Concept of Problem Solving and Crisis Handling - Principle of Management

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Concept of Problem Solving and Crisis Handling

Concept of Problem Solving (Albert Einstein):

Problem identification is the first step in problem solving process. So the term problem is a deviation between the actual and the desired program or situation.

Problem solving is defined as the use of information to minimize the deviation between current and the desired situation. In other words, problem solving is the way of selecting alternative, resolving disputes and making the optimum choice.

Types of problems:

Problems can be classified on the basis of;

  1. Frequency
  2. Urgency
  3. Impact
  4. Sources

i. Frequency: Problems can be classified on the basis of their frequency of occurrence. They are;

  1. Routine Problem: This type of problem occurs on a regular basis. E.g. problem related to power supply, machine breakdown, order cancellation etc. Such problem can be foreseen and solved through established policies, rules and regulations.
  2. Exceptional Problem: It occurs occasionally. E.g. the sudden appearance of strong multinational competitors in the market. Management must use their experience, skill etc to tackle this type of problem.

ii. Urgency: Under this basis of urgency problems are classified into urgent and non urgent problems.

  1. Urgent Problem: This problem which must be solved immediately. E.g. machine breakdown may cause problem in production unit. Such problem needs to be addressed and solved as soon as possible.
  2. Non-Urgent Problem: Such problem allows the manger to take their time to consult other, develop alternatives, and decide on a course of action.

iii. Impact: There are two types, under this classification.

  1. Overall Impact: A problem that affect the total organization its goals and objectives ahs an overall impact. These problems are of serious in nature and have long-term effect. E.g. reduce in sales and profit.
  2. Partial Impact: A problem which affects only a segment (division, units, and section) rather than entire organization is called partial impact problem.

iv. Source: Under the source, the problem is classified as technical and human.

  1. Technical Problem: Those problems related to material, suppliers, equipments, production etc lie under this type. Such problem should be identified and controlled at time.
  2. Human Problem: It is a behavioral problem of human beings. Such as employee motivation, dissatisfactions, conflict etc. These problems are serious problems and should be addressed effectively in an organization.

Problem Solving Strategies:

Solving a problem is an essential skill of mangers. They must have knowledge to identify and define the problem, which enable them to solve it effectively. Judith G. Bulin (1996) suggests the following strategies which can be used by managers for solving the problems.

  1. Separate the person from the problem: Allow the person to express frustration and then try to identify the real problem. Focus the conversation on solving the problem, not placing blame.
  2. Listen Carefully: Listen to the whole problem and ask  question  to  clarify  before  responding .Listen not only for what has been said, but also for what has been avoided.
  3. Get as much information as possible: Be sure to identify all the issues and talk to others, who are involved before making a decision.
  4. Explore alternative solution: Ask for suggestion for solving the problem from those who are close to it. Solutions suggested by those involved are less likely to meet resistance when implemented.
  5. Decide what to do: Get agreement and understanding from those involved about what will happen next. Select an acceptable alternative that will likely to achieve the desired results and proceed slowly.
  6. Create accountability: Define who will be responsible for each phase of the process and be sure that everyone knows what each person will do and by when.
  7. Monitor progress: Be sure to check if the plan is working. Be flexible and open to making adjustment as needed to accomplish your objectives.
  8. Give credit where it is due: Be sure to recognize the contribution of those involved in resolving the problems.

Crisis Handling:

In the process of implementing decisions something may happen unexpectedly so that decision maker has no choice than to change the given alternative in the situation of crisis. A crisis is a serious problem. It is a problem of greater intensity and wider implication. It threatens the organization’s ability to function.

Lack of planning, reluctance to deal with conflict, ignoring problems and its timely solution are the causes of crisis situation. The effects of crisis can be devastating to an organization so it must be handled effectively.

The phases of crisis handling:

There are usually five phases of crisis handling. They are:

  1. Warning: Prior to crisis, some warning signal appear. Managers should identify such warning signal early and prevent crisis. This can be done through regular monitoring of the operations and establishing open communication channel.
  2. Preparation and Prevention: In this phase, systematically search for potential problem and their precautionary measure are identified and defined to prevent crisis. Preparation for handling crisis is done through proper planning, training and drilling of staffs etc.
  3. Damage limitation: Damage limitation is done through careful analysis and advanced preparation.
  4. Recovery: The crisis problem should be addressed as quickly as possible so that the organization can be recovered and put back into track.
  5. Organizational Learning: Why did the crisis occur? What are the causes? What can be done to prevent future problem? Managers should learn from the problems and the way to handle them, so that similar problem or crisis will not arise in future.

Steps in Crisis management:

Crisis management means that managers try to anticipate the unexpected through contingency plans to cope with possible crisis. The three crucial steps in crisis management are as follows:

  1. Anticipating: The manager must try to understand the possible source of crisis to manage them. Manager can anticipate crises by analyzing both the work and the people for whom they are responsible.
  2. Contingency Planning: A contingency plan is a course of action to follow if some unexpected events occur. The plan should specify warning signals or source of information to be monitored.
  3. Practicing: Once the contingency plan is developed, it is necessary to be sure that these would be practiced in case of need.

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