Problem solving is a major function of management and one of the top priorities of every management and
supervisor. In fact it is a major task of anybody in the organization at his or her level of operation.
Problem solving is the basis for all important business areas, whether that concerns internal matters such as
safety, risk management, cost control, quality control, environment or external issues such as product safety,
environment, market image, etc. THE basic question is: what can go wrong in what we are doing?
Problem solving preferably should take place in advance and measures should be taken to cope with the problem
when it becomes visible.
Please note that, from my point of view, a "problem" is the same as an "accident, incident and other unwanted
event" - see "terminology".
A management team should be judged on it's capacity to prevent and
solving includes the following steps:
Identification of the (potential) problem: What is the problem?, What can be the problem? What
is wrong?, What can go wrong? What has gone wrong?”
Evaluation of the problem: How large is it? How large could it be?,
Cause analyses of the problem: “What are the reasons that this problem exists or can
Establishing alternatives for treating the problem: "What can be done to eliminate the
problem and its consequences or - if that is not possible - reduce it?”
Selection of best alternatives : “Which action or combination of actions will provide the
desired results with a minimum of effort and costs?”
Execution of selected actions.
Assessment to see that the selected actions have been executed and correction as needed if not
Evaluation of results and correction of actions (more or different) if desired results are
not being obtained.
Continuous investigation and analysis of deviations, losses, damages, accidents, etcetera
that nevertheless occur leading to possible further correction of actions
quality of the management
is determined by:
knowing in advance what problems can occur in their organization or unit
the number and size of problems that may occur
knowing what the causes of those problems would be and
Knowing which actions to take to minimize the negative effects
A quality management team should only have known problems with limited
Below is the simple cause - consequence model relating the management system
to the accident, incident and other unwanted event and its consequences. Read the model from left to right and you
basically have the problem solving sequences; this way it also indicates the various sources of the unwanted event.
If you read the model from right to left you have the process to learn from what went wrong.
Risk and Loss Control: from cause to consequence, proactive problem solving:
Risk and Loss Control: from consequence to cause, reactive problem solving:
The picture below illustrates the problem solving
sequence. It should be clear that within the context of risk and loss control management, a "risk" is a potential
problem, within the context of loss control the loss includes both the potential as well as the actual loss
consequence of the accident, incident and other unwanted event.