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By ITS Education Asia

[Problem Solving Guide-Home]

When you have more than one possible solution to a problem, each involving a different course of action with different advantages and disadvantages, you need to evaluate these to decide which will be the most effective in achieving your objective. Even when you have only one solution you still need to decide whether it is acceptable and make the decision to implement it. Thus you need to:

  • understand clearly what evaluating the options involves
  • learn appropriate evaluation techniques.

What evaluation involves

Deciding which of your solutions will provide the most acceptable means of achieving your objective is a complex process of decision making. Your ultimate choice is often a compromise between conflicting needs and between the benefits and disadvantages of each solution.

Reasons for bad decisions

The following is a list of the 14 most common reasons for making bad decisions:

  • 1. not having sufficient alternatives from which to choose from
  • 2. not considering all the alternatives
  • 3. lack of time
  • 4. lack of information
  • 5. not being methodical
  • 6. inaccurate forecasting of the effects of specific actions
  • 7. inaccurate forecasting of external influences
  • 8. hazy objectives
  • 9. ignorance of evaluation
  • 10. techniques uncritical
  • 11. acceptance of others' judgments
  • 12. poor work at an earlier stage of problem solving
  • 13. uncritical acceptance of subjective needs and feelings
  • 14. an impulsive response

It is important to remember that a good decision is one based on a methodical evaluation of all the options against the exact requirements of the objective, taking into account any obstacles, the constraints of the situation and the risks involved.

Who should be involved?

There are many situations where a manager can choose a solution and issue instructions for it to be implemented without involving anyone else in the decision-making process. Sometimes you may wish to consult others out of regard for the personally or because it is politic.  At other times it may be essential to involve others, e.g.:

  • when you have a formal obligation to consult others
  • when you require additional information
  • when expert skills are required to evaluate the options
  • when you need the. commitment of others for the solution to be implemented successfully.

Formal obligation

Sometimes you are obliged to consult others because of the nature of the decision, eg when it involves actions beyond your authority.


To be able to evaluate solutions effectively you often need additional information, eg about what would be a. satisfactory solution, what value should be placed on the different results. that your various solutions would achieve, or what resources are available to implement a solution.


Sometimes evaluating solutions will require expert skills in a particular discipline eg predicting the consequences of new tax legislation, the analysis of a particular market, or forecasting the reaction of staff to a new working practice.


When a problem or. its solution involves other people, individually or as a group, it's often necessary to gain their commitment to the solution. This may be essential in certain situations,' such as when it requires them. . to use their initiative and skills to make it work, or when it is common practice (eg decisions affecting union members). You may need the commitment of:

  • those involved with the problem and solution
  • those who have to agree to the solution
  • those who will provide the necessary resources
  • those who have to implement the solution.

One way of gaining commitment is to involve people in the decision making process. Answering the following questions will help you to decide which of the people you have identified in the groups above need to be involved:

  • Why do I need their commitment to the solution?
  • Can I gain their commitment without involving them in decision making? (eg offer them persuasive benefits, use my authority)
  • Do those I need to involve have a common view of the purpose of this decision? (If not, there could be conflicting interests at work and it may be better to look for another way of encouraging their commitment.)

You can involve other people either individually or collectively. When you seek help, advice and opinions on a one-to-one basis you usually retain overall responsibility for making the, decision. In a group you can either retain the option to veto the group's decision or take part as an equal member and agree to accept the collective decision. Group decision making has the advantage that responsibility is shared and individual subjective bias and prejudice is reduced.

Most of us have a natural reluctance to change our mind once we have made a decision, even when we realise that it's not the best decision under the circumstances. When you change your mind it can feel sometimes like admitting to a fault in making the wrong decision in the first place, or that your authority is being undermined. Usually we can think of many reasons for not changing our mind and many 'rational' ways to justify our initial choice. It's much easier to make the right decision first time than to change your mind later.

In general, therefore, decisions should be based on a logical and objective evaluation of all the options, even though the subjective opinions of all those involved need to be considered.

Read the next article: Evaluating the solutions

Dulwich College Singapore

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