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Time Management Training - Problem Solving

Time management training - problem solving

Time management training - problem solving

There are two ways to waste huge amounts of time and money:

  1. Avoid making a decision = Dithering
  2. Make a poor decision = Do the wrong thing

Example of a poor a decision: Should the Challenger space shuttle launch?

Yes or no?
At 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday, January 28th, 1986 in Florida, NASA officials were busy deciding whether it was safe enough to launch the challenger space shuttle that day.

It had been extremely cold the night before, causing icicles to form under the launch pad.
If the shuttle didn't launch by February 1st, some of the science experiments and business arrangements regarding the satellite would be jeopardized.

Plus, millions of people, especially students across the U.S., were waiting and watching for this particular mission to launch: A school teacher, Christa McAuliffe was on board Challenger. She was the first civilian, passenger, non-scientist to be placed on a mission: as a way of promoting N.A.S.A.'s space programme to the American tax paying public.

So everyone was waiting to see history being made ..............

A little after 11:00 a.m. on that cold morning, NASA controllers told the crew that launch was a "go".
At 11:38 a.m., the Space Shuttle Challenger powered its way off the launch-pad and thundered skywards.
73 seconds after lift-off, Mission Control heard Pilot Mike Smith say, "Uh oh!"

Then the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded.
All seven crew were lost.

Poor decisions lead to doing the wrong things.

When people come to you with their problems, as a good manager and leader, you need to be able to help them.

When YOU are faced with your own problems, then you must solve them.

  • Quickly
  • Efficiently

But how?


Think on paper.

Every day, we all make numerous, slight errors and omissions.
We make mistakes; we come to false conclusions, wrong answers.
If we get the wrong answer too often, then we fail.

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Time Management Training

Most people feel they need help with time management. How can you get more done in the same amount of time? How can you stop other people wasting your time? If you want to know how, then click here to find out more about our time management training course.

How can we increase the chances of arriving at the right answer?

Answer: think on paper!

Why should you think on paper?

We should think on paper more often because "standard- normal thought processes" and "standard-normal conversational technique" is too inefficient for a work context.
Normal conversation suffers from the following deficiencies:

Normal conversations:

  1. Often go on for too long.
  2. Often drift off topic.
  3. Get hung up on minor issues.
  4. May be too easily dominated by the strong personality (who happens to be wrong).
  5. May not hear the contributions from the more introverted person who happens to be right.
  6. Are remembered differently by each person who attended.
  7. Can be entirely forgotten by some people who, when at the meeting, were feeling distracted or too tired.
  8. Many key terms are not defined clearly and therefore people talk at cross purposes.
  9. Sometimes, certain personalities fight for political or social dominance at the expense of the quality of the deliberations.

Therefore, normal conversation technique is too inefficient for your business context.

What is the answer?

Think on paper!

Why think on paper?

By thinking on paper you will discover that it solves the above listed problems:

  1. Thinking on paper focuses the conversation onto the topic in hand.
  2. It identifies the major issues from the minor issues.
  3. It may help to prevent "railroading" by certain personalities.
  4. It may help to draw out the contributions from the introverted person who happens to be right.
  5. The written records can aid the accurate SHARED memory of each person who attended.
  6. The visual nature of thinking on paper helps those who are feeling distracted or too tired.
  7. It encourages the key terms to be more clearly defined and therefore people are less likely to talk at cross purposes.
  8. Having the visual impact of something written down seems to concentrate the mind on the work issue, rather than fighting for political or social dominance.
  9. Therefore Thinking on paper technique is more efficient and more suitable for a business context.

How should we think on paper?

Here are the steps

Step one

Listen to their story and take careful written notes.
Gather all the relevant "facts of the case".
As Sherlock Holmes says to Dr Watson.
"Never guess.

It is a shocking habit - destructive to the logical faculty.
It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data.

Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts."

Step two

Categorise the problem into one of two classes of "problem set".

Is the problem:

  1. A problem of Analysis? or
  2. A problem of Decision?

1. A problem of Analysis

A problem of analysis is a problem that requires that you discover:

  1. The causes of the problem
  2. The solutions that will correct the problem

2. A problem of decision

Problem of decision is one where the person with the problem must make a decision and he- she does not know what option to take.

He-she is vacillating and wavering between options and is thus in a state of confusion.

