Problem Solving

 

Definition: Being able to effectively resolve problems that involve people, things, and processes that require general logic and common sense.  This may include gathering relevant information, considering alternatives, and drawing logical conclusions based on facts.

 

Tips

 

Consider these suggestions when honing your problem-solving technique:

  • Evaluate– gather information and clarify the nature of the problem
  • Analyze – brainstorm and formulate several possible solutions
  • Plan – create a step-by-step plan to resolve the issue
  • Delegate – assign specific tasks to those involved
  • Manage – schedule check-ins with yourself and those working with you to make sure everyone is on the right track
  • Review – monitor the outcome and review the problem to assess if it has been resolved

Solving problems increases your value and empowers those around you to think critically.” - Debbie Allen, Fast Company Leadership

Self-Directed Learning Activities

 

Relevant Readings:

·         Problem Solving and Decision Making  (http://www.businessballs.com/problemsolving.htm) 10 minutes

·         Improving Problem Solving Skills (http://www.wikihow.com/Improve-Problem-Solving-Skills) 10 minutes

·         How Good is your Problem Solving? (https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newTMC_72.htm) 15 minutes

 

Books:  

·         Kallet, M. (2014). Thin smarter: Critical thinking to improve problem-solving and decision-making skills. New Jersey: Wiley & Sons, Inc.

·         Kahneman, D. (2013). Thinking fast and slow. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.

·         Levitt, S.D., & Dubner, S.J. (2014). Think like a freak: The authors of freakonomics offer to retrain your brain. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.

·         Roam, D. (2013). The back of the napkin: Solving problems and selling ideas with pictures. New York: Penguin Group.

Podcasts/Videos:

·         Improve your Problem Solving Skills https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s1lt6pwIF1o

·         Navi Radjou: Creative problem-solving in the face of extreme limits (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cHRZ6OrSvvI)

·         MythBusters' Adam Savage on Problem Solving: How I Do It (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BhAt-7i36G8)

 

Self-Guided Activities:

·         To hone your executive functioning and reasoning skills, visit: http://www.happy-neuron.com/brain-games/executive-functions. This website has several games that will help you improve your ability to concentrate, take in and implement information, and find creative solutions to difficult problems.

·         Create an analysis matrix, which should contain the details of the following: the overall issue, the cause(s) of the problem, and several solutions. Use the matrix to see if any of the offered solutions are practical and viable, and if they will resolve the issue and its respective cause(s).  Use one of the Learning Journals to reflect after practicing the analysis matrix. Assess what went right and where you could improve, and analyze the overall outcome of your decision.

 

Guided Learning Activities

 

Experiences:

·         Work with your manager or team members to conduct a problem prevention analysis. Review potential problems; analyze their cause and the benefits of each potential course of action.

·         Lead a team meeting designed to solve a difficult problem and seek feedback on your contribution to the group’s problem-solving.

·         Before making an important decision, do a cost-benefit analysis and list out the pros and cons of each course of action. Be as objective as possible, and try to create a comprehensive list of options and their respective outcomes. Once you’ve listed everything out, get input from a supervisor to ensure that you have included all important factors, and then make the final decision. Use one of the Learning Journals to reflect after practicing the cost-benefit analysis. Assess what went right and where you could improve, and analyze the overall outcome of your decision.

 

Formal Training/Education

 

School and Course Module(s):

·         Northwest College: CO/M 2015 – Leadership Skills

o   This course is designed to educate specified groups in effective leadership skills. It includes discussion and practice in teamwork, communication, critical thinking and problem solving, planning, conflict management, and social responsibility. (0.5 hour lecture, 1 hour lab)

·         Western Wyoming Community College: COMM 1050 – Conflict Management & Mediation

o   This course blends theory, research, and practical skills to help individuals better understand and manage conflicts. Additionally, this course offers guidance for those who sometimes find themselves playing the role of mediator, a neutral third party who assists disputants create their own solutions. Conflict is a natural, inevitable and potentially beneficial event in our personal and professional lives. Yet few of us take time to formally study and explore conflict. Managing conflict well requires skills, energy wisdom, and creativity.


