In today’s business world life is becoming
more specialized and we are relying to a greater extent on
technical experts to keep it this way and also to see that
trouble shooting is done correctly and effectively. Still
we have situations where problems are recurring in organizations
without the root cause being found and decisions made without
much commitment. At KEPNERandFOURIE we contest it is all about
process…not just process alone but process combined
Process vs. Content
A thinking approach is a process whereby problem solvers approach
a problem in a specific way. Have you ever heard the saying
“if you have a problem, stand away from it and try to
approach it from a different angle!” I could never figure
out how you could do that with single-dimensional information
and how you would be able to stand away from it and approach
it in a different way.
Let us explain…problem solvers learn how to gather
information by asking questions and asking for reports to
answer the tough questions. Some of these questions are good
and some are not so good, in every instance you get the information
asked for but you may not know if that piece of information
is relevant or not. We’ve found that in most cases an
overload of information can rather confuse the analytical
process rather than enhancing it. Too much information can
confuse the most brilliant mind at times. At TDI we contest
that you only need to ask 21 questions and when you get the
information for those questions that you should have enough
information to solve the problem.
We have done exactly that over the last 25 years and never
had a situation where we could not help a team to solve their
problem. Through this process we’ve come to realize
that we’ve found that elusive “different angle
of looking at a problem” that most people are commenting
about but do not know how to do.
Let’s take an example of what we mean by process versus
content. Let’s take the situation of a $100, 000 check
going missing. You have the record that the check has been
sent and the client has proof that they did not receive it.
The typical “content mind” would then start to
ask questions such as:
- Who sent the check?
- When was it sent?
- Where was it sent to?
- How long does it take for a check to arrive at its destination?
- Have we made sure that it left our premises?
So it will go on until the answer is found or not found
and the check in question cancelled and a new one issued.
In the case of the “process mind’ the questions
would be a bit different and the following is an example of
- Which check went missing? Answer is the $100, 000 check.
- Which other similar checks could have gone missing but
did not? Answer, the checks less than $100, 000.
- Why would a check of $100, 000 go missing and the other
checks less than that were all received? Answer, because
checks $100, 000 and over must be countersigned by the CEO
in New York. Answer, maybe this check is still at the CEO’s
office in New York.
This is just a simple example of how to ask the questions
differently and also demonstrating to you that you still need
the information from the technical expert. We use 7 sets of
these questions to ask the relevant questions and to get relevant
5 Sets of critical thinking
The thinking displayed above could be applied in the following
areas as indicated by the diagram bew:
For each one of the above 5 processes or thinking approaches
the trainee receives training and skills in three approaches,
- Thinking on Your Feet – the ability to phrase the
correct questions in discussions as each situation develops
- Intuitive – the ability to utilize the expertise
and gut feel of experienced people to solve the problem
quickly and effectively
- Investigative – the ability to use an investigative
research approach to solve a persistent complex problem
A technical expert in their specific field cannot be expected
to be the expert in all other fields coming into play in his/her
business situation. Even so, we expect the System Engineer
or Sales Person to solve problems in a totally unrelated field.
Effective problem solving under all circumstances must rely
on a good problem solving approach (something that would be
robust enough for any situation) and the appropriate technical
experts around the table. Each time someone from TDI gets
involved with a client’s problem we always insist that
we need to know who is around the table. In every situation
we’ve asked the client to change the faces around the
table to increase our chances of arriving at a solution.
We have a saying “if a problem could not
be solved by a team, the person with the information was not
invited!” So, we need a process (problem
solving approach) and the right people around the table to
solve problems and if we can learn and use this process under
different circumstances then we should be able to adjust to
changed situations and still provide a solution.