Types of Problem Solving Methods in Management and Supervision

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  • 0:01 Management and Problem Solving
  • 0:21 Divide & Conquer
  • 1:27 5-Step Model
  • 2:53 Deming Cycle
  • 5:32 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Shawn Grimsley

Shawn has a masters of public administration, JD, and a BA in political science.

A big part of management and supervision is solving problems. In this lesson, we'll take a look at a few problem-solving methods that can be used to solve typical problems facing managers and supervisors. A short quiz follows.

Management and Problem Solving

Paul is a supervisor at a manufacturing company. A large part of his job is solving problems. Some problems are easy for Paul to solve, and some are much more difficult. Different methods or models have been created to help people, like Paul, solve problems. Let's take a look at a few of them.

Divide & Conquer

Some problems are very simple and can be solved directly without much effort. For example, Paul may have an employee call in sick. The solution is simple and direct: call another employee in or arrange for a temp. Other problems are more complex and may not be easily solved in one step. Here, Paul can employ a tried and true tactic employed by generals and mathematicians alike. He can divide and conquer.

Think about a complex algebraic equation. Most people cannot solve the equation directly in one step. They must break the problem down into several steps to reach the solution. Paul can use a similar approach and break a large problem into smaller parts that are easier to solve. For example, Paul may be faced with a steep decline in productivity related to several factors, but he only has resources available to address one factor at a time. He can divide and conquer by taking on factors causing the problem one at a time.

5-Step Model

The divide and conquer method gives Paul a way to break down problems to manageable levels, but it doesn't necessarily provide a method for solving the parts. One approach to problem solving is the 5-step model. Let's take a quick look.

  1. Paul must first recognize that there is a problem and define it. You can't solve a problem if you don't know it exists, nor can you find a proper solution if you can't define what the problem is. Let's say that Paul's assembly line shift isn't meeting its productivity goals.
  2. Paul will then develop different possible solutions to the problem. For example, possible solutions may be hiring more people, firing unproductive workers and hiring new workers, ensuring that machinery is functioning properly or updating technology.
  3. Paul will then evaluate the possible solutions and choose the one that will work the best. For example, he may determine that his workers are doing everything right and all machinery is in good repair. He comes to the conclusion that he will need to request an upgrade in equipment if his company wants to increase productivity.
  4. The next step is for Paul to implement his solution.
  5. The final step is for Paul to evaluate the effectiveness of his solution. Did the equipment upgrades solve the productivity problem?

The Deming Cycle

Mangers can also use a problem-solving model called the Deming Cycle, after Dr. William Edwards Deming. It is a 4-step repetitive process used to continuously improve a process. The Deming Cycle is often referred to as the PDCA, which stands for Plan, Do, Check and Act. Let's look at how the cycle works.

Bridget is a supervisor of a design team for one of her company's flagship products. She was brought before her division's VP who just received results from a customer survey indicating that customers were dissatisfied with the consistency of the products. The VP wants the quality control issue resolved ASAP. Bridget uses the Deming Cycle to tackle the problem.

1. The first step is to plan.

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