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Personal Effectiveness in Problem Solving and Decision Making

5 Best Practice Methods to boost Personal Effectiveness in Problem Solving and Decision Making

Our rapid changing world is getting more and more complex and so does our daily work. Every day we are confronted with a wide variety of problems and decisions that require a rational response. Applying best practice methods to analyse any problem, choose the best solutions and prevent new problems in the future will significantly increase your personal effectiveness as well business results.

The following 5 best practice methods provides a toolbox to tackle any issue in daily practice but also provides a robust approach for complex problem solving and continuous improvement if applies as sequential steps.

1. Event Mapping

When faced with resolving complex problems, those that have more than one cause, it is essential to have an approach that encourages the use of both the rational and intuitional parts of our brains that can track multiple causes and multiples actions, and that can be communicated quickly to others. Event Mapping gives you a powerful tool to analyze any issue in which there is a deviation between a norm or expectation and the actual situation. An Event as starting point can be a performance issue, a technical defect, a safety-incident, a quality problem, a project issue, etc.

By determining consequences, causes, contributing circumstances and breached barriers, the issue is fully evaluated in the context in which it occurs, analyzed and visualized in full extend. The Event Map is central for all subsequent steps. Appropriate priorities are assigned and a sound basis created for further analysis if needed, involving all those concerned. Possible actions, chosen actions and implemented actions are identified and visualized by different icons and colors. The visualization of the total analysis provides an effective tool for communication to all stakeholders, reducing the need to write reports significantly. 

2. Problem Analysis

Sometimes, asking a “why”-question does not provide a clear answer and unknown causes are identified using a method like Event Mapping. In those cases, there is a big risk of “jumping to conclusions” or the application of “trial and error”. Or we tend to brainstorm about all possible causes using tools like “Fishbone”, leaving us with a large amount of options we need to verify, a time consuming and costly approach.

If there is an unknown cause of a technical problem, Problem Analysis (also known as the “IS/IS-NOT-method”) is the best practice to find the root cause in the most effective and efficient way. A clear specification of the problem enables you to determine possible causes (by looking at characterictics and changes). It also enables you to test possible causes, to eliminate all causes which do not explain the facts and determine the most likely cause, not by actions but by rational thinking.

3. Human Factor Analysis

Besides unknown causes of technical problems, we are often confronted with unknown causes of human or organizational causes. Unfortunately most analysis in practice will stop with the conclusion that someone did something wrong. Too often the first solution then is to tell again or provide additional training, assuming (jumping to the conclusion) that the person did not know or was not skilled enough.

Human Factor Analysis will give you a very effective method to dig deeper and determine why someone did something different than expected. In general, people go to their work place with the intention to do a good job. It is mostly the work environment making it difficult for them or even stimulating to do things differently. Human Factor Analysis helps you to determine these causes and to think about the best actions needed to change behavior in the direction you want.

4. Decision Analysis

If an analysis of an issues is completed, using the former methods, it’s time to determine the best solutions. But also without a problem as a starter, we often have to make decisions or come up with recommendations: best technical solution, best supplier, best way of organising something, etc.

In business it is important to determine the best option between alternatives, but also to make sure this option is accepted. The “effectiveness” of a solution is the product of “quality” and “acceptance” (E=QxA). Unfortunately, we are often biased with our own prefences and “jump to solutions”.

Decision analysis is a method to determine the best balanced choice, maximizing quality as well as acceptance. It starts with a clear decision statement and decision criteria, differentiated in “musts” and weighted “wants”, taking in consideration the interests of all stakeholders. Options are evaluated against these criteria to put the options in order, risks for the options with the highest scores are identified and ultimately the best balanced choice is selected.

5. Risk Analysis

When solutions to solve problems or issues need to be implemented, you don’t want to introduce new problems. You prefer a faultless implementation of actions to solve and prevent the issue in the future. But besides implementing solutions to solve issues, we run projects of different sizes and complexity  (technical or organisational) day by day. And those project need to be successful as well.

Risk Analysis is a very practical method that can be applied on any project, list of actions or even a single action. It helps you to prevent problems during and after implementation as much as possible and forces you to come up with contingency actions and triggers in any case things go wrong after all.

In a rapid changing world and business environment with increasing complexity, a strong capability in problem solving and decision making is key. “Problem Solving and Decision Making for Engineers and Technical Professionals” will boost your skills and enable you to be more successful in business and in your career. This training course is scheduled multiple times in 2017 and 2018 in Dubai.

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