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Ghoatherd

Operational Excellence / Continuous Improvement practitioners are familiar with a step process for problem solving. Whether the Six Sigma "DMAIC" or the classic "PDCA", or other variant, these methods can work well in the proper situation to achieve a satisfactory solution to a problem - that is, if the problem may take a while to solve. What if you need to select a course of action in a few hours, or a couple of days? Often, there is an option to put in a quick win. How do you decide which win to go with? What if a quick win is all you need at this point? These approaches seem geared to a longer period of time than "quick" describes, and often the way to get to "quick" is not described at all.


Well, it appears some more guidance is needed. And since the decision needs to be made on a short time scale, it should be something memorable. In any case, sometimes you want to solve problems that don't have an official angle. Sometimes, you just need a way to decide how to address a personnel problem in your department, or decide which job to take next in your career. Heck, how do you even decide what car to buy? You could use DMAIC, PDCA, or 7 or 8 step approaches. They all seem a bit to involved an approach for a personal or quick decision... or they are missing some important considerations. More on that later. Often you are in the midst of office politics and need to feel your way through something. How do you navigate those rough waters?


A while back there had been a lot of talk about Swimming With the Sharks. The point was to not get eaten, while being able to succeed - and it doesn't really carry a methodology that applies to many situations. Another popular metaphor in use was "it's like herding cats", which when combined with the above seems to add more of the typical office perspective. Not everyone you have to deal with is a shark. In fact, they are often as stubborn as goats. Hold that thought...



In 2005 Kathleen Reardon, PhD released a great introduction to the office politics aspect of solving problems, called "It's All Politics". In that book, she outlined a method to make decisions. That, in itself, is nothing new. However her approach added a nuance that many problem solving methods don't explicitly call out, and if addressed at all is not addressed in an informal, on the fly way. That nuance, which I myself have had to relearn the hard way time and time again (I'm kind of a goat myself), is to Get Some Advice. Not only that, if you have watched the TV show Seinfeld, you may remember that George found out that Timing is Everything. Timing, and advice, are not as far as I know found explicitly called out in problem-solving methodologies.

In fact, of even a few personal problem solving methods a cursory search bears out for me, none explicitly call out Advice and Timing. Dr. Reardon's method does. I've just taken the liberty of creating an acronym for it to remember the steps: GHOATHeRD, and added some additional tools. The steps are Dr. Reardon's. They are:


  1. Goals

  2. Hi-lite

  3. Options

  4. Analysis

  5. Timing

  6. HEar-out

  7. Revision

  8. Decision



If this process seems perfectly cromulent to you, I have a workbook available that incorporates the process. Access it here.

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