Problem Solving and Decision Making

Excellent problem solving and decision making skills are one of the traits of a good manager. Good problem solving and decision making skills are characterized by the ability of a person to take a certain problem and organize it, finding different ways to figure out what to do, and formulating and implementing decisions and being able to modify them along the way.

In order to do this, managers must be able to ignore the irrelevant facts, eliminate what is not needed, recognize what is missing, and find the pieces that will complete the puzzle. Given this ability, good managers can then devise logical, justifiable solutions to whatever problems that confront them.

Good problem solvers usually make use of a systematic approach to solving every problem that they face. Such people are wise enough to know that quick solutions or poorly conceived ideas rarely work as effective solutions and may only yield results that are good for the short-term.

Good problem solvers spend time analyzing the problem from all possible angles before coming up with solutions. And they are not just content with presenting one solution to every problem. They always come up with a backup solution, in case the original one fails.

Good managers expect problems to crop up anytime and are always prepared for it. That is why good managers must always have their problem solving and decision making skills continually at peak form. This skill can be practiced and can be perfected through experience. There are several problem solving techniques that may help a good manager from tackling every problem systematically, all of which may follow these general steps:

Defining the problem.

The problem solving and decision-making process starts with recognizing that there exists a problem needs to be solved. This problem must be correctly and clearly defined before any solution can be formulated. Identifying a problem may not be all that easy. The problem should be stated and defined in such a way that it is not too broad or too narrow. A correct problem statement will make it easier for the manager to find the right solution. And in order to define the problem correctly, the manager must be able to describe the factors causing the problem.

Identifying the facts and the decision criteria.

A manager tries to isolate the facts that are relevant to the problem. Then he sets a criteria to use for tackling the problem at hand. These decision criteria identify the guidelines for the decision-making process. These decision criteria must be established early in the problem solving process in to look at the problem objectively. The decision criteria may be composed of certain variables and parameters relevant to the defined problem.

Developing alternatives.

The manager identifies all workable alternative solutions for resolving the problem. Generating alternative solutions may require divergent thinking where groups can be used to effectively generate alternative solutions through brainstorming. The manager then must judge the relevance of each alternative and its effect on the defined problem. Each alternative is tested according to their strengths and weaknesses, critically analyzed and then eliminating the alternatives deemed not workable.


The manager then makes a choice among the alternative solutions. The solution that rates the highest score on the decision criteria set should be the preferred solution. Right timing will have an impact on the decision which may affect its advantages and disadvantages. The solution chosen must be the most appropriate at that given time.

Implementing the decision.

Once a probable solution is chosen, the manager then shares the decision with those whose work may be affected. Implementation is a crucial part of the decision-making process which requires the commitment from the people who will be affected by the decision. Without their commitment, gaining support and achieving outcomes becomes increasingly difficult.

Evaluating the effectiveness of the decision.

The manager is then tasked to follow up and assess the outcomes that arise from the implemented decision to see if the desired results were achieved. If this is not the case, then a review of the process may be required to discover possible errors that may have been made. Feedback and reports are necessary to help in evaluating and learning of the decision’s outcome. Sometimes, corrections may be instituted for certain erroneous steps or, even at some point, having to go through the entire decision-making process over again.

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