Managerial Problem-Solving Methods and Outline Specification for a Computer-Based Managerial Job-Management System

McDonald, Bruce Beresford (1995). Managerial Problem-Solving Methods and Outline Specification for a Computer-Based Managerial Job-Management System. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000fb64

Abstract

This thesis examines problem-solving theory and practice by managers and proposes a structure for computer-based job and problem management.

Two principal models are advanced. The Problem-centred model reflects existing perceptions of the problem-solver analysing a specific issue but with further definition given of the main model components. The Role-centred model broadens the perspective to reflect the manager dealing with the totality of his current work units (tasks) amongst which problems form a sub-set. Whilst a work unit may not be 'problematic' it is linked with other issues both in terms of competition for resources and the causal relationships engendered by any resulting actions.

The thesis describes a number of designed methods that have emerged in the last few decades including rational sequential approaches as well as self-contained methods which focus on a particular facet. Whilst the varied nature of most managerial problems precludes the adoption of a rigid phased approach, the individual phase components of the former and the specific foci of the latter may be relevant to some amongst the population of problems. Some of the failures in acceptance of the methods by practitioners can be attributed to an assumption that these are comprehensive rather than selectively relevant. Fieldwork provides additional insights into processes adopted in real-world problem-solving, main findings being fragmentation of a problem into sub-problems, the distinction between processes to solve problems and processes to administer the problem-solving process and the network of relationships between different problems.

The desk-top PC is identified as currently the main tool for managers offering the most significant potential in terms of medium for methods design and delivery. The recently-emerging PIMs systems can provide the basis for job management but the functionality requires substantial expansion to include the problem-centred activities resulting in broad categories termed Search, Input, Output, Holding, Data and Relating. Executive Information Systems and Expert Systems provide increasingly relevant support within this overall framework, along with other tools and techniques.

The main implication of the role-centred model is the requirement that problem-solving methods be embedded within a wider, holistic structure which reflects the manager addressing the totality of his current activities which are prioritised but also interrelated. Within this structure many existing methods, tools and techniques can be assimilated on a non-prescriptive basis as they can be viewed as selectively relevant to types of problem or individual activities within problem-solving processes.

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