Managing in Ambiguity and Change

Published: 2019-01-21 10:08:27
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How Oversimplification of an Issue is a Cost to a Business Practice

Problems in an organizational setting are inevitable. However, a response applied to a problem is a definite feature that predicts the course a business may take in the future. When a managerial body takes on an issue by prematurely simplifying it when it should have been categorized as a complex problem, it is more than likely that the problem will recur. Furthermore, it may result in other negative consequences due to the unresolved components of the issue. The focus of this paper is to detail how oversimplification of an issue is a cost to a business practice, tools that can be applied to prevent one from treating a complex problem as a simple issue and how the development of the tools can be implemented.

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Over simplification of a problem in business, setting occurs when management chooses to focus on few aspects of a problem leaving out other components of the problem. The act of leaving out other parts of the problem occurs with the view that they will solve themselves, disappear or assimilate and integrate themselves into the solutions provided to the few aspects addressed. Cairo, Dotlich, and Rhinesmith (2009) imply that solving problems at face value often results in amplified problems in the future since the longer a problem remains unsolved it continues to grow outside the organizational capability. Oversimplifying of a problem is common among head-only types of leaders and certain or decisive leaders. Cairo, Dotlich, and Rhinesmith (2009) define head-only leaders as those who see that their responsibilities are creating order out of chaos and do so without examining all aspects of the issue while decisive leaders are those who specialize in finding quick fixes for uncertain and ambiguous situations. Their actions leave them paralysed to their desire to respond to every issue. However, what they need to learn is the act of balancing multiple paradoxes that exist in every issue.

An example of a complex problem in an organization setting is conflict among employees. The issue is complicated because it has multiple causes. If the type of conflict is not resolved in an amicable way, it may escalate to levels that will negatively affect an organization. An example of a way in which a problem can be oversimplified in an organization is the use of the proverbial right way of looking at things when seeking to solve conflicts among employees. Using the clichULj of a right and way of looking at an issue is more than often counterproductive. The reason for taking the position is that the problem-solving technique only takes into account the face value of a problem and not an in-depth observation of the problem. It will not address individual employee perspectives on the origin of the conflict but would rather find ways considered as appropriate to apply a quick fix to the problem. An example of an oversimplified mitigating response to the question is one that required the two conflicting employees to observe work ethics, solve their personal issues out of the work environment or propose a penalty to the parties if the conflict persists.

The problem at hand is complicated since the problem between the employees may not be because of personal differences or personality differences, as management may perceive. The source of the conflict may originate from a manifold of sources and not a mere individual difference as the administration of the organization may assume. Some of the causes of conflict between the employees may be opposing interest regarding their interests in the business, differing values, culture, and unwillingness to compromise for another employee and poor communication especially in conveying organizational information. Other sources of conflict among employees may include multigenerational differences, differences in policy interpretation as well as incompetent leadership.

The management of the organization may have oversimplified the issue by assuming the conflict is personal and that it can mitigate it by imposing a warning or sanctions that if the employees in conflict do not solve their differences, they might be penalized. Oversimplification of the issue can also be manifested in the way Ackoff, Addison, and Bibb (2007) argue that problems that arise in organizations are the product of interaction in part. For this case, the management did not focus on other parts that might have influenced the problem when seeking a solution. Managers may be inclined to treat complex problems as simple ones with the aim of applying a prompt response to a problem. They may also be inclined to do so due to lack of knowledge about the complexity of the problem.

Tools that can be applied to assist in preventing the Effects of Treating Complex Issues as Simple Issues

An example of a thinking tool that can be employed to avoid the consequences of treating complex problems as simple issues is the identification of key elements of the problems. According to Pfeffer and Sutton (2006), the step entails seeking important aspects of the problem before identifying methods of mitigating the problem. The action will help the moderator or the manager eliminate useless information or uninformed speculation that might lead to the formulation of a sterile solution. In the example provided, the management used uninformed speculation to propose a solution. The step denied them the chance to identify key elements in the identification of the cause of the problem. The act left the parties disgruntled since the solution did not address any of their issues.

Management can also apply heuristic tools in decision making so as not to underestimate a problem. The features that the organization can utilize the heuristic tools are availability, representativeness, anchoring, and adjustment. It is important for one to examine assumptions in the mental models to eliminate instances of bias. The four stages of decision making entail right, utilitarian, virtue and fairness approaches (Saaty, 2008).

Another thinking tool that can be applied to prevent the effect of an oversimplified problem is visualizing the problem, situations, and processes that the parties in conflict often experience thereby obtaining a perspective of each party. Tiedens and Linton (2001), while discussing Judgment under emotional certainty and uncertainty hint that it is prudent for management to get information on both sides of the story for every situation. For issues that require a multifaceted approach, it is wise for the organization to seek visualization of the problem from multiple points of view. The undertaking will help the team to understand the problem deeply and not simply understand it from a face value point of view. It will thus enable the management of the organization to balance multiple paradoxes within an issue if they are not all solvable (Cairo, Dotlich and Rhinesmith, 2009). If the problem resolution team obtains multiple perspectives, all sources of the problem will be individually addressed as opposed to applying a blanket solution to the problem at face value.

