Leaders to Leader

Lessons from the Great American Leaders & How They Apply Now

Posts Tagged ‘assumptions

Eight Problem Solving Traps

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groupconflict

The process of problem solving can at first blush appear relatively simple: the difficulty is defined, facts and evidence are collected and analyzed, and a solution agreed to. However, because imperfect people make decisions, the entire process is fraught with traps that can lead to serious errors in judgment.

Problem solving is not to be taken lightly: it is a step-by-step process that when properly sequenced and followed should produce solid results. Unskilled problem solvers will often misinterpret the issues, attempting to solve symptoms rather than root causes, and makes the situation more confusing than it has to be.

It is important for individuals to understand that effective problem solving often consumes more time than most people are willing to invest. Rather than go about it properly, many just want to react and deal with the problem quickly. However, the time invested to thoroughly investigate and solve a problem more often than not produces a more successful solution—and happier employees and customers.

Individuals can easily fall into a number of common problem solving traps. The resulting consequences are often faulty decisions based on poorly framed questions, inadequate analysis and a host of other factors. Rather than solve anything, these traps often complicate the problem, making it more difficult to resolve.

‘Plunging In’

In this case, individuals begin to gather facts, data and information and form conclusions without thoroughly exploring the problem. They are in a reactive mode and desire to quickly dismiss the problem, which leads to faulty decisions based upon unsubstantiated assumptions. Such hastiness can worsen the situation and make the solution more elusive.

Wrong Problem

Individuals set out to resolve the wrong problem because they have established a mental framework for their decision with little or no forethought: they incorrectly frame the problem or use the wrong boundaries and reference points, causing them to overlook the best options or to lose focus on the issue.

Lack of Definition

Individuals fail to consciously define the problem in more than one way. In other instances, their definition is biased or unduly influenced by others.

Problems must be viewed and framed from a variety of perspectives to adequately define and resolve the problem. When definitions are limited, so are the available solutions.

Overconfidence

Individuals are too sure of their assumptions and opinions and they become overconfident, failing to collect key facts, data and information. They trust their intuition and the most readily available information or convenient facts without taking the time to fully investigate the problem.

Lack of Adequate Analysis

Rather than taking a systematic approach to problem solving, many individuals instead believe they can keep the facts straight in their heads. Consequently, they believe they are making intuitive judgments based upon the information available and don’t engage in careful analysis. Here, one often overlooks key evidence that can impact the ultimate solution.

Groups that fail to use good problem solving skills and processes can also fail to make sound decisions, or they fall into a groupthink mode where everyone agrees with one another without using critical thinking skills.

Faulty Interpretation

There are instances when people refuse to properly interpret the results of their analysis because it runs counter to their beliefs or does not fit their own set of assumptions. In other cases, pride gets in the way of arriving at an appropriate decision.

Failure to Keep Track

Many individuals assume they will automatically remember their past experiences. Research has demonstrated that when individuals maintain systematic records that they periodically review, they can distill valuable lessons that could be applied to later situations.

Failure to Have a Formal Process

People who fail to develop a formal problem solving process that they can use fairly and consistently will often repeatedly fall into the problem solving traps detailed in this lesson.

Excerpt: Problem Solving: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011)

Related:

Decision-Making Begins When an Action Needs to Be Taken

Correctly Framing Problems Pinpoints the Right Solution

Leaders Need to Focus on Questions Rather Than Offering Answers

Six Critical Issues To Consider When Solving Problems

For Additional Information the Author Recommends the Following Books:

Developing Critical Thinking Skills: The Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Conflict Resolution: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Series

Intelligent Decision Making: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series

Planning to Maximize Performance: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Seven Components of Critical Thinking

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leaderinchair

Critical thinking is a powerful process if understood and applied effectively. When developing critical thinking skills, it is important to understand more about the activity and process that comprises it. Once understood, fears about actively applying critical thinking skills will likely dissipate. Critical thinking is able to translate the thinking process into clear, persuasive, truthful language, which is carefully and logically crafted. At the same time it is able to convert perceptions and reactions into concepts, ideas, assumptions, suppositions, inferences, hypotheses, questions, beliefs, premises and logical arguments.

