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A key element of effective decision making is ensuring a problem statement truly reflects the full scope and root cause(s) of a business situation. Anyone can say that there are problems that need to be resolved to improve effectiveness. However, these problems are often merely effects from other causes that may or may not be related to the actual problem.
The use of a fishbone diagram allows decision makers to assess potential causes and effects related to problems in a visual format. In this assignment, you will outline the perceived cause and effect relationships associated with the fishbone diagram. This process allows decision makers to reflect upon, note, and determine key factors that can be the root cause and effects associated with a given problem. The process is essential to eliminating factors that may at first appear to be the cause of a problem. Therefore, the key causes and related effects are focused on.
For the second part of this assignment, you will follow sequential steps to restate the draft of the problem statement you crafted earlier for your workplace problem. This process will enable you to view the problem from different viewpoints, perspectives, and lenses. The process of restatement allows decision makers and problem solvers to have confidence that the true problem and all of its elements have been properly identified, concisely defined, and effectively stated for appropriate action to take place. Now that you have analyzed the causes and effects of your potential decision, problem, or opportunity, you are now ready to finalize your problem statement. Remember to keep your problem statement short and focus on descriptive verbs.
There are two parts to this assignment.
Part 1: Cause and Effect Analysis
- Review the draft of your problem from Week 1.
- Develop a fishbone diagram outlining the related causes and effects of your problem, based on your readings for this week.
Note: The fishbone diagram must be produced in a software program such as Microsoft Word or Excel, not hand-drawn. There are templates readily available online if you search for terms like â€œfishbone diagram templateâ€ or â€œcause-and-effect template.â€ Some free and easy-to-use fishbone templates are available at ISixSigma and at Microsoft Online. The following template is also available from ASQ:
- Write a 1-page explanation of the cause-and-effect analysis technique, describe its role in the problem-solving process, and describe your findings and key points after creating your own fishbone diagram (i.e., make note of the main causes of the problem). Both the diagram and the 1-page explanation must be submitted in the assignment.
- Note: See the multimedia presentation Cause and Effect: Fishbone Diagramming for guidance in your work.
Part 2: Problem Restatement and Definition
- Review the draft of the problem statement you developed in Week 1.
- In about 2-3 pages, address the following:
- Explain the importance of defining and framing a problem correctly.
- Demonstrate the use of the problem statement testing technique or another technique for framing and defining your problem statement.
- Test your problem statement by using the following 5 problem restatement techniques by Jones (1998) and/or techniques described in the Eleven Ways to Restate Problems to Get Better Solutions from this weekâ€™s reading material.
- Paraphrase: Restate the problem using different words. What is really the issue?
- 180 Degrees: Turn the problem completely around. What is the opportunity here?
- Broadening the Focus: Restate the problem in a larger context. How is the problem part of the bigger picture?
- Redirection: Change the overall focus of the problem. What does it look like from another perspective?
- Why Ask Why: Review the original problem, ask why again, and then answer that question. Keep on asking â€œwhyâ€ again as necessary. What’s at the bottom of the problem, underlying everything?
Note: Access and view the multimedia presentation Problem Restatement for guidance in your work.
- Conclusion: End your paper with 2â€“3 paragraphs, including the following items:
- Final problem statement: Restate your problem in a final form and in one sentence. Phrase the problem as a â€œHowâ€¦â€ question (as in â€œHow can we improve quality?â€ or â€œHow can we reduce patient waiting times in the doctorâ€™s office?â€).
- Clarification of changes: Note whether or not the changes in your problem statement are based on the application of the restatement process. If your problem statement did change, justify why and how you changed it.
- Newly discovered problem knowledge: State what you discovered through the problem restatement process that may require further investigation or research.
Organization of the Paper
For submission, organize all of your work into a single document using this outline and the appropriate section headings (indicated below in bold font).
- Introduction: A brief introduction and recap of the problem background.
- Cause and Effect Analysis: Include your written discussion of the cause and effect analysis followed by your fishbone diagram.
- Problem Restatement and Definition: Include an explanation of what this process involves, why it is important in the problem-solving process, and explain the steps you used to write and re-write the problem statement to arrive at the final, well-defined problem statement.
- Final Problem Statement: Phrased as an active â€œhowâ€ question.
- Conclusion: Write concluding remarks to this paper.
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