Another thinking tool that can be used to mitigate the effects of an oversimplified problem is the simulation or acting out key elements of the problem. Sherwood (2002) emphasizes on taking extensive views as a way to avoid the silo mentality, which fixes current problems but gives rise to bigger problems in the future. The author states that simulating an essential element of a problem eliminates the difficulties involved when seeking to understand vague and complex problems. Simulation is productive to problem-solving. For instance, when calculating probabilities of an event that is likely to occur, one can simulate the event and obtain a first-hand account of the outcome.

The same approach can be applied in an organizational setting. Instead of imposing a textbook remedy to a problem, managers can simulate the existence of a problem and use various solutions to see which one deems fit. For instance, when a business is facing backlash on an update and modification it made on products, it decides to solve it simply rolling out campaigns to educate its users on the uses, and benefits of the product, the undertaking may quell backlash. However, issues of its functionality will still arise later when a section of its users are not satisfied. The business should instead simulate other modifications of the functionality of the product with a sample of its users as participants in the simulation to ascertain what works for them.

How can the Development of the Tools are Encouraged

The development of the tools and their subsequent application within a business setting inflicts some degree of change to the problem-solving techniques of an organization. The undertaking can thus be encouraged using ideas shared by Kotter International (2010) on how to promote change. An example of a methodology that can promote the development and use of thinking tools is creating a sense of urgency, which will enable other stakeholders in the problem resolution team to see the need for the adoption of the thinking tools. Creating a sense of urgency will encourage quick adoption of the tool.

Another way in which adoption of the tools can be encouraged is through the formulation of strategic initiatives and vision. According to Kotter International (2010), explaining to the stakeholders how the future will be beneficial from the past regarding problem solving will help them visualize the benefits if the implementation of the thinking tools occurs. The imagery created among them will withhold their scepticism of the whole process by assuring them of the elimination of the intermittent problems from oversimplified solutions.

The development and the use of the tools can also be encouraged using short terms wins. Kotter International (2010) describes this as being tangible or intangible proof of progress for stakeholders in the problem-solving team. Whether the short-terms wins are big or small, the result serves as a motivating factor for the development and use of the thinking tools. Successful teams often recognize and appreciate wins, which in turn reduces resistance to change efforts.

According to the readings provided by Reeve (2009) who explores motivation while exploring the conditions that encourage an individual to take the initiative, promoting the implementation of the thinking tools can be undertaken through explaining to stakeholders of the conflict resolution team on how the change will best benefit them. The rationale of the statement is because individuals are often motivated to take initiatives that have value to them. For this case, the problem-solving capabilities of the thinking tools are beneficial to the management team. Thus the adoption of the tool can be best encouraged by selling the anticipated gains for the management team.

The development of the thinking tools can be encouraged using a closed-loop management system. The system encourages feedback from many business units within the organization. For instance, different business units may provide a perspective of how an employee conflict may affect their operations thus allowing the organization to address it through a multifaceted approach (Shi, Zhang, and Sha, 2011).

Complex problems that are oversimplified by the administration recur later as bigger issues. Oversimplification of an organization problem may occur deliberately, due to insufficient management knowledge and with the desire to apply a quick fix. The undertaking may be avoided using think tools such as simulation, learning all aspects of the problem and the visualizing the problem. The tools can then be applied to an organizational setting by encouraging its adoption such as through creating a sense of urgency, communicating wins of the undertaking and the formulation of vision. If applied, an organization will be able to focus its resources in the future on other objectives and not on solving recurrent issues.

References

Ackoff, R. L., Addison, H. J., & Bibb, S. (2007).T Management F-laws: How organizations really work. Triarchy Press Limited.

Cairo, C., Dotlich, L., & RhineSmith, H. (2009). Embracing ambiguity: Making judgment calls when the future is hazy. Conference Board Review, 46(4), 56-61.

Pfeffer, J., & Sutton, R. I. (2006). How to practice evidence-based management. In Hard facts, dangerous half-truths & total nonsense (pp. 29-53). Boston, MA: Harvard Business School

Reeve, J. (2009). Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. In Understanding motivation and emotion (5th ed., pp. 108-140). Danvers, MA: John Wiley & Sons.

Saaty, T. L. (2008). Decision making with the analytic hierarchy process.T International journal of services sciences,T 1(1), 83-98.

Sherwood, D. (2002). How to draw causal loop diagrams. In Seeing the forest for the trees (pp. 127-137). London, England: Nicholas Brealey.

Shi, J., Zhang, G., & Sha, J. (2011). Optimal production planning for a multi-product closed loop system with uncertain demand and return.T Computers & Operations Research,T 38(3), 641-650.

Tiedens, L. Z., & Linton, S. (2001). Judgment under emotional certainty and uncertainty: The effects of specific emotions on information processing. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 81(6), 973-988

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