There are many misconceptions about critical thinking that tend to hinder individuals from continually working to develop it. Unfortunately many assume the process is too difficult and remain unenlightened as to how the process can help them not only in their work environments, but in their own personal lives as well.

Four roadblocks often create negative feelings about getting more involved in the critical thinking process:

  • It is more of a negative process, since it tends to tear down ideas and inserts nothing in their place. In actuality, it is a positive process that is able to put things in a more realistic perspective.
  • It will lead to the inability to make commitments to people or ideas. In actuality, commitments become informed ones.
  • It seems to involve traumatic change since one is expected to continually abandon old assumptions. In actuality, some beliefs stay the same individuals simply become more informed.
  • It is detached, unemotional and cold. In actuality, it is highly poignant and liberating, since individuals tend to be free of their past assumptions and the anxiety of self-scrutiny.

Critical Thinking Encompasses Specific Elements

Every process or method is made of essential components, and critical thinking is no different. These components provide a structure to the process, which if incorporated, makes persuasive, truthful and supportive verbal communication possible to highly influence others’ points of view and message acceptance. The major components in critical thinking include: perception, assumptions, emotion, language, argument, fallacy, logic, and problem solving.

Perception

Perception is considered to be the manner in which individuals receive, interpret and translate experiences. How individuals perceive things works to define how they think. Perception tends to provide individuals a significant filtering system.

Assumptions

Assumptions are central to critical thinking. They tend to be implied, where individuals are not always conscious of them. Assumptions are not always bad and often rest on the notion that some ideas are obvious. They tend to make individuals comfortable with their present beliefs, shutting out any alternatives.

Emotion

Trying to leave emotion out of almost anything is impossible as it is part of everything people do and think. Emotions are the number one cause of creating and putting into place thinking and operating barriers, which are continually used as a defense mechanism. Critical thinkers do not ignore or deny emotions but learn to accept and manage them.

Language

Thinking can’t be separated from language since both tend to have three primary purposes: to inform, persuade and explain. Language denotes (designates meanings) and connotes (implies or suggests something), and relies heavily on the use of metaphors. Metaphors are powerful language tools, which are able to influence how individuals think and problem solve. These figures of speech give great color and depth to one’s language. Metaphors can be short phrases, stories, or even poetic renditions and is a verbal message that listeners can easily interpret and visualize.

Argument

An argument is a claim, which is used to persuade that something is (or is not) true, or should (or should not) be done. An argument contains three basic elements: an issue, one or more reasons or premises, and one or more conclusions. An argument can be either valid or invalid based on its structure and only premises & conclusions are reached, which are either true or false.

The goal of critical thinking is to implement a sound argument, which has both a valid or proper structure and contains true premises. This is where using logic makes all the difference.

Fallacy

Reasoning that doesn’t meet the criteria for being a sound argument is considered erroneous, or fallacious. A fallacy comes from incorrect patterns of reasoning. However, it does not always mean that the conclusion is false, but it does underscore the fact that the reasoning used to support it is not: valid, based on true premises, or complete and does not include all necessary relevant information.

Logic

Logic incorporates two methods or types of reasoning: deductive and inductive. Deductive reasoning relies on facts, certainty, syllogisms, validity, truth of premises sound arguments and supported conclusions. Inductive reasoning relies on diverse facts, probability, generalizations, hypotheses, analogies and inductive strength.

Problem Solving Through Logic

A logic problem is like any problem. It requires:

  • Understanding the problem. In other words, listen, read & take heed.
  • Identifying all of the “unknowns” as well as the “knowns.”
  • Interpreting relationships between them (visual aids can help).
  • Generating a strategy from steps two and three.
  • Applying the strategy and solving the problem.
  • Repeating the process if it is necessary.