Part one: How to tackle "A problem of Analysis"

Take your writing pad and pull out three pages; place them on the table in front of you.
On the first page (the one on your left) write out the problem. Name it.
On the second page (the middle one) label it "Causes to the problem".
On the third page (the right hand page) label it "Possible solutions to the causes"

On page one; write the problem: example:

  1. Insufficient sales being made; or
  2. Poor office atmosphere; or
  3. John is always late for work

On page two (middle) list all the possible causes

Possible Causes Ref. "Poor office atmosphere"

  1. Poor communication of goals and targets
  2. Poor leadership skills of the team leaders
  3. Too much gossiping and back biting
  4. Too stuffy; no air flow.

On page three; the solutions page

For each cause listed on page 2 create at least two possible solutions to act as a countermeasure.
Ref Poor communication of goals and targets

  1. We could post the sales targets and mission statement on the wall in office kitchen.
  2. We could have one to one meetings between team leaders and each team-member at least once per month, to agree individual goals.

Ref Poor leadership skills of the team leaders

  1. We could send team leaders on corporate coach two day programme
  2. We could ask to team leaders to start a self-study programme on leadership

When you have at least two solutions for each

When you have at least two solutions to all the causes, then you will have a list of, at least, six possible solutions for the original problem listed on page one.

Pick the best two solutions

The best two are defined as:

  1. Immediately practicable.
  2. Cost effective
  3. Likely to work

Implement the solutions

And keep the notes, as a written record.

Part two; How to handle "A problem of decision"

Develop your capacity for making a decision.

Decision making is the ability to accurately select one option from many options.
(Then have the courage to act on that decision).

All good leader managers need to be able to make a decision and to act on it once it is made.

There are three common kinds of decision:

  1. In what order of importance or value?
  2. Yes or no?
  3. Which one / What kind?

1. In what order of importance or value?

Here is the Decision matrix method in brief.

  1. Make a list, in any order, of all the items which you must prioritise.
  2. Put your finger on the top one (option 1) and compare it to the second one on the list
    Evaluate the pair by asking: "Which of these two is the most valuable: this or this one?"
  3. Place tick next to the preferred option.
  4. Then, keeping your finger on the top one, compare it to the third one on the list.
    Evaluate the pair by asking: "Which one of these two options is the most valuable: this or this one?"
  5. In the same, way compare every option against the first option.
  6. Then, put your finger on the second option and compare it to the third on the list.
  7. Evaluate the pair by asking: "Which one of these two is the most valuable: this or this one?"
    In that way, methodically, once and once only, compare the second option to every other option below it on the list.
  8. Then put your finger on the third option and compare it to the fourth on the list.
  9. Continue on, in the same way, once and once only, comparing every option against every other option, below it on the list.
  10. Place ticks next to the preferred options.
  11. When you have finish, count the total number of ticks, gained by each option.

Rank the options according to which ones earn the most ticks and thus, the decision is made.

2. How to make Yes or no? Decision

  1. State the decision in the form of a "yes or no" question.
  2. List all the reasons for a "yes" decision.

3. List all the reasons for a "no" decision.

4. Keep asking "What else? What else?" until you have emptied your brain out onto the paper.

5. Go back to the all the reasons given for a "yes" and allocate a score (out of 100) to each reason judging its "weightiness" as a measure of that reasons validity and strength.
i. A strong reason for saying "yes" scores higher (say, 98/100)
ii. A weak reason scores lower (say, 12/100)

6. Go back to the reasons given for a "No" decision and allocate a score, out of 100, to each reason judging its "weightiness" as a measure of the reasons validity and strength.

  • A strong reason for saying "no" scores high (96)
  • A weak reason scores low (10)

7. Add up the total scores and thus; the decision is made.


Note that it is not merely the number of reasons that matters.
It is the "combined weight" of the reasons that matters.
I.e. six yes's may out-weigh eight "No's

Do you understand why that is true?


How to make a "which one what kind?" decision

In order to find out how to make a "which one / what kind?" decision you will need to attend our advanced leadership course!
(The method too complex to explain in a blog like this, you need to be shown the method then have a go yourself).

Decision matrix

Make better decisions based upon a logical analysis of the subjective criteria and an accurate observation of the facts.
The ability to make good decisions will make you more effective.

A bad decision has the potential to ruin your chances.

For your own sake, develop your skills at using decision matrices.
Then, when you are more proficient, use decision matrices to help others sort out their thinking.
Remember that, often, complex decisions have to be mapped-out first, on paper, and only then, can they be resolved down to a sequence of the various decision matrices.

Remember the wise maxim:
"A problem shared, is a problem.........
Intelligently analysed and practical solutions identified."

For more information about time management training visit the Corporate Coach Group website

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