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Problem Solving -- Question & Answer Listing  
Viewing 1-9 of 9 Knowledge Entries
Question / Answer

Question:
As a leader of an Army volunteer organization, how do I know what rules and/or regulations apply to a problem I may have?

Answer:
If your organization doesn’t have it’s own regulation or Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) that lists rules, laws, and/or regulations that you must follow, there are a number of resources you can use to find this information. Ask someone in your chain of command for guidance and/or check with your community’s Volunteer Coordinator. Also, most Army volunteer organizations have advisors who should be knowledgeable about this information. You could also check with the Legal Services Office and/or Finance for their help. Other sources include your local library and the Internet. Most Department of Defense (DoD) directives, Army regulations, and other official publications are accessible via the Internet.

Question:
How can creative thinking techniques help my organization?

Answer:
Creative thinking techniques such as brain storming, mind-mapping, and affinity diagrams are often used by groups in organizations to stimulate new ideas. Allowing individuals to think freely about solutions to a problem, or ideas for a new marketing campaign, or themes for a fund-raising event (without regard to the resources needed or any other restrictions - or repercussions) often result in solutions or good ideas that might not have been discovered otherwise. These type of creative thinking techniques can be time-consuming, but they can be very useful tools.

Question:
How can I prevent a small problem from becoming a major problem?

Answer:
One way to prevent small problems from becoming major problems is to recognize signs that problems are emerging and take decisive action on them so they do not get any worse. Remain alert for signs of trouble and train the members of your group or organization to look for them as well. Another way to prevent small problems from spiraling out of control is to have contingency plans in place that will enable you to respond more quickly and effectively to problematic situations. Note that these are just a couple general suggestions. Depending on the type of business or problem, other procedures may be more effective. Check with some of the listed references for more information on this subject.

Question:
What are some basic steps to problem solving?

Answer:
Most experts would agree that the first step to solving a problem is to acknowledge that there is one and then define it. Ask yourself and others specific questions to determine exactly what the problem is; where it is; when it developed; how it developed; and why it occurred. As you define the problem, begin to look at potential causes for the problem. Gather all the facts you can about the problem and make legitimate assumptions, if necessary. Then develop possible solutions and/or approaches to resolve the problem. Analyze and compare the solutions, taking into account any risk associated with each of the alternatives and the resources available (e.g., time, people, and money) to resolve the problem. Select the best course of action; define indicators that can be used to determine whether or not your plan is successful. Lastly, implement your plan. Communicate it to others who are involved in implementing it, and monitor the indicators of success you defined to make sure your course of action stays on track. Note that these are basic problem solving steps. There are other methods and tools that can assist you in defining and resolving problems. For example, there are computer aids that can help analyze different alternatives to resolving a problem, or professional indicators that can assist you in defining problems. Use some of the listed references to explore these other methods and/or to obtain more information on how to carry out each step in the problem-solving process.

Question:
What are some general factors involved in making good decisions?

Answer:
The most important step in making decisions is to have a clear definition of the end-state. What results do you expect to achieve once a decision is made? Once you have that defined, you should identify and prioritize relevant information to accomplish the desired goal, while minimizing the risk. Develop several courses of action. Recognize that you may need to adapt to changing circumstances and requirements that occur during the decision-making process. Evaluate each course of action and choose the most effective one. Another tip to keep in mind is to consider separating tasks into their component parts when analyzing problems as it is often beneficial (and less overwhelming) to break up a large problem into smaller, more manageable problems.

Question:
What are some general roadblocks that can inhibit problem solving?

Answer:
Many roadblocks that can inhibit problem solving are obvious. It is the obstacles that are not as obvious that can really slow down your progress when addressing a problem. Try to identify potential obstacles that could impact your efforts to find solutions to problems, such as other individuals, agencies, events or constraints that are outside your local environment. Look ahead to future events and activities and ask the question: will this affect the successful outcome I am seeking? Do you have all the information you need to solve the problem and/or is it accurate? Army Family Team Building’s (AFTB) Level II Intermediate Problem Solving course includes some other roadblocks to consider. For example, an individual’s fear of failure can be a roadblock. Sometimes alternatives or courses of action are not attempted because of the fear of failure. Focusing too much attention on a single course of action (i.e., tunnel vision) can also be an obstacle because it prevents you from considering other alternatives. Another roadblock that often comes up in organizations is the familiarity with current procedures. In other words, “We’ve always done it this way.” Some individuals fail to allow themselves to consider changing the way they operate. These are just a few of the other roadblocks discussed in the AFTB Level II course. Contact your local AFTB office for more information on problem solving (and other classes) as well as some of the other references noted here.

Question:
What are some things a leader can do to avoid groupthink?

Answer:
In order to minimize groupthink, leaders can encourage group members to thoroughly consider all ideas and explore alternatives during the problem solving process; evaluate advantages and disadvantages of proposed solutions; and consider including outside experts and opinions. Another suggestion is to divide members into smaller subgroups to evaluate problems and report back to the larger group. These are just a few suggestions on how to minimize or avoid groupthink. Learn more from the resources provided.

Question:
What is "groupthink" and what symptoms of it are displayed during the problem solving process?

Answer:
According to the free online encyclopedia Wikipedia (at http://en.wikipedia.org), “Groupthink is a term coined by psychologist Irving Janis in 1972 to describe one process by which a group can make bad or irrational decisions. In a groupthink situation, each member of the group attempts to conform his or her opinions to what they believe to be the consensus of the group. This results in a situation in which the group ultimately agrees on an action which each member might normally consider to be unwise.” Some symptoms of groupthink include: group members collectively rationalizing poor decisions; members ignoring obvious danger signs and taking extreme risk when making decisions; members pressuring others in the group into conformity under the pretense that they are disloyal; members assume shared stereotypes of rival groups; etc. Groupthink can, therefore, have a negative impact on the problem solving process because it results in poorly evaluated problems and less than optimal results.

Question:
What is the difference between vertical and lateral thinking?

Answer:
Vertical thinking is rational and methodical whereas lateral thinking is more abstract and random. Solving a problem using vertical thinking tends to be a more sequential, analytical process – moving from one logical step to another. Lateral thinking tends to be more creative – exploring different approaches, thinking “outside the box,” perhaps solving problems out-of-sequence.
Viewing 1-9 of 9 Knowledge Entries

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