Excerpt: Developing Critical Thinking Skills: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 19.95 USD

Related:

The Six Phases of Critical Thinking

Decision-Making Begins When an Action Needs to Be Taken

Correctly Framing Problems Pinpoints the Right Solution

Leaders Need to Focus on Questions Rather Than Offering Answers

Six Critical Issues To Consider When Solving Problems

For Additional Information the Author Recommends the Following Books:

Conflict Resolution: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Series

Intelligent Decision Making: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series

Planning to Maximize Performance: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

When the Process of Change Spins Out of Control

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headinhands

The process of organizational change is complex. A number of associated factors have the ability to impact the organization’s overall ability to successfully evolve. Improper development, management and monitoring can result in the change process spinning out of control and creating chaos. In the center of this storm, it is the leader who must then wrestle control of events and restore order.

As individuals are making the shift from a management to leadership style, the entire workplace is being buffeted by change. The leader is no longer controlling the employee’s actions, but guiding and directing them through involvement and empowerment. Properly executed, this should be a smooth transition. However, ill-conceived plans implemented by poorly prepared leaders and employees can turn the entire process into chaos.

Most organizational changes do not transpire quickly. Typically, organizations and leaders both evolve together as they transition from one style of management to the other. Leaders grow through the persistent application of leadership ideas and concepts and development of their skills. The process is without an ending point, and continually moves forward over time.

Leaders who find themselves in the midst of a process that has swirled out of control must not be swept away by the tide of events and circumstances. If they are, they will give up the ability to remain detached and view what is happening objectively. This can be challenging because they must regain control while dealing with the daily demands and pressures of the job. Because of this they must understand that they are staring down a complex and often daunting task. For the leader in these circumstances, the first step is to retain or regain emotional control and then proceed dispassionately.

Identify Causes

It is simplistic to think a single cause of a complex problem can be identified. Most problems are caused by ever-widening and overlapping circles of circumstances and events. What appears to be an obvious and clear-cut cause is often only symptomatic of a much deeper problem. When events appear chaotic, the problem can lie in more than one area and each has to be addressed in turn.

Leader’s Role

While real introspection is often painful, a leader has to identify any possible personal contributions to the problem. Chaotic events often occur for reasons directly stemming from the leader. In certain instances the leadership role was thrust upon an individual lacking the aptitude and confidence to fulfill it. Once in the position, they fail to lead and are unable to manage due to the organizational change, and consequently leave a vacuum that is filled by disorder.

In other instances, the leader may be new and inexperienced and is attempting to accomplish overly ambitious goals and objectives. Rather than evolve, they are pushing change too fast or expecting too much of their employees.

Employee’s Role

When the process seems to be collapsing, the employee’s role must also be examined. In certain instances employees did not receive adequate training to fulfill the roles expected of them. In other cases too much is expected of employees too quickly. They are immediately overwhelmed and unable to deal with the circumstances.

A lack of employee involvement and empowerment in the process can cause major setbacks. Their lack of input and feedback did not foster the ownership of ideas and participation. Consequently, they perceived too high a personal risk, which created resistance. Since their involvement is essential, this created a void that was quickly filled with chaos.

The Plan’s Role

Consideration must be given to whether the plan underlying the process itself may be flawed. This can happen for a variety of reasons brought about by both the leader and employee’s participation (or lack thereof) in its development. Motivation, beliefs, resistance and lack of skills and/or experience can give rise to a poorly conceived plan. Typically, such problems associated with either leadership’s or employees’ role in the process will impact the overall plan.

Timing and Timetable

Ill-conceived timing and timetables can wreak havoc. Inexperienced leaders might not be aware of the impact of certain change implementation dates on the organization. Additionally, attempts to accomplish too much too fast can overwhelm the entire organization.

The Organization’s Role

In certain instances, management can undermine their own efforts by micromanaging the process and issuing counterproductive dictates and mandates. In other circumstances, employees might not trust the motives of the company due to past experiences and existing policies.

Lack of management and financial support of the process undermines employees’ ability to accomplish their goals and objectives. Without proper support, leaders’ efforts will be severely hampered.

Question the Premises

Leaders must question the rationale and premise for the process of change. Based on their current experience, they must revisit the assumptions, facts, data and other key factors identified at the beginning of the process. They must determine if the logic and thinking behind the process is still valid in light of their experiences.

