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Problems can be located in only two placed – in the work situation and in people. Problems in the work situation can be further subdivided into those located in plant, machinery and equipment, and problems located in procedures, methods and ways of working. Problems with people can be subdivided into those located in individuals and those in groups.


work situation people

plant machinery, procedures, individuals groups

equipment methods, ways of working


Locating the source of a problem is not a simple task because different people see the same problem caused by different reasons. Nevertheless, your first task in a problem-solving meeting is to agree on the source of the problem.

When the source of the problem has been located, a decision has to be made. Decisions are of two types: quality decisions, and acceptance decisions. Quality decisions are those which may be regarded as good decisions and will solve the problem. How­ever, the word "good" is open to argument here. Decisions can only be judged retrospectively. You cannot say "This is a good decision", only, “That was a good decision". For this reason the word "quality", rather than good, is used to describe a decision which, when implemented will be efficient. Acceptance decisions are those which will be accepted by the people involved in the problem.

The majority of decisions tend to fall in the middle, where quality and acceptance are of equal importance. Who takes the decision then? The majority of problems are being solved during meetings. Here are seven sections to guide you in the conduct of such meetings.

1. Understand the language. Problems cannot be solved if the language is not thoroughly understood. And not simply the lan­guage of the country, but the language of the particular subject, trade, industry.

2. Get the facts. The difficulty in getting all the facts is that, often, we do not know how many facts there are. When we meet to solve problems, we are considering symptoms.

3. Locate the cause of the problem. If opinions in the meetings are strongly divided as to the cause, then you must develop possible courses of action for each.

4. State in objective terms. This is stating the problem without subjective opinion, without adjectives that indicate what someone thinks, about the statement. Where possible, the problem should be stated in quantitative rather than qualitative terms.

5. Consider possible solutions. Possible solutions are not pro­bable solutions; they are possible. Makesure that all possible solutions are recorded for consideration.

6. Screen solutions. When a meeting makes a lot of progress, ideas flow, much discussion takes place, and solutions are sometimes tabled more in enthusiasm than in cold, logical deliberation. Screen the possible solutions. Be very careful of solutions that have been transferred from other situations. This is not a good basis for accepting the solution. What happened in another place, in another time, is unlikely to be the same in the current climate.

7.Select decisions. Some solutions are incompatible and therefore mutually exclusive. Some solutions can be combined. Determine the cost of al solutions; establish how practical they are; how many can be combined; the likely outcome of implementing them; the degree of acceptability by those who have to carry them.


3. Define your own problem (your neighbour’s, your friend’s, your relative’s) and try to find the solution to it using your own recommendation (instruction). Refer to additional literature if necessary.


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