The working environment

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In the working environment, Line Managers are playing a big role in Problem Solving and for the country, government plays a big role in Problem Solving.

Problem Solving and Decision Making is not an easy task and cannot be taken for granted. Creative team, experienced people, skilled people etc are the major role players in solving problems. Understanding a problem is the first step to solve a problem. Our huge mistake is to jump in making a decision before we understand a problem. We solve problems and make decision every day at work, home, churches and when doing shopping.

Problem solving forms part of thinking. Considered the most complex of all intellectual functions, problem solving has been defined as higher - order cognitive process that requires the modulation and control of more routine or fundamental skills ( Goldstein & Levin, 1987). It occurs if an organism or an artificial intelligence system does not know how to proceed from a given state to a desired goal state. It is part of the larger problem process that includes problem finding and problem shaping.

There are many approaches to problem solving, depending on the nature of the problem and the people involved in the problem. The more traditional, rational approach is typically used and involves, eg, clarifying description of the problem, analyzing causes, identifying alternatives, assessing each alternative, choosing one, implementing it, and evaluating whether the problem was solved or not.

Another, more state-of-the-art approach is appreciative inquiry. That approach asserts that "problems" are often the result of our own perspectives on a phenomena, eg, if we look at it as a "problem," then it will become one and we'll probably get very stuck on the "problem." Appreciative inquiry includes identification of our best times about the situation in the past, wishing and thinking about what worked best then, visioning what we want in the future, and building from our strengths to work toward our vision.

The activities of problem solving and decision making are closely intertwined, so the reader will often find mention of the two topics together.

In most cases Managers do not know what they want and how there'll get there as long as the work is done. How? That is the least of their problems. And in my opinion, I do not believe that is a good manager and decision making person. We need to have tools to solve problems, good team, good listener. Managers should identify the problem before making decision and be careful of becoming victims.

Problem Solving Approaches within AAC - LCR:

Problems that faces AAC - LCR is to improve customer service and make sure that systems are working 100% correct in order to make customers happy. Although all systems are in place but the Project Manager is required to address a variety of problems and make decisions on various levels for example:

  • Operational Problems:
  • These are problems that result from day to day functioning of the departments. In AAC - LCR is in a communication industry. We deal with Least Cost Routers which gives customer savings. Problems start in loading of a customer as a subscriber, sim swops, activation, migration, retentions. These contracts are done on a daily basis. Issuing of stock, make sure stock is ordered setting date of installation. These types of problem are normally easy to resolve if the required information is correct and available.

  • Billing Problems:
  • These problems are normally experienced in end of every month after invoices are issued. Billing is the major problem that we are facing at the moment. All starts with activation department and if activations are not done as per signed contract, there will be problems with Billing. For example, customer signed for Talk 500 package but loaded on a Corp 500 package. These are two different packages with different benefits. This is where the problem starts, these problems affect the short term but they cause a major problem in the organization. Resolving the problem and coming with good decision is easy and can be done in one day.

  • Technical Problems:
  • This is to ensure that all installation is done perfectly, routers are working 100%.To make sure that our systems are competable with customers PBX systems. Make sure installation is done as per customer's requirements. Customer need to be advised of the advantages and disadvantages of the system. Getting Network approval before arranging installation in order to avoid network problems such as Echo.

  • People Management Problems/ Performance Problems:
  • People management and Performance management is to make sure that staff performance is up to standard. They have to work hand in hand with Human Resource dept to create a good working environment. They have to make sure that processes and procedures are in place. There are clear guidelines and rules in place regarding courses of action and decision making which are guided by Labour Law and company policy. Problems that arise in this area are , discrimination, racial problems, cultural problems etc. These problems require considerable thoughts, investigation and etc. Performance management is a hot topic in business these days. This Performance Management Process Checklist will help you do the right things right to create an effective employee performance appraisal and development system. Employees are to be equipped with all tools including training.

It is very important that the solution is monitored and make decisions necessary for successful resolution.

  1. Defining the problem
  2. Every problem - no matter how apparently simple it may be - comes with a long list of assumptions attached. Many of these assumptions may be inaccurate and could make your problem statement inadequate or even misguided.

    Challenges will be with senior management that the whole task will be expensive. This will cause the restructuring of the business, and or lost of jobs or more vacancies available. It will also give staff more opportunities to be educated, business to grow. Our goal is to address the process with senior management and employees to avoid panics.

    • Gathering information.