Determine Solution

Once the causes have been isolated, leaders are often forced to begin the entire change process again. However, now they have identified the sources of the problem and have learned from the experiences of past failures. With this base of knowledge and expertise, they should be able to streamline the process and eliminate many of the bottlenecks. However, if they have not addressed the causes honestly and objectively, many of the same problems will recur.

Implement Plan

Once control has been regained, implementation of the process should proceed more cautiously, assuring that a solid foundation for change is established and that each step is successfully and competently achieved before moving ahead with the next.

Astute leaders should enlist the assistance of key influencers within their employee pool. These are the natural leaders who have the ability to persuade others and enlist their support. If these individuals are sold on the idea of change and understand that the benefits more than offset the risks associated with change, they will be able to convince others within their ranks of the same—and make the leader’s job much easier.

The leader should also ensure his or her employees have been properly trained in the necessary skills to do the job. Once they have achieved this level, they should be involved and empowered to participate and control the process from within their organizational unit.

Excerpt: Dealing with the Challenges of Leadership: The Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, 2011) $ 16.95 USD

Related:

Managing Change: The Transition From Chaos to Order

Barriers to Integrating Change

Anticipating and Handling Employee Fears of Change

Managers as Facilitators of Change

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Planning as a Means to Generate, Oversee and Measure Results

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manDelegating

Most corporations require leaders to produce an annual plan to project possible future results. Many leaders tend to undertake this assignment with little or no enthusiasm even though it is necessary to forge new paths to generating positive, successful outcomes. Once completed, most annual plans sit on the shelf until the next planning cycle. Many times the rationale is that people are too involved and overwhelmed with daily activities to follow their plan.

Effective leaders tend to view planning as a means to generate, oversee and measure results. Planning gives leaders time to consider how they can improve their own as well as overall workplace performance. It allows leaders to reflect on ways to stretch their employees’ abilities in order to make them a more viable resource for generating and enhancing long-term results. In order to get the best results possible from their leadership efforts, leaders need to prepare for them.

Leaders must recognize that preparing for results does have its challenges, and be aware of them before beginning their next planning cycle.

During planning and budgetary reviews, leaders sometimes develop unreliable projected numbers and assumptions. It is all too easy to develop projections without specific facts to back them up, yet obtaining positive end results relies on sound forecasting.

Many leaders fail to invest the needed effort to review past performance, and this deficiency tends to affect their end outcomes. Some also fall short in taking the necessary time to effectively base future projections and assumptions upon what their organizational units have actually achieved in the past, which distorts expectations.

Obtaining results implies that plans and budgets not be developed in a void. Effective leaders realize that they must build on past successes and determine why and how past failures occurred. They know that to increase results it is essential to plan for strengthening weak and non-performing areas.

Leaders can only accomplish this by thoroughly reviewing past performance in all areas in order to link plans to where the organizational unit currently stands. Performance reviews allow leaders to accurately project their organizational unit’s performance forward in incremental steps. This is the only realistic method of achieving and sustaining growth.

As leaders begin the planning process to increase performance and results, they need to address five specific areas that tend to create the greatest challenges:

Faulty Assumptions

Every plan that is designed to increase results needs to be based upon a series of assumptions. Consisting of future and anticipated variables that impact the actual performance of the plan, assumptions include economic conditions, sales and production forecasts, as well as anticipated major orders.

If assumptions are inaccurate, plans will be worthless and future results will not be realized. For example, if a plan is based upon 10% growth when in reality the economy is causing a 10% decline, everything in the plan is based upon an inaccurate assumption.

When developing their plans, leaders must focus on carefully creating, listing and detailing accurate and realistic assumptions. As conditions change during the year, reviewing assumptions becomes a necessary procedure in order to adjust them to actual conditions. This enables leaders to quickly alter and adapt their plans throughout the year, ensuring the likelihood of obtaining the results they want.

Inaccurate Information

To get results, the development and use of accurate information within the planning process is essential. Accurate information is one of the most important aspects of planning and the most significant step in the plan’s implementation process. Leaders must take the opportunity to examine every aspect of their organizational unit’s past performance. This includes reviewing past plans and budgets against actual performance.

