ThinkingWorks - Problem Solving & Decision
The most important functions of management today is to solve
problems and make effective decisions. Many companies often
lack the necessary common language or approach to make quick,
effective decisions or engage the right people in problem
The KEPNERandFOURIE thinking technology
gives people the opportunity to revolutionize and sharpen
their thinking skills. The KEPNERandFOURIE
thinking technology captures intuitive, rational and creative
thinking into practical, user-friendly approaches that provide
all company employees at all levels with basic building blocks
to improve the collective thinking ability of the whole company.
KEPNERandFOURIE utilizes 5 flexible thinking
approaches to help any employee to “think through”
a problem situation. These thinking approaches have been designed
in such a way to overcome the pitfalls in problem solving,
- Ignoring important stakeholders whose commitment is required
for implementation success.
- Being fixated by a specific piece of information that
normally derails the effective gathering and evaluation
of information. This normally results in very expensive
“trial & error” fixes.
- Blaming and pointing fingers in all directions, instead
of finding the true cause first or fixing the wrong problem.
- Not using a systematic information gathering and evaluation
- Not considering risks when deciding on a course of action.
The five thinking approaches are displayed
in the following graphic:
The KEPNERandFOURIE thinking technology
does not prescribe a specific fixed process. K&K promotes
a model, which incorporates a natural thinking pattern of
divergent and convergent thinking skills that will enable
you to adapt your thinking to the unique requirements of a
This approach provides management and employees with proven
and tested methods to improve their individual and collective
problem solving and decision making capabilities.
The very effective philosophy of “Tiers
It is an empirical fact that the problem solving process
in most organizations follows a rather familiar and repetitive
path. When a problem first occurs, it will be identified as
either a typical problem or a non-typical problem. If it is
a typical problem, it can normally be resolved within 15 to
30 minutes….based on previous organizational knowledge,
skills and experience.
If it is identified as a non-typical problem, reliance on
that same set of knowledge, skills and experience of the problem
is not sufficient. This result in trail and error efforts
for the next 3 weeks to 3 months, wasting time, causing frustration,
increasing inefficiencies, and wasting money.
The KEPNERandFOURIE ™ problem solving process overcomes
the situation by classifying problems based on their complexity
and resolution time. If a problem has been seen before or
is “familiar”, it is classified as a Tier 1 problem.
If a problem is non-typical, it is classified as a Tier 2
problem and has a 24 hour time frame for resolution.
If it cannot be solved within 24 hours, it is then classified
as a Tier 3 problem. In this case, specific information sources
need to be assembled to make use of the KEPNERandFOURIE™
problem solving process. This process is used to systematically
and analytically determine the true cause as well as the root
cause of the problem.
This results not only in the immediate problem being solved
but also in the identification and rectification of the “underlying”
reason(s) for the problem occurrence.
|Typical problems with typical causes.
The aim would be to have a method that would always identify
the correct cause.
|Most Tier 1 problem solvers, such as trouble
shooting teams and help desks, have a good idea of possible
causes for every known problem. The issue is they do not
always know which one is the correct cause this time and
they resort to trial and error until they find the correct
|Non-typical problems. Experts in the company
have expert guesses, based on their knowledge and experience
as to what the cause could be.
||When a problem has been identified as a
non-typical problem, the problem solvers “analyze”
this problem in their heads, based on their own experience,
knowledge and skills. In most cases, someone has the correct
answer but no one person has the skill to prove he/she
is correct. This causes conflict and heavy investment
in “trail & error” solutions.
|Non-typical problems The problem solvers
in the company have no idea as to what is causing the
problem. In this case they’ve exhausted their gut
feel, expert guesses and still have not solved the problem
||These are the problems that are handed
over to management, problem solving teams, engineering
teams or a champion who be responsible for “big
problem” solving actions. At this level, it normally
ends up in some kind of modification or “work-around”
to remove the negative effects of the problem. In many
cases, the cause is not identified because the cause emanates
from “outside” their own work environment
and the problem solvers do not know or have the information
to solve the problem.