    Investigate causes and circumstances of the problem. Probe details about it - such as its origins and causes. Especially if you have a problem that's too vague, investigating facts is usually more productive than trying to solve it right away.

    Human resource need to be involved regarding resignations within the organisation (this will be caused by panics and assumptions)

    Ask yourself questions about the problem. What is not known about it? When did it last work correctly? Can you draw a diagram of the problem? What are the problem boundaries? Be curious. Ask questions and gather facts. It is said that a well-defined problem is halfway to being solved: you could add that a perfectly-defined problem is not even a problem anymore!

    • Identifying stakeholders.

    Stakeholders can be identified by agreeing who will be required to evaluate solutions and approve decisions.

    • Facts & Data.


    Results from experimentation and studies.

    Interview of "Experts" and trusted sources.

    Observed events, past or present, either personally observed or reported.

    • Boundaries.

    Boundaries or constraints of the situation are difficult to change. They include lack of funds or other resources. If a solution is surrounded by too many constrainst themselves may be the problem.

    Opinions and Assumptions:

    Opinions of decision makers, committees or groups or other powerful group will be important to the success of your decision. It is important to recognize truth. Assumptions can save time and work since is often difficult to get "all the facts" Recognise that some things are accepted on faith. They also have a risk factor, must be recognized of what they are.

    • Prioritize the Problem.

    Prioritize which ones you should address first, there are" important" and "urgent" ones (huge difference between the two).

  3. Cause of the Problem:
    • In this case, it is critical to get information from other people who notice the problem and who are affected by it.
    • Collect input from other individuals one at a time.
    • Write down what you heard and opinions.
    • Ask yourself the following questions, what, how, where, when, whom, and why - these are description of the problem.
    • Team has two options - people's opinion and data. Data is preferable, particularly when issues are complex and emotional. Opinions are acceptable for less contentious or urgent problems.

  4. Find Solutions:
    • AAC - LCR Managers and supervisors can meet to Brainstorm. Brainstorming is collecting as many ideas as possible, put them together and find the best idea. Information and data gathered to analyzed and ideas presented. Any idea is important at this stage (no criticism or judgement). System Thinking is a wonderful skill to use in Problem Solving.
    • Looking at advantages and disadvantages is important (this is to be identified).

  5. Implementation:
    • AAC - LCR Managers can work with Stakeholders to identify the plan. Address Action Plan with the team and make sure they understand the process or mission.
    • Managers can work with other business units or departments to be at the same page and understand the process.
    • Human resource to take details from other departments. They need to make sure policies and procedures are followed.

  6. Reviewing:
    • It is very important that the solution is monitored and make decisions necessary for successful resolution. Keep the team informed and confirming is still on the right track.

Creativity and Decision Making:

Most Managers believe that creativity and break - through thinking is needed to successfully compete in the changing business work. But few managers know exactly what steps to take to enhance creativity within the workplace, particularly in teams or departments. We recommend the organization to use Strategic System Theory (SST). This theory was established by Eliot Jacques in the late 1940's and late 1970'.

Creativity is a mental process involving the generation of new ideas or concepts, or new associations of the creative mind between existing ideas or concepts. An alternative conception of creativity is that it is simply the act of making something new. In order to start being more creative in Problem Solving and Decision Making, we need to change our thinking style ( thinking out side the box) which includes.

Divergent and Convergent Thinking:

  1. Divergent Thinking:
  2. The goal of divergent thinking is to generate many different ideas about a topic in short period of time. Following divergent thinking, the ideas and information will be organized using convergent thinking, putting various ideas back together in some organized, structured way. Some creative thinking tools are described as follows:

    • Brainstorming:
    • This is a technique which involves generating a list of ideas in a creative, unstructured manner. It helps provide new solutions to old solutions. Teams enjoy working as a group and it makes them feel valued.

    • Keep a journal:
    • Journals are an effective way to record ideas that one thinks of spontaneously. One can create a collection of thoughts and various subjects that later become a source book of ideas.

    • Mind or Subjects Mapping:
    • This involves putting brainstormed ideas in the form of visual map or picture that shows the relationship among these ideas. One starts with central idea or topic, then draws branches off the main topic which represent different parts or aspect of the main topic.

    • The five Whys:
    • This process helps to ask questions or to get to the bottom of the problems by asking questions like "why" again up to five times. This helps you to explore the deeper reason behind the problem.

    • Helicopter Approach:

    Helicopter approach assist in reading other people's mind or understanding how other people feel.