Results-oriented leaders understand what worked in the past and why. They identify areas for improvement, revision, modification or an increased workforce. They then focus on underlying causes that tend to influence or precipitate inadequate employee performance. Leaders who make it a point to conduct exhaustive performance reviews are able to produce accurate information and data, which helps to generate higher levels of results over shorter periods of time.

Once leaders produce a comprehensive review, it becomes much easier to update and maintain their information with a higher degree of accuracy. Leaders use the planning process to audit their information and insure its reliability and accuracy.

Pitfalls to Effective Plan Development

The first major planning pitfall that definitely affects positive end results lies in leaders choosing to create new strategies by simply duplicating previous annual plans with one or two selective changes. Most often changes include simply altering numbers to reflect current conditions. The completed plan is then submitted to senior management. These plans have little value in terms of results-oriented direction or particular action steps to follow.

A second major pitfall is found in writing plans from a “backward perspective.” This is where plans are made according to where leaders want to go, rather than on where they should be going. Strategies are developed without regard to the specific facts, data, timelines and information needed to ensure they are accurate and realistic.

All pertinent information and related data supporting various desired outcomes must be included when generating plans, with all other information that tends to conflict with the desired outcomes omitted.

Both pitfalls are attempts to short-circuit the planning process or avoid it, and greatly reduce the chances of obtaining the results leaders need to generate. When this happens, leaders fail to meet their responsibilities to themselves, employees, associates, senior management and stockholders.

Impossible Plan Timetables, Allotments and Factors

How plans are scheduled can have a major impact on whether or not results are obtained. Many leaders often assume they can achieve more than is realistically possible to attain. They tend to insert and carry over expectations of impossible timelines and deadlines for employees to follow and meet.

Performance plans should stretch each organizational unit and members’ capabilities. Time allotments to move processes and actions along toward achieving goals and objectives must be realistic. Additional time must be factored in for unanticipated events that will inevitably occur during the year.

It is essential for leaders not to under-plan, where employees are not pushed to perform. Equally as important they should not over-plan, where employees are constantly placed under stress to meet deadlines. To get better results, leaders must consider the need to balance their plan’s time requirements, workload criteria and expectations.

Failing to View Performance Plans as Positive Management Tools

Often leaders will produce required plans and forget about them until the next ones are due. It is a serious mistake to view planning as an impediment to their work and daily responsibilities.

Results-oriented leaders appreciate how and why performance plans are powerful management tools. Plans guide and direct their actions throughout the year toward the accomplishment of their goals and objectives, which always move them to securing higher levels of workplace results.

Results-oriented leaders focus on taking their plans and breaking them down into smaller monthly plans, which can be easily monitored and altered. Leaders also make certain to generate smaller step-by-step plans for every individual employee. This process tends to link both time and individual performance toward the accomplishment of common goals and objectives.

Planning is a continuous, ongoing process. Performance plans need to be continually revisited, modified and adapted to reflect actual conditions. Situations change and performance plans should allow leaders to readily anticipate and adapt to fluctuations, speedups and slowdowns, as well as unforeseen occurrences.

Related:

Looking into the Crystal Ball

The Need to Test Opinions Against the Facts

The Mastery of Details is an Integral Part of Leadership

Focusing Your Employees on Future Performance

Excerpt: Becoming a Leader of Your Own Making (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 16.95 USD

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Managing Change: The Transition From Chaos to Order

with 6 comments

manwithproblememployee

The process of organizational change is complex. A number of associated factors have the ability to impact the organization’s overall ability to successfully evolve. Improper development, management and monitoring can result in the change process spinning out of control and creating chaos. In the center of this storm, it is the leader who must then wrestle control of events and restore order.

As individuals are making the shift from a management to leadership style, the entire workplace is being buffeted by change. The leader is no longer controlling the employee’s actions, but guiding and directing them through involvement and empowerment. Properly executed, this should be a smooth transition. However, ill-conceived plans implemented by poorly prepared leaders and employees can turn the entire process into chaos.

Most organizational changes do not transpire quickly. Typically, organizations and leaders both evolve together as they transition from one style of management to the other. Leaders grow through the persistent application of leadership ideas and concepts and development of their skills. The process is without an ending point, and continually moves forward over time.