 

Judgment

 

Definition:  The ability to make considered decisions and come to sensible conclusions

Tips

 

Consider these suggestions when honing your judgment skills:

  • Identification – identify the purpose of your decision; what exactly is the problem to be solved?
  • Information – gather information on the factors involved in the issue
  • Brainstorm– generate ideas for possible solutions
  • Analyze – weigh the costs an benefits of each possible solution
  • Judge – exercise your judgment and make a decision based on the available information
  • Evaluate – assess the outcome of the issue, and determine if your solution was optimal

Making your own decisions and accepting the consequences is the only way to stay in control of your time, your success, and your life.” –Time Management Guide

 

Self-Directed Learning Activities

 

Relevant Readings:

·         Make Sound Decisions (PDF)

·         3 Ways to Improve Personal Judgment: (http://www.fastcompany.com/3038060/3-ways-to-improve-your-personal-judgement) 5 minutes

·         Good Judgment can be Taught: (http://www.managementtoday.co.uk/good-judgement-taught/article/1291224)         5 minutes

·         Making Judgment Calls: (https://hbr.org/2007/10/making-judgment-calls) 15 minutes

·         The Role of Judgment in Decision Making: (http://www.decision-making-solutions.com/judgment-and-decision-making.html) 5 minutes

 

Books:  

·         Tichy, N.M., & Bennis, W.G. (2009). Judgment: How winning leaders make great calls. New York: Penguin Group Inc.

Guided Learning Activities

 

Experiences:

·         The next time you need to make a difficult decision, implement the decision tree analysis tool to assist your efforts (http://www.time-management-guide.com/decision-tree.html). This tool will help you comprehensively assess the situation, the important factors, and every possible option, and it will help you come to the best conclusion. Use one of the Learning Journals to reflect after practicing decision tree analysis.

·         Before making an important decision, do a cost-benefit analysis and list out the pros and cons of each course of action. Be as objective as possible, and try to create a comprehensive list of options and their respective outcomes. Once you’ve listed everything out, get input from a supervisor to ensure that you have included all important factors, and then make the final decision.  Use one of the Learning Journals to reflect after practicing the cost-benefit analysis. Assess what went right and where you could improve, and analyze the overall outcome of your decision.

 

Formal Training/Education

 

School and Course Module(s):

·         Northwest College:  CO/M 2015 - Leadership Skills

o   This course is designed to educate specified groups in effective leadership skills. Includes discussion and practice in teamwork, communication, critical thinking and problem solving, planning, conflict management, and social responsibility.

·         Laramie County Community College:  CO/M 2120 Small Group Communication

o   Students develop group communication skills focusing on topics such as group decision making and problem solving techniques, group development and cohesion, conflict management, and leadership principles.

 

Law Enforcement Specific:


 

Initiative

 

Definition: Work behavior characterized by its self-starting nature, its proactive approach, and its persistent in overcoming difficulties that arise in pursuit of a goal.

 

Tips

 

Consider these suggestions when honing your ability to take initiative:

  • Look for the next task– always be on the lookout something that can be improved
  • Do more than is required– go above and beyond the minimum requirements of completing a task
  • Speak up – contribute to meetings and share your ideas when brainstorming
  • Consider every opportunity – ask yourself: “what opportunities for growth can come from this situation?”
  • Always be prepared – continually refine your skills so that when the opportunity presents itself, you’re ready
  • Ask questions – frequently ask questions to clarify ambiguous directions or assignments

There are three types of people in this world: those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who wonder what happened.” – Mary Kay Ash

Self-Directed Learning Activities

 

Relevant Readings:

·         Drive and Initiative Chapter (PDF)

·         48 Ways to Take More Initiative at Work and in Life: http://kaizenjournaling.com/48-ways-to-take-more-initiative-at-work-and-in-life/)

·         Initiative: (http://www.mypersonalbrilliance.com/initiative/)

·         Taking Initiative: Making Things Happen at Work: (https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/initiative.htm)

·         10 Tips for Adding Value: http://www.careerealism.com/10-tips-adding-showing-initiative/

 

Books:  

·         Gustavson, P., & Liff, S. (2014). A team of leaders: Empowering every member to take ownership, demonstrate initiative, and deliver results. New York: American Management Association.

·         McChesney, C., Covey, S., & Huling, J. (2012). The 4 disciplines of execution: Achieving your wildly important goals. New York: Free Press.

·         Seldman, M., & Seldman, J. (2008). Executive stamina: How to optimize time, energy, and productivity to achieve peak performance. John Wiley & Sons.

