Sunday, April 20, 2014

Problem vs. Decision

Problem: You need to do something; Decision: You can do something. 

Problems generally initiate decisions but decisions aren't always due to a problem. You can have either without the other. A problem is a situation that needs to be solved. Decisions are not always made to solve a problem.

A "problem" is perceived as something negative by most people - whereas an opportunity is not. The awareness of both leads one to think that one needs to make a decision (and the lack of awareness of both leads to us being trapped in ruts). On the other hand, a decision is a plan to change something in your current situation.  A"decision" has lots of connotations of finality. What seems to mark those good problems solvers out from others is their ability to frame issues, problems, and decision options and turn them into shiny opportunities, tangible outcomes, and inspirational change.

Problem: You need to do something; Decision: You can do something. The decisions to act or not and how, are by fully understanding the situation, and using a combination of the 'least bad' solution compared to effort and time availability. If the issue is small and the effort to deal with it big, then resolution maybe not justified while if the problem is big and the resolution easy, then doing that is worthwhile. The three questions on what is a problem and needs problem analysis to solve it: 
1. Is there a deviation from the set expectations (should)? 
2. Is the cause unknown? 
3. Do we need to know the cause to take meaningful action? 
If all questions answered by "yes", then you have a problem. 

"Business problems" are usually difficult. Indeed, part of the difficulty is that businesses often try to use decision-making processes to define the problem, and in doing so often fail to really define the problem. The problem then just becomes the output of decision-making processes. You then try to solve that problem - using more decision-making logic and wonder why the actions we have taken have made the situation worse. The questions to check: Do you distinguish between decision making and possibly 'problem defining' processes? Or does your decision-making processes inherently include a phase for 'problem defining'? Or is it jumbled together and thus confusion is the result? There is some research that indicates groups should separate the 'exploration/discussion' phase from the 'decision-making phase' as the logic being applied is inherently different and mixing the two will cause confusion.

 The distinction is between recognizing an opportunity to influence reality by taking a decision ( the choice), and the process of selecting that choice (the decision). "An opportunity to influence reality" might be a problem; something causing us pain, or it might be an opportunity to increase satisfaction in some way. In either case, the foundation step is in framing the opportunity or problem, or issue. How you frame the question or decision largely determines the kinds of alternatives that will emerge from the choice process of decision analysis. Usually, the two steps are quite distinct. Until you have made the first cut at defining the opportunity, issue or problem that needs a decision ("Framed the Issue"), you are not ready to start on decision making. An essential part of the 'Framing process' is to understand what your high-level outcomes are related to the issue, opportunity or problem. You cannot choose between alternatives without being clear about your desired outcome. So half the battle is framing the question appropriately.

Without problems, the decisions may never turn to be significant; without decisions, the problems may never get really solved.


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