practice, you will probably need to adjust this sequence
to fit the moment. Developments in one phase may cause
you to readjust or reconsider factors in a previous step.
The following are the seven steps to problem solving:
Recognize the problem
Gather the data
List all possible solutions
Test/discuss possible solutions
Select the best possible solution
RECOGNIZE THE PROBLEM
Can you take a trip without first deciding what
method of transportation to use or without knowing
where you want to go? Obviously, you must recognize
your need to get from one place to another. Secondly,
you must know your goals or the place you intend to
visit. You must consider the obstacles such as cost, time,
available transportation, and routes to take. The above
factors contribute to recognizing your problem through
analysis of the elements.
GATHER THE DATA
You now have a goal and you have identified the
things that stand between you and success. Next, you
must get all the information you need to solve the
problem. You need to know about road conditions as
well as bus, train, and airline schedules and fares. Divide
this information into the following categories:
FactsThese are known truths. For example, you
can call the highway patrol for road conditions, you can
consult schedules for trip times, and a map will provide
AssumptionsSome data is assumed, such as the
accuracy of information concerning fares and possible
CriteriaA criterion is a standard of judging. This is
most important in data gathering. It is a rule by which
you measure such things as facts, principles, opinions,
and assumptions. In problem solving, you should
always have some criteria to consider. For example, you
might consider criteria such as the following: departure
must be between 0800 and 1000, arrival must be before
1700, luggage must include two suitcases and a trunk,
and travel money is limited to . The criteria will help
you decide which method of travel to use. The bus may
be too slow. The train may leave too early. Airfare may
exceed available funds. Whatever criteria you set up will
help you decide between alternatives.
LIST ALL POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS
Where do you find possible solutions? You may get
ideas almost immediately. The longer you study,
consider, and think about solutions, the more
alternatives you will have. Solving the first two steps to
problem solving should generate some viable
alternatives along the way.
TEST/DISCUSS POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS
In every instance, you should consider each possible
solution against the established criteria. Evaluate your
solution by asking yourself or others the following
Is the solution suitable? Will this solution
produce the desired results? Will it do the job?
Is the solution feasible? Do the means for
completing the job by this method exist? Can the
job be accomplished this way?
Is the solution acceptable? Is the solution going
to be cost-effective? Will it fit command
directives? Even if the solution is cheaper, will
it be more time-consuming?
SELECT THE BEST POSSIBLE SOLUTION
At this point, you can decide on the best solution by
eliminating those that do not meet your criteria. For
example, in planning your trip, you may eliminate rail,
bus, and air travel because they do not fit your criteria.
You may decide that driving your car is the best solution
to the problem.
Of course most problems are not this simple. You
will frequently find two or more alternatives that meet
all your criteria. You must then decide which will be the
best. This may well be the hardest part of decision
making because it causes you to fall into a
mission-oriented frame of reference. Which alternative
is best for the overall mission? Which will best dovetail
with other ongoing projects? Which pays the most
dividends in the long run?