by: Lynda Bourne, DPM, PMP
- Investigate the problem.
- Define the problem; the way it is defined will influence the solution.
- Identify the root cause.
- Define the “solution space” — the potential range of acceptable methods and solutions the options have to conform to.
- Generate options. This can include: group creative processes such as brainstorming, negotiation between parties, facilitated processes, and reflection and other individual processes.
- Decide on the solution that solves the root cause in the simplest way.
- Implement the solution effectively.
- Review the implementation.
- Forcing/Directing: The solution is imposed by a manager with adequate power or a tribunal (i.e., a judge, arbitrator or adjudicator).
- Smoothing/Accommodating: Emphasizes agreement, minimizes the issues in dispute and allows time for emotions to cool and any residual issues to be resolved through a rational decision-making process.
- Compromising/Reconciling: Both sides give something up to resolve the problem. Option generation is limited by the level of conflict.
- Problem-solving/Collaborating: Also referred to as “confronting.” A joint approach to the problem — collaborative decision-making — is used to find a mutually acceptable solution (that is, a win-win).
- Withdrawing/Avoiding/Accepting: Allows time for emotions to cool but may not resolve the issue.
- Wicked problems are those that keep changing and involve the stakeholder’s emotions and complexity. You can never really define the problem that needs a decision but still have to decide something. And every decision changes the problem — an iterative, one-step-at-a-time approach is usually best.
- Dilemmas have no right answer. You have to use your intuition and choose the lesser of two evils. Not making a decision is almost always worse than either of the options.
- Conundrums are intricate and difficult questions that only have a conjectural answer.
- Puzzles and mysteries lack adequate information to resolve, requiring your best decision based on the assessed probabilities at the given time. You almost never have enough time to get all of the information and skills you need to reduce these decisions to simple problems, but you can use processes to a point.
- Problems just require hard work and the application of the problem-solving process described above to get to the best decision.
- The characteristics of the problem you have to make a decision about
- The levels of emotion and conflict in the people affected by the decision
- The characteristics of the different types of decisions you will have to make
- The last step is to have the courage to make the best decision you can, in the circumstances as you understand them at that point in time.
The views expressed within the PMI Voices on Project Management blog are contributed from external sources and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of PMI.
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