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Groups in Context: Leadership and Participation in Small Groups, 2d ed.

Decision-making in groups requires problem-solving skills. In order to appropriately solve a problem, one must use a model so that the important steps are not bypassed and so a solution that has little to do with the actual problem at hand is not rendered. I have taken the liberty of combining several approaches into what I believe is a useful and valid single paradigm for problem-solving.

1. Problem Find. Find the actual problem by searching for the effects it causes.

2. Problem Define. Define how you know it is the problem, what you understand about it, what harm it is causing, how serious it is, and what key criteria must be met by any effective solution (what criteria must an effective solution meet?). What is the ideal outcome we should work toward?

3. Alternative Seek. Brainstorm alternatives to solving the problem without yet judging their value. Look at the problem from different perspectives and various frames of reference. Never accept only one "right answer" in this stage--find the "other right answer(s)."

4. Problem Solve. Pick the best alternatives or the best parts of several alternatives. What parts seem to counter the problem?

5. Action Plan. Decide how to implement the solution, what order the steps will be in, and what the time frame is.

6. Monitor and Test. Mentally play out the solution to see if it works. Evaluate the progress toward the ideal solution.

One of the biggest errors groups run into in solving problems is that they fail to go through the first three steps. Instead they head straight for the "right answer." Groups that solve problems well must first define the problem and use divergent thinking to find as many alternatives as possible. They wear their "creativity hats" first. Only then, when lots of potential ideas are on the table, will they reach for their "logic hats" and use convergent thinking, solution-oriented approaches.

The solution to a problem will only be as good as the creative thoughts about alternatives a group can come up with before it makes the final decision on action. If there is only "one right answer," chances are it hasn't been thought out that well in the first place.
COPYRIGHT 1992 American College of Physician Executives
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Author:Burton, Richard M.
Publication:Physician Executive
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Nov 1, 1992
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