Kepner-Tregoe plus networks

improved problem solving?

By Michael Homyak
Operations Research
SK&F Laboratories

Management training techniques to improve problem solving and decision-making abilities have had wide acceptance in recent years. One such training course was developed by Charles Kepner and Benjamin Tregoe and Associates in 1958. Their book, published in 1965 (1), describes the K-T process which is based on the concept that a problem is a deviation between what should be happening and what is actually happening. This may be shown graphically as follows:

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The K-T method focuses on the deviant object or situation and then, in a logical sequential order, processes visually the information available about the change. This is done for the purpose of sorting the relevant from the irrelevant data to prevent precipitous assumptions concerning the cause of the problem. This systematic process forces constant re-thinking as distinctions and contrasts become apparent.

Kepner-Tregoe stress three basic cycles:

PROBLEM ANALYSIS The specification of the problem and development of possible causes. Testing and verification of probable causes. Selection of most probable causes.
   
DECISION ANALYSIS Selection of a course of action to solve the problem.
   
POTENTIAL PROBLEM ANALYSIS Anticipation of future problems. Institution of preventative action. Determination of information required to monitor progress toward goals.

In all probability, most managers consider themselves to be experienced problem-solvers whose individual, self-styled approaches would prove superior to the Kepner-Tregoe Method. And perhaps indeed some would be. Most individuals, however, who are under pressures of time and situational complexities might find that their minds operate rather inefficiently. Project managers, especially those new to the job, might be in this category. To these people, a systematic technique might be very helpful.

Network-based project management techniques are directly related to management training devices like the one described. The discipline required in the visualization process and the rigorous question/answer approach are common to both K-T and network analysis logic. The combination of both techniques, particularly after the DECISION ANALYSIS cycle, could create a dynamic managerial “Problem-Solving Kit”. Once a problem is made visible and probable causes are established, a plan of approach to a solution may be visualized by a network diagram. A manager might validate his rationale or increase his perspective with the use of this suggestion.

Reference (1): Kepner, C. H. and Tregoe, B.B. The Rational Manager, McGraw-Hill Book Co., U.S.A., 1965.

Editor's Note: We would be most interested in readers’ reactions to this suggestion by Mr. Homyak. Moreover, we would welcome brief descriptions of unique problem-solving or project management strategems found to be useful to you.

Board of Directors Composition Reflects Objectives

A major objective of the Institute is to bring together leaders from a variety of disciplines for the exchange of ideas and experiences in a common area of concern: the management of project-oriented work. The first Board of Directors of the Institute gives emphasis to this objective through its multi-disciplined and geographically dispersed membership. Having representation from the fields of education, management consulting, software development, construction, pharmaceutical manufacturing, industrial manufacturing, and shipbuilding; located from Houston, Texas to Webster, New York, gives the Board a mix of interests which can only be beneficial to the growth of the Institute and the accomplishment of its objectives.

Two elements are common to all of the Board members. They are all concerned about the improvement of management methods in their own specific business environments and all are interested in bringing to life an organization which, through association and exchange of information, will strengthen the ability of its members to contribute to the project management capability of their organization. Here then, is a short introduction to each of the Board members.

This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI.

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