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Problem Solving

(Building Skills and Developing Core Competencies)

by Craig A. Stevens, his students, and other professionals.


"The longer you wait to decide what you want to do, the more time you're wasting. It's up to you to want something so badly that your passion shows through in your actions. Your actions, not your words, will do the shouting for you." -----Derek Jeter, baseball player (Found by Denise Stevens)


One of the seven attributes of excellent management is “Problem Solving.”  Often people think of problem solving as a collection of tools in a symbolic toolbox that professionals and organizations use to solve work related problems.  However, the attribute of “problem solving,” is more than just the tools used to solve problems.  It is also the skills and core competencies require to make our organization effective. 

Often problem solving is referred to as a team effort requiring a team approach.  Problem solving is more effective with a team approach.  However, no matter how much time you spend on team building and organizational cohesiveness, excellent management is not possible without excellence in problem solving.  A cohesive team without the skills required to do the work is useless.   

If we could view an organization’s problem or barrier as a large weight that has to move, then a set problem solving tools could be symbolized as a lever and fulcrum used to move the weight.

A lever and fulcrum is one of the oldest and simplest tools and consist of four actors.  First, the lever is a long piece of material, maybe wood, that is strong enough to lift the weight we are trying to move.  Second, the fulcrum is the solid object, possibly a stone, that we place under the lever.  It allows us to apply a force to a specific spot on the third part of the equation, the weight.  What is left is a force that we apply to the lever that is balancing on the fulcrum and against the weight that we are trying to move. 

The lever and fulcrum represents a problem-solving tool.  The lever itself is only as strong as the choice of tools being applied.  The closer the fulcrum is to the weight, the more leverage one has in moving the weight.  The fulcrum gets closer as the teams’ skills in using the tool increases.

The force applied to the lever is a function of the teamwork and communication.  To have optimal effect (or leverage) on the organizational problem, the force should be applied as far away from the problem as possible.  This distance is a factor of when the team is empowered to solve the problem.  In many instances, someone has seen a problem coming for years.  However, fear, politics, or some other cultural issue keeps us from trying to solve it until it is too late to be effective.  Then, we apply our force at the point where the tool will not properly work.

So we have several things we can do.  First, fill our team’s toolbox with the best and most useful tools by education and training.  No one tool does all things.  Second, communicate with those doing the work so we can see the problems as early as possible.  Then empower our team to apply the force as early as possible to give our organizations a much leverage as possible.


Here is a model we developed to explain the necessary parts of Organizational Problem Solving. 


Performance Using Crystal:  Here is an example of mastering a tool.  Even the least unlikely tool can have amazing results in the hands of a master. The_most_amazing_performance_



Many leadership models exist in today’s work environment that deal with several aspects of a company.  However, fewer models exist that address the issue of problem solving within an organization.  Craig Stevens offers an outstanding demonstration of a model called the Mobile of Excellent Management in his book titled, Geronimo Stone: His Music, His Love, and the Mobile of Excellent Management.  In his book, Stevens applies the use of this mobile to what could easily be a real life scenario.  The book tells the story of a man, Tommy, who suddenly finds himself at the helm of a multi-million dollar recording company after his uncle, Geronimo Stone, passes away.  Tommy faces many challenges that he must overcome in order to operate the company both efficiently and effectively.  Geronimo leaves behind recordings, clues, and symbols to help guide Tommy on his mission.  More specifically, Geronimo leaves behind information that deals with all aspects of the Mobile of Excellent Management placing a great deal of emphasis on problem solving.


One should think of the problem-solving attribute as one of four attributes that help in balancing the Mobile of Excellent Management.  The other three attributes are team building, continuous improvement, and performance measures.  These four subsections, which make up the customer focus attribute, evolve in relation to the organization’s culture, which receives influence from the leadership of the organization.  Without all of the attributes in the Mobile of Excellent Management in balance, companies could face total chaos in extreme situations.


Mr. Stevens included various examples of Christian values throughout his book. One of the most outstanding examples seems to be when Geronimo offers advice dealing with solving problems. Geronimo stressed that in order to solve problems effectively; one must do what is right. That means solving problems ethically and with honor. Geronimo offered this advice from both a narrow and a broad perspective. He urged that one must do right not only for the short-term benefit but also for the team, the organization, the company, and the entire country. Although everyone makes mistakes, that company’s culture should encourage employees to play by the rules and do what is right in regards to their mishaps. Geronimo continued by saying that stretching the truth or breaking the rules may lead to bad outcomes. He stated, “Those who lie for you will also lie to you.” Individuals without sound Christian values may become the company’s worst enemies through bad habits such as lying and breaking the rules.


Eric Dunford (TNU 2006)


Craig A. Stevens and Michael Moore, Geronimo Stone: His Music, His Love, and the Mobile of Excellent Management Coral Springs: Lumina Press, 2006.


Problem Solving PowerPoint Show

Go to the tabs on the side to find the tools.  The Pareto Chart is under the "Selection" Tab.