Leaders who find themselves in the midst of a process that has swirled out of control must not be swept away by the tide of events and circumstances. If they are, they will give up the ability to remain detached and view what is happening objectively.

This can be challenging because they must regain control while dealing with the daily demands and pressures of the job. Because of this they must understand that they are staring down a complex and often daunting task. For the leader in these circumstances, the first step is to retain or regain emotional control and then proceed dispassionately.

Identify Causes

It is simplistic to think a single cause of a complex problem can be identified. Most problems are caused by ever-widening and overlapping circles of circumstances and events. What appears to be an obvious and clear-cut cause is often only symptomatic of a much deeper problem. When events appear chaotic, the problem can lie in more than one area and each has to be addressed in turn.

Leader’s Role

While real introspection is often painful, a leader has to identify any possible personal contributions to the problem. Chaotic events often occur for reasons directly stemming from the leader.

In certain instances the leadership role was thrust upon an individual lacking the aptitude and confidence to fulfill it. Once in the position, they fail to lead and are unable to manage due to the organizational change, and consequently leave a vacuum that is filled by disorder.

In other instances, the leader may be new and inexperienced and is attempting to accomplish overly ambitious goals and objectives. Rather than evolve, they are pushing change too fast or expecting too much of their employees.

Employee’s Role

When the process seems to be collapsing, the employee’s role must also be examined. In certain instances employees did not receive adequate training to fulfill the roles expected of them. In other cases too much is expected of employees too quickly. They are immediately overwhelmed and unable to deal with the circumstances.

A lack of employee involvement and empowerment in the process can cause major setbacks. Their lack of input and feedback did not foster the ownership of ideas and participation. Consequently, they perceived too high a personal risk, which created resistance. Since their involvement is essential, this created a void that was quickly filled with chaos.

The Plan’s Role

Consideration must be given to whether the plan underlying the process itself may be flawed. This can happen for a variety of reasons brought about by both the leader and employee’s participation (or lack thereof) in its development.

Motivation, beliefs, resistance and lack of skills and/or experience can give rise to a poorly conceived plan. Typically, such problems associated with either leadership’s or employees’ role in the process will impact the overall plan.

Timing and Timetable

Ill-conceived timing and timetables can wreak havoc. Inexperienced leaders might not be aware of the impact of certain change implementation dates on the organization. Additionally, attempts to accomplish too much too fast can overwhelm the entire organization.

The Organization’s Role

In certain instances, management can undermine their own efforts by micromanaging the process and issuing counterproductive dictates and mandates. In other circumstances, employees might not trust the motives of the company due to past experiences and existing policies.

Lack of management and financial support of the process undermines employees’ ability to accomplish their goals and objectives. Without proper support, leaders’ efforts will be severely hampered.

Question the Premises

Leaders must question the rationale and premise for the process of change. Based on their current experience, they must revisit the assumptions, facts, data and other key factors identified at the beginning of the process. They must determine if the logic and thinking behind the process is still valid in light of their experiences.

Determine Solution

Once the causes have been isolated, leaders are often forced to begin the entire change process again. However, now they have identified the sources of the problem and have learned from the experiences of past failures.

With this base of knowledge and expertise, they should be able to streamline the process and eliminate many of the bottlenecks. However, if they have not addressed the causes honestly and objectively, many of the same problems will recur.

Implement Plan

Once control has been regained, implementation of the process should proceed more cautiously, assuring that a solid foundation for change is established and that each step is successfully and competently achieved before moving ahead with the next.

Astute leaders should enlist the assistance of key influencers within their employee pool. These are the natural leaders who have the ability to persuade others and enlist their support. If these individuals are sold on the idea of change and understand that the benefits more than offset the risks associated with change, they will be able to convince others within their ranks of the same—and make the leader’s job much easier.

The leader should also ensure his or her employees have been properly trained in the necessary skills to do the job. Once they have achieved this level, they should be involved and empowered to participate and control the process from within their organizational unit.

Related:

Dealing With the Challenges of Change

Do Institutionalized Management Practices Create Formidable Obstacles to Change?