·         Sweeney, P. (2015). What you aren’t seeing: How using your hidden potential can help discover the leader within. New York: McGraw-Hill Education

 

Self-Guided Activities:

·         Taking Initiative (PDF)

·         48 Ways to Take Initiative in Your Life and Work (PDF)

 

Guided Learning Activities

 

Experiences:

·         Make a to-do list (see planning and organization for details creating a to-do list), and once it’s complete practice initiative by taking action. Immediately begin working on the tasks in the list, and check them off once completed. Be proactive, and avoid procrastination with the tasks. Use one of the Learning Journals to reflect after using the daily planner. Assess what went right and where you could improve, and analyze the overall outcome

·         Identify an issue or problem that your department is facing without being asked to do so. Problem-solve and develop a plan for a potential solution. Go to your supervisor with this solution and ask for his/her support to implement your plan to solve the problem.

·         Ask for feedback from your supervisor concerning your initiative. Do he/she believe that you take action without being asked? Do you identify problems and independently generate solutions? Create a developmental plan with them where you create goals and track your progress.

 

Formal Training/Education

 

School and Course Module(s):

·         Casper College

o   Leading Organizational Change - MGT 2050: (3L)(3CR) This class will combine leadership concepts with models of organizational change. Change will be examined at the individual, team, and organizational or systems level. The focus is on uncovering traps that create stress, waste resources, slow change efforts, or lead to outright failure and discovering how to lead, cope and win in the face of great change. Class participants become familiar with a variety of change models as they are utilized in real organizations attempting change. The class will examine how organizational culture is an ever-present barrier to lasting change and how that impacts the decision on the part of organizations to initiate change.

o   Principles of Management - MGT 2100: (3L)(3CR) [E] Analyzes objectives, policies, organizational structure, material and human resource utilization, human relations, planning, innovating, and controlling as management responsibilities. Students also study and discuss current activities in specific areas of business and industry.

·         Central Wyoming College

o   COM/MGT 2130 - Human Relations: This course is designed to help students become successful in predicting, understanding, and influencing the outcome of their interactions with others by better understanding themselves. The course will involve readings, group activities, class discussions and short essays to explore and analyze theoretical concepts of human relations and their application from a personal, interpersonal, and organizational perspective. The use of interactive instruction will develop the student's ability to solve problems and think critically about their relationships with themselves, their peers, and their co-workers. The course will provide students with human relations skills critical for successful employment in a supervisory capacity. Students earning credit in CO/M 2130 may not earn credit in MGT 2130. (3 lect.) ORAL

o   BADM 1020: Successful business professionals are effective communicators. This course will develop and sharpen students’ written, oral and interpersonal communication skills. Students will explore crucial rhetorical issues that impact their ability to communicate and achieve specific objectives as business leaders. The psychology and mechanics of written business communication will be thoroughly explored and widely applied. Documents that demand careful planning and composition, solid content and argument, and logical organization and structure will be created. Non-written applications in business areas such as international/intercultural, nonverbal, interpersonal, and ethical communication will also be stressed. Prerequisite: Completion of ENGL 1010. (3 lect.) WR2

·         Eastern Wyoming College

o   MGT 1000 Introduction to Supervision (3L, 3CR): This course seeks to develop an understanding and appreciation of the basic concepts of supervision, to include planning, organizing, human resources management, directing, and controlling. Topics covered also include motivation, delegation, leadership, communications, team-building, total quality management, and discipline. The course should assist one to acquire the skills necessary

·         Laramie County Community College

o   MGT 1000 INTRODUCTION TO SUPERVISION Students acquire techniques to improve or establish themselves as first-line supervisors. The student will understand and be able to apply basic management principles in solving problems encountered by first-line supervisors. Prerequisite: Completion of ENGL 0810 or equivalent placement test score.

o   MGT 1500 LEADERSHIP ESSENTIALS Students develop performance-based competencies and skills needed to prepare for leadership positions in today's workplace. Topics explored include leadership communication, conflict resolution, employee and self development, change management, coaching, managing performance problems, and team building. Students develop action plans for transitioning the skills discussed during class into the workplace.

·         Northwest College

o   CO/M 2015 - Leadership Skills: (1-3)This course is designed to educate specified groups in effective leadership skills. Includes discussion and practice in teamwork, communication, critical thinking and problem solving, planning, conflict management, and social responsibility. Prerequisite: Consent of Instructor. (.5 hr lec, 1 hr lab)

·         Western Wyoming Community College

o   COMM 1070 EFFECTIVE LISTENING: Listening is the process of hearing, attending to, interpreting, remembering, and responding to spoken messages. This course will explore listening theories and research, the listening process, listening challenges, various listening contexts; and essential listening skills.


