I don’t have razor-sharp technical skills. I’m not the guy for writing dynamometer programs, developing analytics logic and dashboards or creating visually engaging communications. I’m kept around to strategize and make decisions. I’ve always liked to solve problems; in fact, I have an often-annoying tendency to seek and point them out.
Presently few of us have to go and look for problems to solve. We are faced with more frequent and severe challenges now than ever before in my lifetime, and since I’m 40 that likely holds true for most readers as well. Often problems like these are solved for you. Either there aren’t any options or a larger decision by someone else dictates your response.
Think of the person who does a heroic thing in the heat of a moment, they report not thinking, they had no options and just acted reflexively. Notwithstanding the amazing feats that occur, these “auto-responses” don’t require any decision making. Fight or flight kicks in and we just get it done. What about when we do have to make a decision? One that will impact others we are responsible for…
I’ve been enamored with problem-solving and decision-making models throughout my life and use a combination of them to face all of life’s challenges, personally and professionally. Here are my favorite five and the basics of how to use them:
- OODA Loop: Wikipedia says, “The OODA loop is the cycle observe–orient–decide–act, developed by military strategist and United States Air Force Colonel John Boyd. Boyd applied the concept to the combat operations process, often at the operational level during military campaigns. It is now also often applied to understand commercial operations and learning processes. The approach explains how agility can overcome raw power in dealing with human opponents.”
- I find this model particularly useful when decision making speed is the most important factor for success. The speed aspect of this method made it highly effective in airplane dogfights. Product releases in a highly competitive industry are an example of a speed-based business scenario.
- The Deming Model (PDSA, Plan/Do/Study/Act) and Japanese PDCA (Plan/Do/Change/Act) follow similar logic.
- All of these models are adaptable to nearly any situation and offer the benefit of continuous improvement through their repeating loop processes.
- IDS Model: I’ve learned the IDS model through the entrepreneurial operating system Traction. (See Traction by Gino Wickman). It stands for Identify. Discuss. Solve. IDS is highly effective for groups to make decisions and is equally well suited to opportunities as it is for problems. The keys to IDS are to thoroughly handle each step before moving on to the next. This accomplishes many things. Proper Identification ensures the root cause/key opportunity is found and well defined. An effective Discussion phase ensures all parties are heard and that each understand the related circumstances, limitations, concerns, etc. If these are done well the Solutions part often becomes pretty simple. Without IDS it’s typical for groups to skip to solutions prior to identifying the problems root cause and getting sidetracked, misdirected and generally ineffective.
- Ever leave a meeting feeling like you talked about the same thing again for another fifteen minutes without making progress? Yeah, me too, but not recently thanks to IDS.
- Evaporating Cloud Method: The Evaporating Cloud is one of the six Thinking Processes in the Theory of Constraints. (See The Goal by Eliahu Goldratt). The Evaporating Cloud (EC) – also referred to in the literature as “the cloud”, or as a “conflict resolution diagram” – is a logical diagram representing a problem that has no obvious satisfactory solution.
- The EC method focuses on identifying conflicts and their assumptions and then attacking those assumptions to “’break the cloud’.
- Conflicts (opposition about objectives or opposite points of view, for instance) tend to be settled by compromise. Yet compromising requires making concessions that lead to a solution which isn’t satisfactory for neither side, hence a win-lose or lose-lose situation.
- Conflicts are often the result of false assumptions, beliefs or myths which constrain needlessly the organization. As two opposite things cannot be true at the same time, one is necessarily false. If the falseness can be debunked, the conflict disappears (evaporates) and a no-compromise, win-win solution is found.
- Resolving the conflict is done by first exposing the two sides’ arguments, second through “injection(s)”; adding something, solution, countermeasure, a “remedy” that didn’t exist in the system.”
- EC is the go-to method for problems where solutions do not look possible.
- Six Step Troubleshooting Guide (The Technicians/Diagnostic Method)
- Identify the concern.
- Identify related symptoms.
- Analyze the related symptoms.
- Isolate the failure.
- Repair the failure
- Verify the repair.
- The technicians reading this may be saying, heck yeah! I have been doing that forever and a day. This method is intuitive for anyone working on vehicles or systems. Like the other methods it’s widely applicable.
All of these methods require practice and regular application. Pick one, try them all, use in combination, find something else that is better for you, but make sure you do have a method for making decisions. Like everything else in life, the more you use these methods the more effective you’ll be making decisions and making them with conviction. Confidence in your decisions is one of the most important elements. Our will is strong, and your confidence will inspire yourself and others to make your decisions reality. Don’t look back, just loop again.