The first step in critical thinking
is to get clear on the problem, issue or goal. One of the important stages in getting clear is to understand what
role is with respect to the problem or issue you’re engaged in. Are you the decision maker, the recommender, the information source? Is your problem, “how do I solve the problem?”, or is it “how do I influence the decision maker with respect to solutions to the problem?”.
There is often confusion about who owns what, when problem solving.
For example; A common headscratcher we see when training a growing or changing organization is “How do we hire and train people faster?”. A critical component of this headscratcher is the “
”. Who is we? It might be you, the HR department, the training and development department, the hiring manager, their manager, and certainly the person you’re hiring and training.
If you’re the hiring manager, your role
might be to select the best candidate for the job, “sell” the opportunity to work at your company, and work with HR for a compelling job offer. Once hired, your role might be to allocate the time, budget and priorities for training, maybe also be a mentor. As an influencer, you might suggest to the training and development department ideas with respect to streamlining or improving the training curriculum. You might have influence in HR with respect to the job offer, etc.
If you’re an individual contributor who would benefit from extra help
, your problem isn’t “how do we hire and train people faster?”, but it’s “what can I do that can affect the speed of hiring and training?”. This might result in several actions that “influence”, as well as specific actions such as documenting a process to make it easier to understand.
When solving a problem, understand and distinguish what you have control over
as the decision maker, and what you can influence. Be specific as to the issues that you can address. Those you have no control over … maybe you can influence those who do have control, or influence others to influence. If you’re five levels removed from the executive who is going to decide a direction for the company, your headscratcher isn’t “how can we get the company to go in this direction?”, but it is, “What can I do to influence my immediate management chain to consider this direction and propose that to upper management”, OR, “what information can I provide to the executive that would influence them to look in another direction”. It might just me, “how do I get this new information to the executive?”
When solving a headscratcher, distinguish the problem and issue that
have, the issues that others who are involved have, and what
can do with respect to the problem. Understanding the role and responsibilities of all those who are involved in a problem or issue will provide clarity on the actual issue, and help define who needs to be involved and their particular role and responsibility with respect to the issue.