Finding the best solution

Only now should the manager try to determine the best solution. If he has done an adequate job, he will either have several alternatives to choose from each of which would solve the problem or he will have half a dozen or so solutions that all fall short of perfection but differ among themselves as to the area of shortcoming. It is a rare situation indeed in which there is one solution and one alone. In fact, wherever analysis of the problem leads to this comforting conclusion one may reasonably suspect the solution of being nothing but a plausible argument for a preconceived idea.

There are four criteria for picking the best from among the possible solutions:

The risk: The manager has to weigh the risks of each course of action against the expected gains. There is no risk less action or even risk less non-action. But what matters most is neither the expected gain nor the anticipated risk but the ratio between them. Every alternative should therefore contain an appraisal of the odds it carries.

Economy of effort: Which of the possible lines of action will give the greatest results with the least effort will obtain the needed change with the least necessary disturbance of the organization? Far too many managers pick elephant gun to chase sparrows. Too many others use slingshots against forty-ton tanks.

Timing: If the situation has great urgency, the preferable course of action is one that dramatizes the decision and serves notice on the organization that something important is happening. If on the other hand, long, consistent effort is needed, a slow start that gathers momentum may be preferable. In some situations the solutions must be final and must immediately lift the vision of the organization to a new goal. In other what matters most is to get the first step taken. The final goal can be shrouded in obscurity for the time being.

Decisions concerning timing are extremely difficult to systematize. They elude analysis and depend on perception. But there is one guide. However managers must change their vision to accomplish something new, it is best to be ambitious, to present to them the big view, the completed program, the ultimate aim. Whenever they have a change their habits it may be best to take one step at a time, to start slowly and modestly, to do no more at first that is absolutely necessary.

Limitations of resources: The most important resource whose limitations have to be considered, are the human beings who will carry out the decision. No decision can be better than the people who have to carry it out. Their vision, competence, skill and understanding determine what they can and cannot do. A course of action may well require more of these qualities than they possess today and yet be the right program. Then effort must be made and provided for in the decision to raise the ability and standard of the people. Or new people may have to be found who have what it takes. This may sound obvious, but managements every day make decisions develop procedures, or enact policies without asking the question: Do we have means of carrying these things out? And do we have the people?

The wrong decision must never be adopted because and the competence to do what is right are lacking. The decision should always lie between genuine alternatives, that is, between courses of action every one of which will adequately solve the problem. And if the problems can be solved only by demanding more of people than they are capable of giving they must either learn to do more or be replaced by people who can. It is not solving a problem to find a solution that works on paper but fails in practice because the human resources to carry it out are not available or are not in the place where they are needed.