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  • Adrian Cargal

Solve Problems Like A BOSS!

In my continued efforts in studying leadership in the new world I am navigating... the military, I decided to gain some insight on how problems are attacked on a team level. I interviewed training managers, curriculum development managers, and the training requirements and resources chief. I see many similarities in the military and public education as to how they resolve issues and utilize their most precious resource...humans!

1. When are you most likely to use a team approach? When you do, how do you use the team?


A similarity in this topic is the concept of brainstorming. All participants stated that teams should be used to collaborate on issues that impact the team as a whole. They also all shared information that reinforced the idea that all team members are valuable and have something to contribute to the mission. When using a team approach, it is important that each stakeholder be used as a worthy asset. Identifying the skill set of each team member by shining the spotlight on their strengths can enhance desired results. One comment, different from the others, stuck out to me, though. As much as everyone would like to use the team approach for all decisions, sometimes time constraints can make this process unattainable. Many times, leaders must make decisions about certain topics that are time sensitive and require immediate action. When this happens, it is important to inform other members of the decision and the reasoning behind it. This way the other individuals feel like they are still a part of the process.


2. Do you use any problem-solving models? If so, which ones and why?


There were many different responses to this question because there are a plethora of problem-solving models available depending on the leadership style and situation.

The Creative Problem-Solving Model has four steps: 1. Clarify - Identify the goal and gather data 2. Ideate- Explore ideas 3. Develop- Formulate solutions 4. Implement

Air Force 8-Step Problem Solving Approach - This model is the one that we are using currently in this class known as the Practical Problem-Solving Method (PPSM). It includes Clarifying and Validating the Problem, Breaking Down and Identifying Performance Gaps, Setting Improvement Targets, Determining Root Causes, Developing Countermeasures, Seeing Countermeasures Through, Confirming Results and Process, and Standardizing Successful Processes. Learn more about PPSM HERE. Fishbone Diagram - in this particular approach, the problem is written on the diagram template, and then the "bones" are probable causes to said problem. Branching off of the categories would be details as to why the problem is occurring. Learn more about Fishbone Diagrams HERE. The problem-solving measure that was mentioned in more than one interview was using the questions Who? What? Where? Why? and How?


3. How do you approach urgent issues as opposed to long-term strategic issues?


All participants agreed that prioritizing issues is important when decided how to attack a problem. Once they have been prioritized, it depends on the leader. Some alluded to making decisions independently when urgency is a factor. They all agreed that long-term strategies should be developed by the team and roles assigned to maximize outcomes.


4. How often do you "go with your gut"?


I found it interesting that most participants equated "go with your gut" to "outside of the box thinking". I have never taken this approach with thinking about going with my gut, however I can understand their stance. The Air Force operates on guidance and regulation, so creativity can sometimes be stifled. Innovative thinking is starting to spread, and many people are struggling with this new way of tackling issues. Gut instinct can sometimes lead to lofty decisions and unpleasant consequences, but with experience it can be used as a supplemental tool for problem-solving. Two of the participants stated that they use their gut as the starting point, but then fact check their gut for validity. I agree with this approach because I believe that a balance of intuition and objectivity is required in order to maintain transformational leader status.


5. Who and/or what has the most influence on your decision-making?


Every participant had a different perspective on this topic. Policy and regulations play a major role, while personal experiences and other people influence as well. Christian faith is a driving force for another individual, while another felt that they themselves had the most influence on their decision-making. I would like to think that adopting all of these views and applying them as influencing factors would be beneficial in my problem-solving because it is important to encompass and comprehend the perspectives of others when leading a team to making decisions that are beneficial for all.


6. How important is critical thinking to your problem-solving process?


Unanimously, all agreed that critical thinking is extremely important in the problem-solving process. I did find it interesting that two participants used the term "more than one way to skin a cat" when speaking of critical thinking. Assessing different angles, understanding multiple processes, networking, evaluating impact, and listening to others are all important aspects of critical thinking. Honing in on this skill is important in these times because we live in an age where information can be collected instantaneously. However, the application, dissemination, and synthesizing of this information in a creative way is now the way of the world. We must find new ways to solve old problems, and critical thinking is CRITICAL if we want to shape the future in a positive manner.


I enjoyed seeing differing views on this topic, and look forward to using some of these problem-solving techniques in my future endeavors. If you've made it to the end of this post, then you should know that there were a few people that disagreed with the collaborative culture approach and felt that they needed to make decisions on their own because they do not have time to get input from others, and when they do meet, no one has anything to contribute. To those people I say, you should take a look at your team and ask yourself why people do not contribute. Is it because they feel their ideas are not valued? Tread with caution if you have that mindset, my friend. Or better yet... listen to some advice from Lorna Davis and take notes!



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