Anticipating and Handling Employee Fears of Change

Excerpt: Dealing with the Challenges of Leadership: The Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011)

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Eight Problem Solving Traps

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The process of problem solving can at first blush appear relatively simple: the difficulty is defined, facts and evidence are collected and analyzed, and a solution agreed to. However, because imperfect people make decisions, the entire process is fraught with traps that can lead to serious errors in judgment.

Problem solving is not to be taken lightly: it is a step-by-step process that when properly sequenced and followed should produce solid results. Unskilled problem solvers will often misinterpret the issues, attempting to solve symptoms rather than root causes, and makes the situation more confusing than it has to be.

It is important for individuals to understand that effective problem solving often consumes more time than most people are willing to invest. Rather than go about it properly, many just want to react and deal with the problem quickly. However, the time invested to thoroughly investigate and solve a problem more often than not produces a more successful solution—and happier employees and customers.

Individuals can easily fall into a number of common problem solving traps. The resulting consequences are often faulty decisions based on poorly framed questions, inadequate analysis and a host of other factors. Rather than solve anything, these traps often complicate the problem, making it more difficult to resolve.

‘Plunging In’

In this case, individuals begin to gather facts, data and information and form conclusions without thoroughly exploring the problem. They are in a reactive mode and desire to quickly dismiss the problem, which leads to faulty decisions based upon unsubstantiated assumptions. Such hastiness can worsen the situation and make the solution more elusive.

Wrong Problem

Individuals set out to resolve the wrong problem because they have established a mental framework for their decision with little or no forethought: they incorrectly frame the problem or use the wrong boundaries and reference points, causing them to overlook the best options or to lose focus on the issue.

Lack of Definition

Individuals fail to consciously define the problem in more than one way. In other instances, their definition is biased or unduly influenced by others.

Problems must be viewed and framed from a variety of perspectives to adequately define and resolve the problem. When definitions are limited, so are the available solutions.

Overconfidence

Individuals are too sure of their assumptions and opinions and they become overconfident, failing to collect key facts, data and information. They trust their intuition and the most readily available information or convenient facts without taking the time to fully investigate the problem.

Lack of Adequate Analysis

Rather than taking a systematic approach to problem solving, many individuals instead believe they can keep the facts straight in their heads. Consequently, they believe they are making intuitive judgments based upon the information available and don’t engage in careful analysis. Here, one often overlooks key evidence that can impact the ultimate solution.

Groups that fail to use good problem solving skills and processes can also fail to make sound decisions, or they fall into a groupthink mode where everyone agrees with one another without using critical thinking skills.

Faulty Interpretation

There are instances when people refuse to properly interpret the results of their analysis because it runs counter to their beliefs or does not fit their own set of assumptions. In other cases, pride gets in the way of arriving at an appropriate decision.

Failure to Keep Track

Many individuals assume they will automatically remember their past experiences. Research has demonstrated that when individuals maintain systematic records that they periodically review, they can distill valuable lessons that could be applied to later situations.

Failure to Have a Formal Process

People who fail to develop a formal problem solving process that they can use fairly and consistently will often repeatedly fall into the problem solving traps detailed in this lesson.

Excerpt: Problem Solving: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, 2011)

If you would like to learn more about problem solving techniques, refer to Problem Solving: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series. This training skill-pack features eight key interrelated concepts, each with their own discussion points and training activity. It is ideal as an informal training tool for coaching or personal development. It can also be used as a handbook and guide for group training discussions. Click here to learn more.

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Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

March 13, 2012 at 9:58 am

Seven Components of Critical Thinking

with 8 comments

Critical thinking is a powerful process if understood and applied effectively. When developing critical thinking skills, it is important to understand more about the activity and process that comprises it. Once understood, fears about actively applying critical thinking skills will likely dissipate. Critical thinking is able to translate the thinking process into clear, persuasive, truthful language, which is carefully and logically crafted. At the same time it is able to convert perceptions and reactions into concepts, ideas, assumptions, suppositions, inferences, hypotheses, questions, beliefs, premises and logical arguments.

There are many misconceptions about critical thinking that tend to hinder individuals from continually working to develop it. Unfortunately many assume the process is too difficult and remain unenlightened as to how the process can help them not only in their work environments, but in their own personal lives as well.

