Problem Identification Tools

Nominal Group Technique Affinity Diagram Brainstorming Flow Chart

Presented to Dr. Betty Polido in Partial Fulfilment N414 – F

Tallo, Hannah Andrea G. Tanque, Valerie Hope G. July 10, 2012

Table of Contents

Page Title Page

   

2 Introduction: Problem Identification Tools 2 Nominal Group Technique

Affinity Diagram 5 Brainstorming 7

 

Flow Chart
10 Lessons Learned 13 Bibliography 15

To be able to discuss the problem identification tools  To be able to define and enumerate different kinds of problem identification tools  To be able to show and illustrate the different tools through the use of sample diagrams

Problem identification involves clear and precise perception of the problems which exist. The identification and understanding of problem is crucial as it will affect rest of the activities involved in the process. Proper identification of true-cause will lead to the developing the appropriate remedy. You will come up with and implement solutions based on the work in the stage. Understanding the problem in terms of its extent and impact will help plan effectives ways to communicate about the problem and guide planning efforts.  When using these problem identification tools, these helps us recognize and pinpoint priority areas. The extent of this identified problem can be then solved systematically and efficiently and could come up to a more precise and favourable result. These tools gather up the information needed in order to supply the demand of giving out solution to the maze of the problem.

The nominal group technique (NGT) is a decision making method for use among groups of many sizes, who wants to make their decision quickly, as by a vote, but want everyone's opinions taken into account.

NGT uses a highly structured meeting agenda to allow everyone to contribute ideas without the interference of evaluative comments by others. Participants are first asked to work alone and respond in writing with possible solutions to a stated problem. Ideas are then shared in round robin -fashion without any criticism or discussion; all ideas are recorded as they are presented. Ideas are next discussed and clarified in round-robin sequence, with no evaluative comments allowed. Next, members individually and silently follow a written voting procedure that allows for all alternatives to be rated or ranked in priority order. Finally, the last two steps are separated as needed to further clarify the process. (Schermerhon, 2008)

Some facilitators will encourage the sharing and discussion of reasons for the choices made by each group member, thereby identifying common ground, and a plurality of ideas and approaches. This diversity often allows the creation of a hybrid idea (combining parts of two or more ideas), often found to be even better than those ideas being initially considered.

This process is designed to ensure that each group member has equal participation in making group decision. (Certo & Certo, 2006) This involves the following steps:  Step 1: Each group writes down individual ideas on the decision or problem being discussed.  Step 2: Each member presents individual ideas orally. The ideas are usually written on a board for all other members to see and refer to.

Step 3: After all members present their ideas, the entire group discusses these ideas simultaneously. Discussion tends to be unstructured and spontaneous.  Step 4: When discussion is completed, a secret ballot is taken to allow members to support their favorite ideas without fear. The idea receiving the most votes is adopted and implemented.

Fig.1 Nominal Group Technique Diagram sample

 An

affinity diagram is used to reduce a large number of items into a few categories. It is a tool that gathers large amounts of language data (ideas, opinions, issues) and organizes them into groupings based on their natural relationships. (Mclean 2006)

 Affinity

diagrams can be used to:  Draw out common themes from a large amount of information  Discover previously unseen connections between various ideas or information  Brainstorm root causes and solutions to a problem

Affinity diagrams are not the domain of brainstorming alone though. They can be used in any situation where:  The solution is not readily apparent  You want to reach a consensus or decision and have a lot of variables to consider, concepts to discuss, ideas to connect, or opinions to incorporate  There is a large volume of information to sort through

Why should teams use the Affinity process?
The Affinity process is a good way to get people to work on a creative level to address difficult issues. It may be used in situations that are unknown or unexplored by a team, or in circumstances that seem confusing or disorganized, such as when people with diverse experiences form a new team, or when members have incomplete knowledge of the area of analysis.

Creating an Affinity Diagram
Step 1 - Generate ideas Step 2 - Display ideas

Step 3 - Sort ideas into groups
Step 4 - Create header cards Step 5 - Draw finished diagram

Figure 2. Affinity Diagram Sample


Brainstorming works by focusing on a problem, and then deliberately coming up with as many solutions as possible and by pushing the ideas as far as possible. One of the reasons it is so effective is that the brainstormers not only come up with new ideas in a session, but also spark off from associations with other people's ideas by developing and refining them.

Brainstorming is carefully designed to encourage all group members to contribute as many viable decision alternatives as they can think of. During brainstorming, group members are encouraged to state their ideas, no matter how wild they may seem; while an appointed group member records all ideas for discussion.

