Chapter 5: Successful Problem Solving
& Task Management
• Understand what is meant by problem-solving
• Develop techniques and approaches associated with
successful problem solving
• Develop the confidence to take on tasks, problems and
• Become a “good-starter”
• Understand all the processes involved in basic project
• Audit your own “competitiveness”
• Problem-solving skill is highly valued by employers.
• They want graduates being able to manage problems
and pressures effectively, being able to apply skills to
new situations and deal with new tasks with
• Almost every activity, task or problem will draw on
the following set of processes and skills:
1. Strategy: tactics and an overall plan.
2. Techniques: methods to use.
3. People skills: working with others in appropriate ways to
achieve the goal.
4. Self management: managing your time, personal issues,
feelings and performance.
5. Creativity: finding ideas that contribute towards a
• People who are very good at problem-solving usually
bring people skills, self management and creativity
to the task.
• These three factors are so important that they each
have chapters dedicated to them.
Tasks & Problems
• Task can be defined as “a piece of work assigned or
done as part of one's duties”. It also referred as “a
function to be performed or an objective”.
• It covers a wide range of circumstances.
• Task is used flexibility to refer to any activity or part
of a larger project.
• On the other hand, problem refers to:
- any question that calls for an answer
- a puzzle waiting to be solved
- a situation requiring a response
- a challenge to be met
• To solve a problem, it involves a few tasks that need
to be undertaking before we could reach for a final
decision. This process called as “decision-making”.
• Decisions could be classified whether as structured
(programmed) decision or un-structured (non-
• Programmed decisions are made using a rule,
procedure, or quantitative method. For example, to
say that inventory should be ordered when
inventory levels drop to 100 units is a program
decision because it adheres to a rule.
• This kind of decisions are easy to solve because the
problem is routine, and it can easily computerize
using traditional information systems.
• Meanwhile, non-programmed decisions refer to a
decision that deals with unusual or exceptional
• Not easily quantifiable.
• E.g.: determining the appropriate training program
for a new employee, deciding whether to develop a
new type of product line, and weighing the benefits
and drawbacks of installing an upgraded version of a
system within an organization.
• Unique characteristics (where standard rules or
procedures might not apply to them)
• Today, decision support systems (DSS) help solve
many non-programmed decisions, in which the
problem is not routine and rules and relationships
are not well defined
Types of decision-making
Characteristics Programmed Decisions Non-programmed Decisions
Type of problem Structured Un-structured
Managerial level Lower level Upper level
Frequency Repetitive, routine New, unusual
Information Readily available Ambiguous, incomplete
Time-frame solution Short Relatively long
Solution relies on Procedures, rules, policies Judgment & creativity
Goals Clear, specific Vague
Activity: Structured or Un-structured
Define each of these problems/decisions whether it is
structured or un-structured:
1) A bakery shop need to decide how many quantities of
ingredients need to be ordered from suppliers to produce
10,000 piece of sandwiches.
2) A company must determine how many workers that need to
be employed for operating its new production plant in Spain.
3) A CEO of a big company has been resigned recently, so the
Board of Directors (BOD) conduct a meeting to discuss who’s
the best candidate to replace him.
4) You just been appointed as a new operation manager at
KLIA. You must make sure that all passengers manage to
board on the plane on time (on time departure), so you must
coordinate all aspects related to selection and management
of cabin crews, cargo, passengers, air-traffic control and so on
to be effectively done.
5) Nokia Corp conduct a meeting to find solutions to increase
their market value due to inflation in Europe and decline of
sales in North America market.
Basic Approaches to Problem Solving
There are few basic approaches that might be use in
order to solve a specific problem as listed below:
Talking to others
Finding out information
Following the rules
Trial and error
1) Talking to others
Ask other people for ideas, their experience , what they
know about the persons and places involved.
People are a key resources in problem-solving.
Many people organize their lives by lists.
They are quick and easy tools to use and excellent starting
points for any problem.
3) Finding out information
May have included approaches such as browsing the
Internet, checking catalogues and looking in books.
Some problems are solved more easily by using
For example: You may have used calculations to work out
how much time there would be different aspects of each
of the two essays, or how to meet budget for the meal or
5) Following the rules
It is easier to follow procedures laid down for the activity.
For example: mixing chemicals for a particular purpose
requires very precise measurements specific chemicals.
Another example: if you are not used to cooking, following
the recipe step by step will be very helpful.
You may also have visualized each of the different
activities, seeing yourself performing each.
For example: successful sportspeople tend to use
visualizing techniques to see the exact details of how they
will achieve victory.
We may used a chart, flow diagram or other graphic
device to draw out the problem, so that you could work it
For example: finding a solution on how to increase sales
for product A based on results obtained from a survey
8) Trial and Errors
You may prefer to jump in at the deep end, trying out
various ideas until you hit the right one.
