Advanced Khaki II-Problem Solving

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Advanced Khaki is designed to take you beyond policy and procedure and introduce skills needed to be an effective Khaki.

We will talk about Problem Solving in depth and how efficient problem solving can help you be an effective Khaki.  

Problem Solving

Incidents are usually made up of a compound of problems. In addition to knowing how to parse out information, Khaki needs to be able to break down complex incidents into manageable, actionable parts.

You do that by:

  • Dividing difficult problems into sub-problems and attacking them individually
  • Using a combination of creative and rational thinking
  • Tapping the community for assistance (participants, rangers, other core volunteers)
  • Identifying relevant and import ideas
  • Reflecting on one's own beliefs and values*

*NOTE: Remember to control biases, prejudices, and conflicts of interest and keep environmental, legal, and social considerations in mind.

Problem Solving 5-Step Method

Step 1. Identify the Problem

Identifying the problem involves analyzing the situation to determine the extent of the problem.

Problem parameters include:

  • What is happening (and/or not happening).
  • Who is involved.
  • What is at risk.

Sample questions you can ask to define the problem:

    • Is this a new problem?
    • Is the problem clear?
    • What assumptions am I making? (List.) Are they true?
    • What would happen if nothing were done?
    • What info is known relevant to the problem? Is that info accurate?
    • Are there any precedents or rules about other procedures that apply? If so, what precedents or rules apply?
    • What additional facts are needed to analyze the problem? (List.)
    • Is it possible to interpret the facts differently? How would that affect the solution?
    • Do I have to make this decision, or does someone else? If this decision is someone else’s to make, whose is it?

Step 2. Explore Options

The next step in the decision-making process is to explore optional solutions to the problem identified.

This step consists of two parts:

  • Generating options.
  • Evaluating options.

Techniques for Generating Options

    • Brainstorming can be done individually or in a group. Brainstorming allows everyone to “think out loud.”
      • Everyone blurts out as many ideas as possible within a specified time.
      • No evaluation of ideas is allowed so as to encourage the free flow of creativity. These ideas are recorded.
      • When the specified time period ends, then evaluation of the ideas begins.
    • Discussion groups which should consist of those who are directly involved in decision making as well as others.
      • More formal than brainstorming.
      • Ideas and topics are brought up and evaluated or discussed at once.
    • Surveys can economically tap the ideas of a large group.
      • Surveys present respondents with the problem and a series of alternative solutions.
      • Peer or group pressure is mostly avoided.
      • Anonymity can be used for confidential feedback.

NOTE: In generating alternatives, the group members should strive to:

        • Be comprehensive
        • Avoid initial judgments (as in brainstorming)
        • Focus on the problem, not on the personalities of the people involved in the decisionmaking process
        • Be sensitive to the impact of personalities on the process

Criteria for Evaluating Options

After you have generated optional solutions, you must have some means of evaluating them.

    • Identify Constraints-
      • Technical (limited equipment or technology),
      • Political (legal restrictions or ordinances),
      • Economic (cost or capital restrictions) ,
      • Social (restrictions imposed by organized groups with special interests),
      • Human resources (limited ability of relevant people to understand or initiate certain actions),
      • Time (requirements that a solution be found within a prescribed time period, thereby eliminating consideration of long-range solutions)
      • Determine Appropriateness- Does this solution fit the problem?
      • Verify Adequacy- Will this option make enough of a difference to be worth doing?
      • Evaluate Effectiveness- Will this option meet our goals?
      • Evaluate Efficiency- What is the cost/benefit ratio of this option?
      • Determine Side Effects- What are the ramifications of this option?
      • Identify Contingencies-What could go wrong? Identify what could get in the way of solving the problem you are facing.

Step 3. Select an Option

After you have evaluated each option, one should stand out as coming closest to solving the problem with the most advantages and fewest disadvantages.

Step 4. Implement the Solution

Implementation involves planning and taking action. It can be broken down into five subparts:

  • Develop an action plan.
  • State the plan.
  • Implement the plan.

Develop an action plan. Ask yourself:

    • What are the priorities and goals?
    • What specific steps must take place to reach the goal?
    • What is the sequence of steps to meet priorities?
    • What is the timetable for each step?
    • Who is responsible for taking action in each step?
    • Are the specific actions defined?
    • What resources do I need?
    • What can others offer?
    • Does the action plan fit the problem and meet goals?

Communicate the plan. Your plan should include:

    • Who
    • Will do what (and with whom)
    • By when
    • Where
    • How

Implement the plan. Put the solution into action.

Step 5. Evaluate

Evaluation involves two parts:

  • Monitoring progress
  • Comparing the results

Monitoring the success and results of a decision is an ongoing process that is critical to fine tuning a course of action.

To monitor progress. Ask yourself:

    • Are you getting needed feedback to properly monitor results?
    • Has the situation changed?
    • Are more (or fewer) resources required?
    • Is a different solution required?

To Compare the results. Ask yourself:

    • Are the results as expected?
    • Did you achieve your goals?
    • Should the action plan be adjusted to achieve goals?