Wednesday Nov 07, 2007

Some other problem solving methodologies

Kepner Tregoe logoAs much as an aide-memoir for me as anyone else ... as a licensed Kepner Tregoe Program(me) Leader I'm interested in what other problem solving methodologies there are out there. The classic open question being "what else?".

So far I've found two:

This doesn't include more quality orientated concepts like Six Sigma and the 'Five Whys'. All fascinating stuff.

The footnote to this is the controversial Wikipedia Kepner Tregoe article which I really ought to contribute to at some point.

Wednesday Jun 27, 2007

OpenSolaris Troubleshooting - The Unofficial Tourist Guide

I had the pleasure of presenting to the London OpenSolaris User Group (LOSUG) in June. The topic was OpenSolaris Troubleshooting - The Unofficial Tourist Guide.

My experience of debugging problems on non-Solaris systems was one of 'I know what I want to do, but I don't know how they do it', which led me to paraphrase the famous LP Hartly quote, "Diagnosing problems on unfamiliar operating systems is a foreign country: they do things differently there".

It also wanted to link the essence of good troubleshooting to the practical details of getting the data. I'm an Sun Global Resolution Troubleshooting (SGRT) programme leader - which is Sun's implementation of the Kepner-Tregoe processes. Linking the abstract troubleshooting process to gathering actual useful data is one of the trickier aspects when it comes to teaching SGRT.

Suffice to say, OpenSolaris has a rich set of diagnostic tools - not just DTrace - and this talk covers the ones I use regularly.

The PDF of the presentation, which includes an update to the slides on how dbx and mdb deal with core files from other systems, is available on the LOSUG OpenSolaris pages.

It's a presentation I plan to keep updated so if you have any comments please let me know.

Wednesday May 09, 2007

Top 10 ways to make better decisions (New Scientist)

New Scientist this week has an excellent article on decision making. As I'm a Kepner-Tregoe program leader I'm interested in tools for decision making as Decision Analysis is one of the things we teach.

The text of the article is copyright but I hope it is acceptable to list the ten points:

1 Don't fear the consequences
2 Go with your gut instincts
3 Consider your emotions
4 Play the devil's advocate
5 Keep your eye on the ball
6 Don't cry over split milk
7 Look at it another way
8 Beware social pressures
9 Limit your options
10 Have someone else choose

As it covers lots of research into the psychology of decision making it doesn't go into any great depth but there are some illuminating findings in there.

Much of the research is about how satisfied we are with our decisions rather than whether we picked the best option. The two are related but not directly. This may be more important for individual decision making versus group decision making.

Some of the key points for me were:

  • Don't avoid making decisions, things rarely turn out as good or as bad as you expect.
  • Simple decisions can be analysed, complex decisions often work better with gut feeling. Not recommended for highly emotive issues.
  • Context, social pressures, emotions and how we frame the decision are all significant factors.
  • Too many choices leaves us less satisfied with our final choice.

In the context of Kepner-Tregoe Decision Analysis the use of rational process should avoid much of the FUD around decision making, at least that's what I find. That deals with items 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 10. As for the others ...

7 Look at it another way: One of the most important things to get right in the KT processes is the initial statement, the pithy synopsis of what it is you are doing. The wording of a decision statement is pivotal in the process. It's all too easy to colour your decision by inappropriate framing.

8 Beware social pressures: Either as an individual or as a group it's hard to avoid being swayed by everyone else. Good facilitation of the decision analysis process is vital and can avoid things like groupthink.

9 Limit your options: Faced with too many alternatives we usually screen them against our MUSTS and our highest weighted WANTS. For me, too many alternatives gives me analysis-fatigue :-)

Point 2 is also interesting as it illustrates that human beings are surprisingly good decision makers, analysis is not always necessary or productive. However, for business decisions satisfaction with the final choice may be less important than the financial implications. Having said that, I often wonder if the mark of true and good leadership (political, business, etc) is productive and effective decision making based on instinct.

Perhaps truly good leaders make any reasonable choice in a complex decision successful?

Thursday Nov 03, 2005

Managing Human Performance - the Kepner Tregoe way

I'm currently training as a program leader for our Sun Global Resolution Troubleshooting (SGRT) process. This is our customised version of Kepner Tregoe and provides a systematic approach to effective problem solving, decision making and protecting actions plans.

OK, so it doesn't sound thrilling but having just re-done the course - which I first did in March 1997 - and expected to be bored, I was pleasantly surprised to find how interesting it was. The two program leaders, Graham and Dave, were excellent and what made it really work was how much everyone participated.

Graphic of Kepner Tregoe performance systemOne of the new aspects was applying their techniques to how people perform. They refer to a "performance system model" which has:

  • a situation
  • a performer
  • how they respond to the situation
  • the consequences and how they increase/decrease the probability that the behaviour will be repeated
  • feedback

Sometimes abbreviated to SPRCFb and clumsily pronounced "spruhk-fuhb".

I'm still reading the material on this but I did find an article by Jamie Weiss (of Kepner Tregoe) called The Fallacy of People Problems, and How to Solve Them. From what I could tell from quickly scanning the article it illustrates the techniques used. I plan to read it after I've reviewed my notes on this from the course.

As the material is copyright I won't quote it here but one of the examples of poor management was identifying a people problem where they were slamming the lids of drums so hard that the rust fell off the inside. Root causing why the rust was there in the first place seems an obvious step forward.

Like most of these things, what might be considered common sense isn't so common.




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