Decisiveness

 

Definition:  Characterized by or showing a consideration for alternative courses of action, and demonstrating the ability to make decisions quickly and firmly

Tips

 

Consider these suggestions when making important and/or difficult decisions:

  • Balance – be aware of the pros and cons of all choices for the issue
  • Information – make sure you acquire and implement valuable information
  • Inclusion– when appropriate, be sure to include others in the process
  • Experience – utilize your past experiences to better inform everyone involved
  • Steady – remain firm and do not flip back and forth with your decision once it is made
  • Responsibility – take responsibility of the final outcome

In the end, a great decision is usually made with…information, along with your brain and your gut.” Selena Rezvani – Forbes

 

Self-Directed Learning Activities

 

Relevant Readings:

·         Six Ways to Stop Overanalyzing and Become More Decisive: http://www.forbes.com/sites/work-in-progress/2014/06/28/six-ways-to-stop-overanalyzing-become-more-decisive/#7e14e2d961c8)

·         The Ladder of Inference: Avoiding “Jumping to Conclusions”: https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newTMC_91.html)

·         10 Ways to Improve Your Decision-Making Skills: http://www.wisebread.com/10-ways-to-improve-your-decision-making-skills)

Books:  

·         Hammond, J.S., Keeney, R.L., & Raiffa, H. (1999). Smart choices: A practical guide to making better decisions. Massachusetts: Harvard Business Review.

·         Heath, C., & Heath, D. (2013). Decisive: How to make better choices in life and work. New York: Crown Business.

·         Kahneman, D. (2013). Thinking fast and slow. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.

·         Klein, G. (1998). Sources of power: How people make decisions. Massachusetts: MIT Press.

·         Russo, J.E., & Schoemaker, P.J.H. (2001). Winning decisions: Getting it right the first time. New York: Doubleday.

Podcasts/Videos:

·         How to Make Better Decisions: https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newTED_00.htm

·         What the Best Decision Makers Do: https://soundcloud.com/hbrideacast/375-what-the-best-decision

·         Making Good Decisions: https://soundcloud.com/hbrideacast/436-making-good-decisions

·         Make Better Decisions: https://soundcloud.com/hbrideacast/524-make-better-decisions

·         Decision Matrix Analysis: https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newTED_03.htm

 

Self-Guided Activities:

·         The next time you need to make a difficult decision, implement the decision tree analysis tool to assist your efforts (http://www.time-management-guide.com/decision-tree.html). This tool will help you comprehensively assess the situation, the important factors, and every possible option, and it will help you come to the best conclusion. Use one of the Learning Journals to reflect after practicing decision tree analysis.

 

Guided Learning Activities

 

Experiences:

·         Identify strategies to remove obstacles that get in the way of your team accomplishing more, more quickly. Discuss your ideas with your manager. Learn from the discussion and apply the ideas to other projects.

·         Before making an important decision, do a cost-benefit analysis and list out the pros and cons of each course of action. Be as objective as possible, and try to create a comprehensive list of options and their respective outcomes. Once you’ve listed everything out, get input from a supervisor to ensure that you have included all important factors, and then make the final decision.  Use one of the Learning Journals to reflect after practicing the cost-benefit analysis. Assess what went right and where you could improve, and analyze the overall outcome of your decision.

·         Engage in a developmental exercise where you ask for feedback from your manager and peers regarding inappropriate snap decisions you may have made in the past. Then, consider how these decisions could have been improved.

·         Work with your supervisor to identify an issue occurring in your department or agency and act as the point-person to problem solve and determine an effective solution. Leverage a decision tree to come up with the most effective solution, and run this by your supervisor to gain his approval before putting your plan/solution into action.

 

Formal Training/Education

School and Course Module(s):

·         Northwest College:  CO/M 2015 - Leadership Skills

o   This course is designed to educate specified groups in effective leadership skills. Includes discussion and practice in teamwork, communication, critical thinking and problem solving, planning, conflict management, and social responsibility.

·         Laramie County Community College:  CO/M 2120 Small Group Communication

o   Students develop group communication skills focusing on topics such as group decision making and problem solving techniques, group development and cohesion, conflict management, and leadership principles.

 

Law Enforcement Specific: