Tools to manage tasks

by iwolm
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Tricks, advice, models and instruments to run activities aimed at solving problems and achieving the expected results.
The scientific approach used to run activities, in particular those pertaining to problem solving, is based on 7 points:

  1. identification and definition of the problem/subject
  2. data and information collection
  3. Formulation of the hypotheses for the possible causes
  4. identification of the most probable causes among the identified ones.
  5. search of the most effective solution and action
  6. realization of a plan of action
  7. control of the achieved results.
    1. Identification of the problem/subject
      The first working step: problem identification consists in describing the problem and the general target clearly and thoroughly. One of the most widely simple instruments is Brainstorming and flow chart.
      The problem or the subject must be described as thoroughly as possible, avoiding vague and superficial descriptions, instead analyzing the main aspects and looking for the correct and complete definitions.
      By “problem” it is meant implicitly its effect.
      It is necessary to pay attention not to mistake the origin or the cause of the problem for its effect.
    2. Gathering of information
      The gathering of information and facts connected to the problem/subject helps to:

      • Prove the existence of the problem
      • Put the problem into the right context
      • Identify the causes of the problem
      • Estimate the effectiveness of the suggested corrective actions

It is very important to pay attention to the following points:

      • At an individual level:
        • Not to leave out bothering facts
        • Not to disperse by looking for impossible information
      • At a team level:
        • Collect all the useful information
        • Discuss information
        • Verify that the information is factual

It is important to avoid mistaking opinions for facts.
Facts help us to measure the importance of a problem. For this reason facts must be expressed by quantitative data as much as possible.
For this reason their reliability and truthfulness must be verified with care and punctuality.

  1. Formulate hypotheses of possible causes
    This operation is closely linked to the next and it consists in formulate the most plausible hypotheses for the causes
  2. Search and identification of the most probable causes
    The second working step: the causes analysis consists in developing a complete picture of all the possible causes of the problem, finding an agreement on the main causes that really lie at the basis of the problem.
    Among the most widely used instruments there are Brainstorming, Cause and effect Diagram and correlation diagram.
    There are no easy ways to solve complex problems, nevertheless, the following simple tricks can be of valuable help:
  • Split the problem into sub problems
  • Apply to easy patterns to show reports and the relevant solutions
  • Always use written documents.
  • Search for the solution
    Every decision implies two options at least.
    To each option it is associated an expected value together with uncertainty on the expected results.
    Decision-making process presupposes having to choose among different alternatives, trying to avoid running into the mistake that consists in preferring one’s subjective judgment.
    It is very useful to take into consideration the following advice:

    • Do not give too much importance to previous experiences
    • Create many ideas impulsively (Brainstorming technique)
    • Do not criticize options at once and refrain from the temptation to decide at once.
    • Always write down one’s ideas

    Brainstorming technique is based on the following principles:

    • Never judge ideas
    • Do not control oneself
    • The more, the better
    • Development of interrelations

    Once gathered and listed the possible solutions, the most important and resolving ones must be identified that is to say those few that imply the solution of the greatest part of the problem – 20 that equals 80 –
    One of the most widely used instruments is Pareto Diagram.
    There are some obstacles to decision, among the most important ones there is time
    It is fundamental to learn to verify the way time is used. Time is a resource that cannot be managed, it can only be used.
    Useful advice for a good use of time:

    • Make a working plan of the day
    • Identify “time-lifters
    • Delegate people

    In order to be a decision-maker it is important to avoid the following attitudes:

    • Minimize the negative consequences
    • Disregard other people’s opinion
    • Minimize personal responsibility

    RULE: in order to become a good decision-maker it is necessary to be willing to learn

  • Plan of action
    The plan of action consists in defining “who does what before what deadline”. It is based on the simple rule of splitting the activities into sub activities indicating date of execution and people responsible for them.
    One of the most widely used instrument is Gantt Diagram
  • Control of the result
    The control of the results consists in checking that the activities are achieving the expected results.
    It is advisable not to start too many actions at once otherwise it may be impossible to correlate the action with its effect and, consequently, understand what is allowing to reach the result.
    Lastly, results must be compared with the targets fixed at the beginning in order to decide whether the problem is to be considered solved or it is necessary to undertake other actions, according to PDCA or Deming Wheel.

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