The general problem-solving method we will use contains the following four steps:
We will now look at ways to carry out each of these steps.
What's the problem?
The first thing you have to do is to know what the issue is. Sometimes you can set off trying to resolve an issue, before you have really
Often, a good way to identify an issue is to state it. Simply stating the issue committing it to paper, or talking through it
What's the ideal solution?
You may never be able to achieve it, but it's an invaluable thing to know. What would be the best outcome? It's
Identify a range of solutions
The following are all designed to assist you in identifying possible solutions to your problem or issue.
We are told that world-class chess players can see a game many moves ahead. They know that if they make a certain move, their opponent will probably do A, then they will do B, their
If you do go one way, then here are the alternatives, and depending on what happens here, further alternatives present
The brownie points game
Brownie points represent your popularity ratings with other people. Each person connected with the project will have given you a brownie point rating, either consciously or subconsciously. At any given time, some ratings will be high and some not so. The brownie points game says that you will choose to resolve an issue by doing it in such a way as to maximize your brownie points rating with a person or persons.
Shortly before the Gulf War started, Saddam Hussein gave all his soldiers salary
People who suck up to their bosses are constantly playing the brownie points game with them. I once had a boss who told me, at my appraisal, that he was giving me a 10 percent rise. None of my peers were getting such an
It is a feature of the brownie points game that it can often achieve spectacularly good results. It is also a feature that those results can be very short
Brainstorming is a wonderful technique. The idea is to get a bunch of people together and then write down all the possible ways of resolving an issue.
There are two phases. In the first phase all ideas, no matter how far-
When we think of projects we think of frenzied levels of activity while we work to get the project done. What if an issue could be resolved by doing nothing? Got its attractions? You bet it has. Strange as it may seem, I have identified five variants of the do nothing approach. They are:
Truth tables are a technique taken from computer science and are very useful in analyzing a problem. Here is a somewhat contrived example. I would like to give up my job and become an organic farmer. Is there a way I can do this without taking a hefty drop in my standard of living? The issue is
I then have four choices.
The Ronald Reagan method
Sometimes, in your projects, an issue will come along and you don't really care how it is resolved; all that is important to you is that it
resolved, that some decision gets made. For example, it might be that until a decision is made, your project is held up. Some
One sheet of paper was handed to him; an issue was described
I have often used this box method at meetings. It is useful in cases where the meeting is snarled up on an issue and you want to push the meeting forward. State the decision to be made, and get people to choose.
Gradually warm up an issue
This is a very effective technique and one which really proves the truth of the saying that there's more than one way to skin a cat. Most of the
You have an issue, you know it's going to be a thorny one, and you're
I have used this method over short (12 weeks) and long (1 year) periods. It is highly effective.
"What would you do in my position?"
If nothing else, it provides you with another option for resolving the issue. Note that it is another way of asking what the other person's ideal solution is.
Put yourself in the other person's position
See things from the other person's point of view. Any good
Treat it as a project
Apply structured project management!
Do a deal
"I'll do this if you do that." "Here's what I'll do for you; now, what'll you do for me?"
Losing your temper
Can often be disastrous, but can sometimes be highly effective, particularly if, like me, you're a person who doesn't often lose it. Several times, I have had to
Sometimes all the person needs is a bit of a lift. A pep talk is what the coach gives the team at half-time. It is usually very obvious if someone is doing it to you, but depending on your state of mind, it may be enough. It is a very simplistic approach and you need to be sure that it has worked, because if not, you have not resolved the issue.
Selling something unpleasant
For the particular case where you have to sell something unpleasant to somebody a nasty or boring assignment, for example you can use a technique from selling. This is the idea that you don't offer your customer a choice whether or not to buy; what you offer him is a choice of ways to buy. Thus you might offer a person a number of different ways he can carry out the particular assignment.
This may be a hard one to swallow, but there are times, particularly when you've cocked something up, that an apology is the only way. Many people have problems apologizing to
I have saved two really fancy ways of identifying possible solutions until the end. They are very complicated, risky in that they can backfire, but hugely enjoyable if you can pull them off. You might use them just for the hell of it, to test your skills; or to show off your power to other people peers, staff, the
Feigned retreat, as you might imagine, is a military term. The classic example of its use is the Battle of Hastings in 1066 (Macdonald, 1984). It is an example of what Clausewitz (1984) calls a stratagem. What this means is that by your actions you mislead the other side into thinking you're going to do something different from what you actually plan to do.
Feigned retreat is beautiful when it works, as in the following example. (Some of the details have been changed to ensure anonymity, but you'll get the gist.)
I once worked for a company, and my division bid for a large project from another company. We wanted that project really
There was to be one last crunch meeting. It
Here's another example of what can happen when you try to execute a feigned retreat. In military situations, feigned retreats are considered very difficult maneuvers to carry out. This is because a feigned retreat can, all too quickly, become a real one.
A guy I knew let's call him Albert was the king-pin in an organization for a long time. His boss was ineffectual, and Albert did pretty much as he wanted. Then a new boss arrived, and things started to change; a lot of Albert's power started to be eroded by his new boss. Albert was totally cheesed off, and chose the following course of action. He knew he was crucial to the running of the place, and in this he was quite correct: he was the most skilled technical person there, and extremely difficult to replace. He would get another job offer, and then attempt a feigned retreat on his boss let's say he's Bert.
Having secured the job offer, Albert went in for the meeting. "I really like working here, Bert, and I like working with you, but I'm
Albert repeated his position this time somewhat more
Albert explained that he had another job much more responsibility, better salary, more prospects and that he would be forced to take it unless he and Bert could