During brainstorming sessions there should therefore be no criticism of ideas: You are trying to open up possibilities and break down wrong assumptions about the limits of the problem. Judgments and analysis at this stage stunt idea generation. Ideas should only be evaluated at the end of the brainstorming session – this is the time to explore solutions further using conventional approaches. (Certo & Certo 2006)

There are four basic rules in brainstorming (Osborn, 1963)

No criticism: Criticism of ideas are withheld during the brainstorming session as the purpose is on generating varied and unusual ideals and extending or adding to these ideas. Criticism is reserved for the evaluation stage of the the process. This allows the members to feel comfortable with the idea of generating unusual ideas.

Welcome unusual ideas: Unusual ideas are welcomed as it is normally easier to "tame down" than to "tame up" as new ways of thinking and looking at the world may provide better solutions. Quantity Wanted: The greater the number of ideas generated, the greater the chance of producing a radical and effective solution. Combine and improve ideas: Not only are a variety of ideals wanted, but also ways to combine ideas in order to make them better.

Brainstorming Variations

One approach is to seed the session with a word pulled randomly from a dictionary. Use this word as a starting point in the process of generating ideas. When the participants say they "can't think of any more ideas" then give them about 15 more minutes as the best ideas sometimes come towards the end of a longer thought process. Brainstorming can either be carried out by individuals or groups. When done individually, brainstorming tends to produce a wider range of ideas than group brainstorming as individuals are free to explore ideas in their own time without any fear of criticism. On the other hand, groups tend to develop the ideas more effectively due to the wider range of diversity.

Keep all the generated ideas visible. As a flip chart page becomes full, remove it from the pad and tape it to a wall as that it is visible. This "combined recollection" is helpful for creating new ideals.  If the brainstormers have difficulty in coming up with solutions, you may have to restate the problem in a different context, such as using metaphors or linking it to own knowledge.

Figure 3. Brainstorming sample


A flowchart is a type of diagram that represents an algorithm or process, showing the steps as boxes of various kinds, and their order by connecting these with arrows. This diagrammatic representation can give a step-by-step solution to a given problem. Process operations are represented in these boxes, and arrows connecting them represent flow of control. Data flows are not typically represented in a flowchart, in contrast with data flow diagrams; rather, they are implied by the sequencing of operations. Flowcharts are used in analyzing, designing, documenting or managing a process or program in various fields.

Flow charts are easy-to-understand diagrams showing how steps in a process fit together. This makes them useful tools for communicating how processes work, and for clearly documenting how a particular job is done. Furthermore, the act of mapping a process out in flow chart format helps you clarify your understanding of the process, and helps you think about where the process can be improved.

A flow chart can therefore be used to:
Define and analyze processes.  Build a step-by-step picture of the process for analysis, discussion, or communication.  Define, standardize or find areas for improvement in a process

Also, by conveying the information or processes in a step-by-step flow, you can then concentrate more intently on each individual step, without feeling overwhelmed by the bigger picture.

How to Use the Tool:

Most flow charts are made up of three main types of symbol: Elongated circles, which signify the start or end of a process.

Rectangles, which show instructions or actions.

Diamonds, which show decisions that must be made

 Within

each symbol, write down what the symbol represents. This could be the start or finish of the process, the action to be taken, or the decision to be made.  Symbols are connected one to the other by arrows, showing the flow of the process.

 The

example below shows part of a simple flow chart which helps receptionists route incoming phone calls to the correct department in a company:

Figure 4. Flow Chart Sample Diagram


Problem identification is one of the most essential skills in life. Regardless of who you are or what you do, you will face obstacles. How you deal with such challenges will often be a determining factor in how successful you are at life. While problems come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, problem identification will give you some methods to help find solutions. The following methods or tools are Nominal Group Technique, Affinity Diagram, Brainstorming, Flow Chart.

 Based

on our report we defined Nominal group technique (NGT) as a decision making method for use among groups of many sizes, who want to make their decision quickly, as by a vote, but want everyone's opinions taken into account.

Another tool for problem identification is Affinity diagram; this tool is commonly used within project management and allows large numbers of ideas stemming from brainstorming to be sorted into groups, based on their natural relationships, for review and analysis. It is also frequently used in contextual inquiry as a way to organize notes and insights from field interviews. It can also be used for organizing other freeform comments, such as openended survey responses, support call logs, or other qualitative data.Brainstorming is a group or individual creativity technique by which efforts are made to find a conclusion for a specific problem by gathering a list of ideas spontaneously contributed by its member(s).

Last tool is the flowchart which a type of diagram that represents an algorithm or process, showing the steps as boxes of various kinds and their order by connecting these with arrows. This diagrammatic representation can give a step-by-step solution to a given problem.  Problem identification is a mental process which is the concluding part of the larger problem process that includes problem finding and problem shaping where problem is defined as a state of desire for the reaching of a definite goal from a present condition that either is not directly moving toward the goal.

 By

the help of the problem identification tools we can identify and solve our problem easier and quicker. We can exemplify the problems identified and flex our ability in solving and presenting the different problems.

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