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Review of Problem Solving

February 19, 2012

I just finished The Problem Solving Journey:  Your Guide for Making Decisions and Getting Results by Christopher Hoenig. I found the lessons valuable and wanted to share them with you all. I think we can all apply Hoenig’s lessons for problem solving to our lives, even if our problems are small. We can always practice them to make ourselves better; or for people who are part of a functional team, they can continue to build synergy and team strength by utilizing these concepts.To some extent, teams could even form fairly well and function effectively.

Step 1: Generate the Mindset
Who does it: The Innovator
Summary: Always see the potential in situations and circumstances. The best innovation comes from investigating alternative points of view. View all problems or roadblocks as opportunities for positive change. Don’t get lost in the busy work; deliver results and resolutions. Acknowledge vulnerabilities and work on turning them into strengths. Trade-offs are unavoidable; roll with is and look at the realm of possibilities, not the either/or perception. All conflicts are in shades of gray, so find a possibility in the middle that relatively suits all parties involved. Limits are part of life but sometimes they can be constructive when set strategically to focus more effectively on other aspects of an opportunity.

Step 2:  Know the Territory
Who does it:  The Discoverer
Summary:  Knowledge is important and the most important job you can have is to find information which is relevant to the situation and has some use to the situation at hand. You must figure out what you know and what you need to know, as well as how to learn it. Both generalized and specialized knowledge are important to the functioning and effectiveness of any decision. Be watchful for patterns in the information you gather; sometimes they mean something and sometimes they don’t. Continuous, periodic, irregular, and complex patterns all explain different phenomena about the knowledge we have and understanding these patterns help us identify when something is changing. The Discoverer is also responsible for remaining aware of the people around them, the feelings and beliefs held by those individuals, and the consequences of taking action for or against those feelings. The most important part of all these things is to learn from the knowledge.

Step 3: Build the Relationships
Who does it:  The Communicator
Summary:  Relationships are based on communication and the bigger problems require a larger community to resolve them. Trust and mutual exchange are building blocks to communication. All networks evolve into communities from partnerships if propagated and given time to mature. However, smaller communities can be more effective if the relationships are stronger. The internet and other technologies have made this evolution more transparent and synthetic. These relationships are made stronger by clear messages, openness to differences, and the ability to articulate the common goals of the team. Mutual support systems can design the best traits in a team and cause them to synergize. Networking and building relationships can be the most powerful tool in one’s arsenal of talents and abilities. The difference between a team and a community working towards a shared goal is the absence of a collective identity or the existence of one. Balance between individual and community is the most important factor in building relationships toward a community goal.

*Side Note: “Concentrating your attention and intuition on helping others in their life journey contributes to an open environment where mutual assistance and support occur. In such an environment, good communication and free give-and-take are encouraged.”

Step 4: Manage the Journeys
Who does it:  The Playmaker
Summary: All opportunities have multiple choices to be pursued; the Playmaker guides the path to the destination. They are the problem managers who set priorities, destination, direction, define success of the chosen project, assume for alternative plans and changes in course, as well as leading the team into the mix. These people are the integrators of all steps before this one. They are in charge of guiding the process towards fulfillment and remaining on track, also keeping the team focused and motivated.

Step 5: Create the Solutions
Who does it: The Creator
Summary: A complete solution can be complex and must be stable, built to last the test of time and trial. Creators are also responsible for collecting the resources appropriate and most suited for the tasks laid by the Playmaker. They build the best team and locate the best technology for the chosen task. It is also necessary to monitor scarce resources appropriately so they are not depleted unnecessarily. Money, supplies, materials, energy, time, and natural resources are all scarce and in demand for many projects; they must be managed effectively and efficiently. There are also intangible assets to account for such as intelligence, knowledge, and experience. The most effective solution to the Playmaker’s chosen path is one which can be upgraded or changed as technologies change and situational circumstances evolve with the environment and economy.

Step 6:  Deliver the Results
Who does it:  The Performer
Summary:  Resolution is finally reached by those who are willing to get their hands dirty. An achievement in this stage includes uncovering opportunities you or your team were not originally aware of. Performers must simplify goals and prioritize in order to continue movement towards the results. They must also set a healthy pace because burnout will do neither the team, nor the company any good at all. Big decisions allow less room for error, while smaller decisions rely on quickness to maintain momentum. Performers know the difference. An important part of this decision process is being adept at knowing how to minimize your risks and maximize your benefits. Hoenig makes a very good point when he says that you should test your solution on a small-scale to minimize risks to the project and major failures later on. Then, you should scale it up to the appropriate size and “work out the kinks as you go”. This helps achieve smaller scale failures before a major mistake is made and corrections can prevent major losses as a result. The Performer’s main struggle is to maintain the edge once it is achieved. Constant innovation is necessary to do this.

Where do you think you fall in this “perfect team” that Chris Hoenig has designed and explained? I think we all have a little bit of all of them, but most of us have strengths in one or two areas.

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