  3. Convergent Thinking:
  4. Managers assess their own creativity and sharpen their convergent and divergent thinking skills. The term convergent thinking was coined by JP Guilford ( a psychologist well - known for his research on Creativity. Convergent thinking narrows all options to one solution. This is thinking that brings together information fucused on solving a problem.

  • Analysing Ideas:
  • Once all ideas produced, they need to be evaluated. Applying a logical process.

  • Sell Ideas:
  • Present all ideas to someone for approval. Use a " Four Ps" method for presentation.

    Position, then define the Problem, detail the Possible courses of action and put forward your Proposal.

  • Implementation:
  • Understand the process by which creative ideas are turned into realistic plans.

  • Develop a Plan:
  • Once the idea is approved and accepted, then produce action plan. Communicate ideas with the others.

  • Allocating work:

Once plan is agreed, allocate task to the team. Human resource to be involved in allocating tasks to the team.

Applying Creativity to Improve Decision Making Capability.

Skills are very important in creativity. Some people are naturally creative because they have open mind.

AAC- LCR used the following approach for decision making process.

  • Team work:
  • Working as a team is the key is solving problems and with AAC - LCR, the process was successful as all departments were involved and all ideas were fruitful. This encourages new ideas and input from various perspective. Whole team was involved and took part in all decision making. There were opportunities for staff to grow and gaining confidence. Collective creativity provides the opportunity to improve quality of life. Employees of AAC - LCR were very excited to participate in Decision Making and Problem solving.

  • Mind Mapping:
  • Mind mapping was used during brainstorming sessions with AAC - LCR group. This will assist in thinking outside the box. Provides a framework for breaking down a complex situation and enabling creative thoughts.

  • Helicopter Approach:
  • AAC - LCR Managers used helicopter approach to step back interpret non-verbal behavior from the team.

  • The five Whys:
  • Questions were asked by the managers and the team like "why" about five times. Team will be forced to re- assess or evaluate all suggestions.

The whole project shows that AAC - LCR Managers can use the Mind or subject map for brainstorming session and it shows the direction the brainstorming session might take and indicates where in the process the various creative tools could be used.

Problem Solving process gave each and every individual in the team to have self confidence even if team members were not physically involved in making decisions. AAC- LCR managers got all ideas from different angles and stakeholders were invited to make decisions as a group. Group decisions do take longer and to reach into agreement is very difficult.

Alternatives were assessed and they used four criterias to evaluate the pros and cons of alternative courses of action:

  • Legality - managers must ensure that a possible course of action is legal.
  • Ethicalness - managers must ensure that a possible course of action is ethical and that it will not unnecessarily harm any stakeholder group.
  • Economic feasibility - managers must decide whether the alternatives can be accomplished, given the organisation's performance goals.
  • Practicality - managers must decide whether they have the capabilities and resources required to implement the alternative.


Our world is faced with challenges of Problem Solving and Decision Making. Look at the South African Government.

One of the most lamentable experience in organizational life is the sensation of remembering something important after the fact that we fail to think of at the time of the problem or opportunity presented itself. Learning, opportunity and experience are the key points in finding a problem.

Including people in Problem Solving process will improve the generation of ideas and allows alternatives to be viewed from all perspectives. No idea is stupid or good, they all the same.

It is important to include creative people who can draw things and have vision. We need people that they can imagine or having a picture while somebody is addressing the team and making a statement.

There is no age in creativity - all ages are welcomed.


  • The Da Vinci Institute for Technology Management (Pty) Ltd - course notes Problem Solving, Creative Thinking and Decision Making.
  • C Margerison - 2001 - Team Perfomance Management.
  • R Armstrong - 2005 - Self Managed Team Leadership.
  • Maxwell, A., & Simon, H. A. (1972). Human problem solving. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
  • Paradies, M.W., & Unger, L. W. (2000). TapRooT - The System for Root Cause Analysis, Problem Investigation, and Proactive Improvement. Knoxville, TN: System Improvements.
  • www.faculty.washington,edu/ezent/imdt.htm.
  • C Margerison - 2001 - Team Perfomance Management.
  • R Armstrong - 2005 - Self Managed Team Leadership.
  • Maxwell, A., & Simon, H. A. (1972). Human problem solving. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
  • Paradies, M.W., & Unger, L. W. (2000). TapRooT - The System for Root Cause Analysis, Problem Investigation, and Proactive Improvement. Knoxville, TN: System Improvements.