Four roadblocks often create negative feelings about getting more involved in the critical thinking process:

  • It is more of a negative process, since it tends to tear down ideas and inserts nothing in their place. In actuality, it is a positive process that is able to put things in a more realistic perspective.
  • It will lead to the inability to make commitments to people or ideas. In actuality, commitments become informed ones.
  • It seems to involve traumatic change since one is expected to continually abandon old assumptions. In actuality, some beliefs stay the same individuals simply become more informed.
  • It is detached, unemotional and cold. In actuality, it is highly poignant and liberating, since individuals tend to be free of their past assumptions and the anxiety of self-scrutiny.

Critical Thinking Encompasses Specific Elements

Every process or method is made of essential components, and critical thinking is no different. These components provide a structure to the process, which if incorporated, makes persuasive, truthful and supportive verbal communication possible to highly influence others’ points of view and message acceptance. The major components in critical thinking include: perception, assumptions, emotion, language, argument, fallacy, logic, and problem solving.

Perception

Perception is considered to be the manner in which individuals receive, interpret and translate experiences. How individuals perceive things works to define how they think. Perception tends to provide individuals a significant filtering system.

Assumptions

Assumptions are central to critical thinking. They tend to be implied, where individuals are not always conscious of them. Assumptions are not always bad and often rest on the notion that some ideas are obvious. They tend to make individuals comfortable with their present beliefs, shutting out any alternatives.

Emotion

Trying to leave emotion out of almost anything is impossible as it is part of everything people do and think. Emotions are the number one cause of creating and putting into place thinking and operating barriers, which are continually used as a defense mechanism. Critical thinkers do not ignore or deny emotions but learn to accept and manage them.

Language

Thinking can’t be separated from language since both tend to have three primary purposes: to inform, persuade and explain. Language denotes (designates meanings) and connotes (implies or suggests something), and relies heavily on the use of metaphors. Metaphors are powerful language tools, which are able to influence how individuals think and problem solve. These figures of speech give great color and depth to one’s language. Metaphors can be short phrases, stories, or even poetic renditions and is a verbal message that listeners can easily interpret and visualize.

Argument

An argument is a claim, which is used to persuade that something is (or is not) true, or should (or should not) be done. An argument contains three basic elements: an issue, one or more reasons or premises, and one or more conclusions. An argument can be either valid or invalid based on its structure and only premises & conclusions are reached, which are either true or false.

The goal of critical thinking is to implement a sound argument, which has both a valid or proper structure and contains true premises. This is where using logic makes all the difference.

Fallacy

Reasoning that doesn’t meet the criteria for being a sound argument is considered erroneous, or fallacious. A fallacy comes from incorrect patterns of reasoning. However, it does not always mean that the conclusion is false, but it does underscore the fact that the reasoning used to support it is not: valid, based on true premises, or complete and does not include all necessary relevant information.

Logic

Logic incorporates two methods or types of reasoning: deductive and inductive. Deductive reasoning relies on facts, certainty, syllogisms, validity, truth of premises sound arguments and supported conclusions. Inductive reasoning relies on diverse facts, probability, generalizations, hypotheses, analogies and inductive strength.

Problem Solving Through Logic

A logic problem is like any problem. It requires:

  • Understanding the problem. In other words, listen, read & take heed.
  • Identifying all of the “unknowns” as well as the “knowns.”
  • Interpreting relationships between them (visual aids can help).
  • Generating a strategy from steps two and three.
  • Applying the strategy and solving the problem.
  • Repeating the process if it is necessary.

Excerpt: Developing Critical Thinking Skills: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, 2011) $ 19.95 USD

If you would like to learn more about developing effective critical thinking techniques, refer to Developing Critical Thinking Skills: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series. This training skill-pack features eight key interrelated concepts, each with their own discussion points and training activity. It is ideal as an informal training tool for coaching or personal development. It can also be used as a handbook and guide for group training discussions. Click here to learn more.

________________________________________________________________________
Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It
and What You Can Learn From It
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Blog | Catalog| 800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2011 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

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