Control Charts

WBS Flow Charts

Force Field Analysis

Root Cause Analysis

Selection Tools

Project Management

Statistical Tools 

(CVM) Configuration Value Management

"Genba Kanri"  is Japanese for "shop floor management or "Workshop Management."  

Process Analysis Links

  1., (found by Josiah Wedgewood, UoP 2005)

  2., (found by Josiah Wedgewood, UoP 2005)

  3., (found by Josiah Wedgewood, UoP 2005)

  4., (found by Josiah Wedgewood, UoP 2005)

  5. Check Sheet (Conduct of Rounds) This websites define the purpose of check sheets and gives examples., and, (Found by Tara W. Mullins, UoP 2005).



By Mark D. Raymond and support from Craig Stevens


Building Core Competencies requires a commitment from both the individual and the organization.  Every person has a daily routine. For the person who works outside the home, the routine may include: preparing clothing, commuting to and from work, performing their jobs (which may require work outside of their normal hours), running errands, preparing meals, cleaning and maintaining there home, taking care of children and other family members, and other activities. Therefore, when considering continuing one’s education, it is a major commitment. The first thing to go is free evenings, this for somebody who has already put in a full workday and whose schedule is already tight. It means mastering time management. Time management, is the concept borne out of necessity, which tells us to identify our needs, focus on those needs, and prioritize them. The goal is to get the most use out of our day.

The average American is working more hours and spending less time on leisure activities than any other group in history. This means fewer vacations, less time with family, and less time on personal health, and property maintenance. Whatever happened to the promise that with the distribution of the computer, comes more leisure time? Futurists forecasted that with an automated workplace, comes a life that would be easier. Whatever happened to the promise that the forty-hour workweek would no longer be necessary?
According to Hersey, Blanchard, and Johnson, “We can no longer count on a stable world that is unchanging and unwavering and manage accordingly” (Hersey, Blanchard, and Johnson 3). Just commuting to and from work may eat up most of our spare time.

It is a common adage that the only certainty in life is the certainty of change. Because of this “the pace of change makes existing knowledge, skill and experience obsolete” (Hersey, Blanchard, and Johnson 5). To stay relevant, Americans have to learn continually just to stay even, more is required to get ahead. This may require going back to or beginning college, even during our later years. According to the American Council on Education, “If you are like 40% of the nation’s 16 million college and university students, you are 25 years of age or older and juggle multiple responsibilities.” The colleges look different today because of the rapidly changing societal and workplace requirements.

The demands of family life steal precious time from the student as well. But then, do we live to work or work to live? One should probably say that the demands steal precious time from our family. The family is eternal and work is temporal. Juggling these issues is difficult. The average age of the part-time student is such that they are coming home from work only to look children in the eye. Then they begin the daily routine of cooking meals, washing laundry, ironing clothes and getting the young ones ready for bed. All before sitting down to do their homework or head off to evening classes.

The family demands on time do not stop there. Children’s activities such as sports, dance or other gatherings, combined with doctor and dentist visits rob us of even more time. Valuable study time is lost; “effective performance is the result of predictable, planned actions” (Hersey, Blanchard, and Johnson 1). In today’s ever-increasing competitive work atmosphere the worker is, by necessity, responsible for staying abreast of his or her profession, “individuals must become more self-sufficient” (Hersey, Blanchard, and Johnson 5). Whether it is by on the job training (OTJ), professional readings, technical schools or college, the worker can only stay competitive if he or she puts themselves in a position of seeking more and higher education. Frederick Herzberg, stated that there are certain factors such as pay and benefits, which compelled works to attempt to succeed, even if it meant sacrifice in other areas. Therefore, with all the additional demands on time, prioritizing one’s life takes on additional importance. There is no getting around work, chores, family obligations and the like. All scream for equal attention; not all will get it.

With these stressors, it is not hard to identify with the lack luster performance or attitudes of some students. Students forget that homework is part of the curriculum they signed up for in an effort to get ahead. Yet, there are others who take the requirements in stride and persevere while juggling professional and academic demands. These are people who are in the self-actualization phase of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, (Hersey, Blanchard, and Johnson 37), and who are seeking to dig their heels in even deeper to be as Maslow expresses “what a man can be, he must be” (Hersey, Blanchard, and Johnson 38). According to the text, "to build effectively, you need a variety of tools and the knowledge of how to use them,” (Hersey, Blanchard, and Johnson 17).

Therefore, in an effort to overcome all obstacles to obtain a degree, the full-time employee, part-time student needs to manage their time. Time management is their only hope.

Here are a couple of helpful hints: carpool so all riders, including the driver can engage in class discussion; use, with the professor’s permission, tape recording devices; arrange if possible, to do laundry (washing, drying and ironing) in groups so while one irons, others read or discuss material. Make a chart of your day, break it down into categories, and then identify blocks where you can study and prepare.

Success depends as much on planning your time, as it does on the curriculum you study. For the full time employee-part time student, it is a matter of time management.


  1. Hersey, Paul, Kenneth H. Blanchard, and Dewey E. Johnson. Management of Organizational Behavior: Leading Human Resources. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 2001.

  2. “Information for: Adult Learners.” American Council on Education. 6 Sept. 2006. <

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