An Ode to Problem-Solving: Rhyming Decision Making from Class Room to Board Room

If you had an option to write an ode to problem solving how would that sound? Do you find it strange? When your life is full of troubleshooting, an ‘ode’ is the last thing that is on your mind! But for a minute take a bird’s eye view of the situation that you are in now. Take yourself from ‘now ‘ to a point, which is, at least five years ahead of you. Check how you would refer the solutions that you found. Do they sound different to what you find them, ‘now’? The friction that is there in your process suddenly ceases to exist. Now that’s comforting!

Let’s look at the few issues that you might have around you. The first is to stay competitive, ahead of your league. The second might be meeting up those expectations that you set for yourself. This culminates with routine and non-routine issues in your life, right from managing the office politics to productivity. For some of us, excess of association brings in issues, where as others lag far behind in the absence of dissociation. The list that follows such large and small issues is sure to be endless, I am sure. How do you approach each of these areas? Do you consider the management models? Alternatively, you choose to flow with the process, drawing your intelligence from the environment. Just to realize, Lo! Your processes have been a component of multiple theories that you barely knew!

In this entire hoopla of concerns, we ask you to find an ode. As sooner or later, this grind would boil down as a remote experience for you and a frame of reference for others. Few would immolate you, whereas for others your story is iconic! So here’s an attempt to listen to this symphony differently, while the ode is still being written. Whether you are worried about your next EMI or the retrenchment of the workforce you hired. Let’s take one step at a time and see the glory while the sun shines. Why not put a rose-colored glass, at least for a while, when ultimately, it would stand as an anecdote and inspire someone else’s journey. This is not an attempt to escape the reality but to accept it with greater strength.

First Stanza : Classroom

Here’s my story of darkness and light. I too, never realised when I lived in it. Thankfully, an old email that I staggered on while surfing through a sea of emails, humbled me! During my MBA course at XLRI, I had been one of those students who attended a course for Quantitative Techniques, without any mathematical or engineering background.  It was very difficult for me, to understand those concepts. So I requested, Dr. Tamonas Gangopadhya, for guidance. He was the faculty, imparting the course. This is how he steered my learning with mighty steps, which empowered me!

  • Read the material that I have given you all.
  • Be thorough with the sums that I make you all practice in the class.
  • When you get the question paper, read it closely, scrutinize and scratch every line, do a post-mortem of it. The answers are there in the question paper. You just need to find that out.

I applied all these ways and fared well. In fact, these are the tips that I used for Operation Research. This subject was taught by, Prof. T.A.S. Vijayraghavan. The subject was truly beyond me. It required us to resolve regression analysis. One sum would easily sprint for pages. I was snowed with a book full of them! However, I scored very well. Wondering, how did I crack this? Well, I was through with the Operations Research book and practiced every sum solved in the class, repeatedly. Ultimately, during the exams, I knew the answer was there in the question paper, so read it very well. The sums were similar to the ones, shared in the book, in several parts. And the concepts used were similar to the ones solved in the classroom. Had it not been those magic instructions by Dr. Gangopadhya,  I would have never been able to score well in these subjects which were way beyond my capabilities!

Second Stanza: Work Station

Now let’s ponder on how these principles can help you solve your problems. Let us suppose you are struggling to collect data on time to run the payroll. The data reaches you late, robbing you off your time to inspect the sheets thoroughly. Your SLA requires you to upload the data by 28th of the month! Alas, right after you have uploaded, the finance escalates you with the endless list of errors. You tighten your belt and put your shoulder to the wheel. You work more effectively the following month to collect data on time. You even ask the leaders to validate the performance incentives before they mail it to you. Everything goes as per your plan, yet there are errors! How do you solve a situation like this?  Do you spend all your time to find the reasons and team members to blame? Alternatively, you realize this is the ode, hence agree to live it to the glory.

  • You brainstorm and take a long term view.  You revisit the error reports of the last 6-8 months.
  • Identify the problem areas and decide to resolve one thing at a time. Chart your own predictive analysis.
  • Watch the process closely when it is on. Focus on not just running it but detecting the errors from the set pattern. Remember just as the answer lies in the questions asked, so does the solution to each error!
  • For eg:If the errors are high on the attendance report, tally the report every week in place of the month end attendance report Alternatively, if the problem area lies in calculating the car and other benefits, drill down to its reason. Find out how many employees who apply for reimbursement in your ERP do not submit the bill. Create a firm process setting the expectations right. If the reimbursement is claimed the disbursal would depend on the submission of the documents.

Last Stanza : Boardroom

Let’s take another scenario, where you have declared the HR Budget for the HR. You finished setting your Business unit level and team level goals. Just before you were supposed to present it to your team, your business head informs you about a new off-shoring unit to be opened in Malaysia, rolling out most of the business project and its operations there. Now, you are left with the pre-mammoth task of balancing the existing center and ramping up a new center. This includes few hard decisions to roll back the offers made for the current business centre. New compensation plan is drawn parallel to the cutting down of the bonuses for the current centre. Building a brand on a new land meets the stark opposite to the diminishing faith in the current center! How do you pen this ode in such a turbulent time?

Would you consider the same guidelines which Dr. Gangopadhya had shared and implement them or consider Value based modeling for decision making? You begin with identifying what holds the highest value and weigh the stakes. Lets us know how you would resolve this problem. Your stakes would be way higher than it was before, so you agree to acknowledge that but remain unaffected by the pressure. It’s understood that, resolving it is way better than succumbing to the challenge. At this stage tell us how would you strive, seek, find, and not yield to the problem.