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IIMB Managerial Communication:

Note on Problem Solving & Case Assignments

A Note on Problem Solving and Case Assignments

As managers you will often face complex problem situations in your work context, which will need to be addressed in a structured as well as pragmatic manner. Problem Solving and Communication are the key determinants in these situations. Although at the beginning of your career you may not be called upon to carry out all of the above steps, you will often be required to analyze and comment on the situation at hand and suggest possible action plans. The skill with which one is able to bring in both analytical as well as communication skills will differentiate an effective manager from an ineffective one. Effective Problem Solving and Communication Approaches The nine steps involved in providing managerial solutions to problem situations are outlined below, along with a brief description of and guidelines for activity involved in each. Typically, these nine steps are clustered into four categories: 1. Problem/Situational Analysis: Step 1: Understand the problem situation based on the information available. Step 2: Define the problem clearly. Step 3:Analyze the problem using various tools. This may involve further data collection as well as developing clear objectives. State the objectives for both the short as well as long term. Step 4: Develop clear criteria for evaluating options available. Examining and comprehending the problem situation in a holistic manner, using multiple tools and methods, broadly termed Problem Diagnosis, is the first step. This phase requires the manager to possess the communication as well as analytical skills to collect, extract and manage data and information from within and outside the organisation. Situational and/or Problem Analysis involves analysis of available data, the use of assumptions, identifying real as well as perceived constraints, generating and evaluating solutions within the given framework. Again, the skill with which such analysis is communicated will determine the acceptability of the recommended solutions or decisions that follow. 2. Decision Making Step 5: Generate alternative options available to address the problem, taking into account the constraints of the situation. Step 6: Evaluate the options based on developed criteria. Step 7: Choose the best option so as to arrive at specific decisions. Communicating recommended solutions and decisions to multiple stakeholders within the organisation is a crucial activity. Also, decisions taken will need to be communicated effectively across a variety of levels within the organization (superiors, peers and subordinates) for information, approval, coordination and implementation respectively. Effective communication implies sharing in such a way that others buyin to the problem as well as the suggested solution. Page 1 of 2

IIMB Managerial Communication:

Note on Problem Solving & Case Assignments

3. Implementation Step 8: Work out a clear plan for implementation. Next we need to implement the decisions arrived at in the preceding phase. This is the Decision Implementation phase. This phase once again requires effective communication of plans, information and other managerial processes in both written as well as oral media. 4. Contingency Planning Step 9: Develop contingency plans as appropriate. Developing back-up or Contingency Plans is the final stage of the process. In this phase, it is necessary to identify possible weak links in the action and implementation plan, and to develop alternative or backup plans that will be put into play if required. It is to be noted that any such contingency plan must be in line with the decision taken in Step 7 above. Again, communication skills are required to prepare and communicate these back-up plans and actions. Guidelines for Case Assignments At each step in the process, examine the available facts, state the assumptions made and re-examine your conclusions based on the case data available, so as to provide adequate rigor to the problem solving exercise. Focus on the problem at hand, and refrain from making sweeping and very generalized statements. While the steps listed previously are critical for arriving at effective and implementable solutions, note that each problem situation is somewhat unique and the relative importance of the individual steps may vary. Thus, in one problem-solving situation, problem definition may be difficult. However, once this is done, the remaining steps may fall into place quickly. In another situation, the problem may be obvious; instead, it may be difficult to arrive at the objectives. In a third situation, while the first few steps may be relatively easy, arriving at implementable alternatives may pose a real challenge. You must focus on all of the above steps while attempting to analyze and resolve the problem situation. The final challenge before managers in all cases is to communicate your assumptions, analysis, conclusions and recommendations to the relevant parties in the most effective and succinct manner. The temptation to use jargon to exhibit ones knowledge may be very strong while communicating. However, indiscriminate use of jargon may befuddle the analysis and thereby the communication process. In real life, there are situations where management jargon may be necessary, especially when communicating with domain specialists. However the majority of situations will involve communicating with generalists or with specialists outside their specific domains of expertise. In such situations the challenge is to communicate effectively in clear and simple terms, without resorting to needless jargon. Apart from these general guidelines, you will receive specific instructions to be followed whilst analysing and writing case assignments during the course.

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