Identify and Define the Problem

Team problem

The first step in the problem solving and decision making process is to identify and define the problem.

A problem can be regarded as a difference between the actual situation and the desired situation. This means that in order to identify a problem the team must know where it is meant to be and have a clear understanding of where it currently is in relation to the perceived problem.

In order to clearly define the problem the following steps can be followed:

  • Agree with the team where the team should be

  • Describe and document the problem

Agree with the team where the team should be

The Team Purpose, the Team Performance Plan and the Operational Plan can be used to identify where the team should be. If an organised and structured planning process has been followed then the desired position and performance of the team should be clear. However, when a problem arises it is always worthwhile to involve the team members in identifying and understanding the gap between the actual situation and the desired situation. This helps to ensure that all team members understand that a problem exists and that they are an integral part in rectifying the situation.

Describe and document the problem

In this step it is important to clearly describe and document what you and the team consider the problem to be. This helps to ensure that agreement is reached as to the problem and provides a starting point for resolving the problem. Describing the problem also ensures that any confusion about the problem is identified and resolved.

A useful technique for describing the problem is to ask a number of questions which can help direct the team to actively think about the problem.

Some questions that can be usefully employed are:

  • Why do you think there is a problem?

  • What is happening?

  • When is it happening?

  • Where is it happening?

  • Who do you believe is involved?

  • Why is it happening?

Note: When asking the question Who do you believe is involved? ask the team to state facts and not to apportion blame.

Once you and the team have worked through these questions the answers should be used to document the problem as specifically and accurately as possible.

The description of the problem should be verified by and agreed with the team. This description can then be used as a starting point for the next step in the problem solving and decision making process: gather information relevant to the problem.

Example:

The Star Bank Customer Contact Centre has a problem with its Credit Card team. A number of Call Centre Operators have not been turning up for work on Mondays and this has affected the performance levels of the team.

The Credit Card Team Leader has decided to follow the problem solving and decision making process in order to implement a suitable solution to this problem.

In conjunction with the team the Team Leader has used the Performance Plan and the Operational Plan to highlight where the team should be in terms of attendance and performance.

The team have documented the problem as:

High absenteeism rates of 20.5% on Mondays are affecting the performance levels of the Credit Card team. An absenteeism rate of 5% has been budgeted for in the Operational Plan.




activity

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Indicate how you would identify and define the problem of declining performance with the B&B for Busy Bodies™ team.

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