For example: run a computer-programming script using C+
The ROSA-E Strategy
• This is a method or tool that could be use for
problem analysis purpose, so it might help you find
the best solution to solve your problem later on.
• ROSA-E strategy is a cycle that can be applied to the
overall project and also for tasks within a project.
Reflection is at the core of the cycle, and is applied to
• Step involved in ROSA-E strategy:
This section introduces some common problem-
solving techniques difficulties. These include:
Setting criteria to evaluate a solution;
Setting targets and drawing up an action plan;
Planning project time;
Getting down to it;
Becoming a good ‘self-starter’;
Sticking with a task;
Completing a task
1) Setting goals
• Is an important part of the orientation stage of your
strategy. When considering your goal:
– Visualize what it would be like to achieve it.
– Identify how will know when you have achieved it: what
will be different?
– Evaluate whether it is realistic;
– Identify what you will have to sacrifice in order to achieve
it. It is worth it?
– Think about your beliefs and values. Is it’ you’?
2) Setting criteria
• Develop criteria that give you what you want but which are
• Identify relevant criteria for a solution in term of:
– Maximum cost
– Value for money
– Total time in hours
– Desired finish date
– Meeting deadlines
– Quality issues
– Design features
– Meeting assignment criteria
– Meeting client criteria
– Health and safety issues
– Legal considerations
3) Identifying priorities
• One common reason for not getting under way with
a many problem or project is that there are too many
things competing for your attention.
• To help set priorities, Neenan and Dryden(2002)
suggest dividing tasks into one of four categories,
called priorities sheet:
– Urgent and important
– Not urgent but important
– Urgent but not important
– Not urgent and not important
1. Red – Category 1: urgent and important
Deadliness, crises, tasks timed for today, task which must
come first in a sequence.
2. Yellow – Category 2: not urgent but important
Category 2 activities enables you to plan ahead. These
should be addressed before they become urgent.
3. Orange – Category 3: urgent but not important
If possible, leave these until category 1 tasks are completed.
Email are a good example of this.
4. Blue – Category 4: not urgent and not important
These are often are good time wasting activities.
4) SMART-F target setting
• Most tasks benefit from clear, achievable goals.
SMART targets make it easier to see what must be
done and then to evaluate the success.
• SMART-F targets build in reasonable flexibility, so
you can plan for unexpected contingencies. SMART-F
1. Specific: ‘I will complete the first section of my essay by this
2. Measurable: ‘I will produce the first three draft pages of my
essay by this evening.’
3. Achievable: ‘This should be achievable because I have
completed the research, organized my notes, and already
produced the outline plan.’
4. Realistic: ‘I should be able to write three pages as I have
written up to ten pages in a day before, and have done the
5. Time-bound: ‘I will finish by 8:30 p.m.’
6. Flexible: ‘I could continue until 10:30 p.m. if necessary. If I find
I have additional research to do for those pages, I can slot that
in tomorrow between 9:00 and 11:00 a.m.’
5) Planning project time
Good time management may require you to use
several time-management tools simultaneously:
– Actions plans: set targets and deadliness for each step.
Action plan are organized according to theme.
– Schedules: organize all tasks and steps in the order they
must be completed. For large projects, there is software
available to organize the work schedule.
– Diaries: organize tasks more closely within a week or day.
6) Getting down to it
• Do you delay beginning an activity because:
You get easily distracted into irrelevant activities?
The time isn’t right?
You need more experience?
You work better at the last moment?
Tomorrow is better?
You worry that the outcome won’t be right?
You think something will go wrong?
Everything else is more important?
• If so, procrastination prevents you from following
through on an action plan.
7) Becoming a good “self-starter”
• Self-starters tend to be:
Have strategies for ‘getting going’
Open to the possibility of success
Good at finding support and asking for help when they
Good at people skills
Aware of their own limitations
• Each time you undertake any assignment, you can
practice techniques that are relevant to being a good
8) Sticking with a task
• One of characteristics of successful people is a
willingness to ‘do what it takes’, even if this means
working very long hours, and developing patience.
• In general, how good are you at sticking with tasks so
that you finish what you start?
9) Completing a task
• The following characteristics are usually needed to
take tasks through to completion on a consistent
– Ability to see or conceptualize the ‘end product’
– Being prepared to practice
– Accepting constructive criticism
– Searching out a point of interest
– Keeping the goal and benefits in mind
– Pride in a job well done
• Problem solving is essentially a way of getting things done,
and therefore can be applied to a very wide range of
• This includes such processes as defining the task, elaborating
the problem, setting priorities, developing an appropriate
strategy, setting SMART-F targets, developing an action plan,
monitoring performance against targets and indicators, and
taking a task to completion.
• A good problem-solving strategy, along with developed
people skills, will enable you to take on such new tasks with
developed skills, will enable you take on such new tasks with