot them down

    • don’t evaluate them until after you have finished the list.


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Five Step Technique for Generating Creative Ideas the rest of us are stuck with following routine and ordinary courses of action.

  • Gather the raw materials by learning about the problem and by developing your general knowledge.

    • Constantly expand your experience.

  • Work over those materials in your mind

    • As you think of partial ideas, jot them down so you can refer to them later.

    • If you’re stuck on a problem, try leaving it for a while.


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  • Incubate the rest of us are stuck with following routine and ordinary courses of action.

    • Let your subconscious do the work.

    • Stimulate your imagination.

  • Identify an idea.

    • Ideas often pop into your head unexpectedly.

  • Shape and develop the idea to make it practical

    • Seek out constructive criticism.


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  • The most important step a supervisor can take to establish a work climate that encourages creative thinking is to show that he or she values creativity.

    • When employees offer suggestions, the supervisor should listen attentively and look for the positive aspects of the suggestions.

    • Then the supervisor should attempt to implement the suggestions and give the employee credit for the idea.

      • Failure should be acknowledged as a sign that people are trying.

      • Help employees see what can be learned from failures as well as from successes.


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  • Creating an environment that fosters creativity is not simply listening to alternative solutions when problems occur.

    • The environment is developed daily and by all levels of the organization.

    • The supervisor can nurture a creative environment by the way he/she treats people and their ideas on an ongoing basis.

    • Respect for all employees and appreciation of daily contributions will create an environment where employees feel valued and are willing to think about the problems of the workplace.


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  • Often supervisors and employees have difficulty being creative because they are afraid their ideas will fail.

    • Focus on learning from failures

  • Another barrier to creativity is being overly busy.

    • Creativity requires time to think.

  • Isolation also interferes with creativity.

    • Get i


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