Problem-solving at the Upper Management Level

Full step-by-step application of the process, documented on chartpad or notepad, is required most often for concrete problems whose identity can be directly observed or easily visualized. These largely are mechanical, tangible situations.

At the upper management level, however, application of the process often consists of use of the ideas of the process. This includes discussion of a situation in al l its dimensions rather than formulation of hypotheses based on experience; attention to distinctions of identity, location, timing and magnitude rather than informed speculation alone; and testing of possible causes against the facts surrounding a situation rather than immediate action directed at the cause suggested by informed speculation. Data may be recorded and notes taken, but use of the process at upper levels of management is usually observable in the character of the questioning and the nature of the investigation. We observe people using the common language of Problem Analysis to organize their information, communicate it, and put it in perspective. They are sharing information through the channels of a systematic process. They are using words that will clarify each individual’s contributions.

Busy managers are not avoiding responsibility when they tell subordinates, “I want you to solve your own problems.” They have neither the time nor the specific skills to personally guide their subordinates’ problem-solving efforts. The truth of the matter is that managers who become directly involved in problem solving are subject to criticism for failing to set priorities on their own time or to delegate appropriately—in short, for failing to manage their operations. Managers need not have all the right answers. What is required of them are the ability and willingness to ask the right questions. The kind of questioning we use in specifying, in identifying distinctions and change, and in testing possible causes lends itself well to the process of assessing the logic and the work that other people have contributed to resolving a problem.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

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