Is the fact that it is snowing relevant or not?

You have all engaged in the process numerous times in your life in general as well as in your
academic career. However, since you will be utilizing this process extensively in this course it is
appropriate to spend some time reviewing and discussing the process. Whether this process is
being applied to a simple, routine decision or an immensely complex decision the steps in the
process are the same. It is what one does within each of those steps that varies. To begin let’s
review the process.
Step 1 – Recap and analyze the relevant facts
In this step you take a look at the information you have and can gather that is relevant to the
situation. The relevancy component is key. Often cases that are presented in texts, and certainly
the information that is available through all of the sources out there today, contain “stuff” that is
related but not relevant. As a manager that is strategically analyzing a situation (case) the first
step is to figure out what you need to pay attention to and what you don’t. That is relevance. For
example, you are presented with a scenario that involves employees who are chronically late for
work and the information you have mentions that it is snowing. Is the fact that it is snowing
relevant or not? It may or may not be. It could just be extra “stuff” that is included. On the other
hand if this group of chronically late employees all happen to travel the same road that is
notorious for multi-car pile ups when it snows…then the fact that they are late when it is snowing
is relevant. This also points out that in many situations trying to work from only the facts
presented is not enough. The manager must be astute enough to recognize when additional
information is required, and what type of information, in order to assess the relevance of a
particular piece of data. At the same time he or she must know when to make the decision with
the information at hand. Often this step is concluded with a SWOT analysis, which further
extrapolates the most important issues out of the overall situation analysis. This helps to zero in
on the root problem.
Step 2 – Determining the Root Problem & Step 3 – Identifying the Problem Components
This is a crucial step and one that is often short-changed as we go about solving problems both
personally and professionally. It is imperative that once we have gathered, recapped, and
analyzed all of the relevant information we stop and articulate WHAT THE ROOT PROBLEM
IS about which we must now make a decision. This step is not a long drawn out explanation.
You should be able to state the problem in a sentence. It may then be necessary, and in the
comprehensive case or more complex situations a given, to elaborate on any identifying
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component portions of the problem. Often it is necessary to prioritize or identify which
components need to be addressed first, second, and so forth at this stage of the process.
Step 4 – Generating Alternatives (THE WHAT/Setting Objectives)
This is the brainstorming step if you will. It is here that a variety of alternative courses of action
are identified and articulated. All of these are of course related to solving the problem. This step
is where you list the strategies you might pursue. And this is an important point – if it isn’t here
you can’t choose it as your preferred course of action. While it isn’t possible to list every
possible course of action there should be a variety of things to do. This is where you put your
creative powers to work. In this part of the process, you should engage in brainstorming.
Remember that in brainstorming you simply generate ideas – save the evaluation of those ideas
for later. That isn’t to say in critical strategic case analysis you want to include every idea you
came up with in the report. In real world strategic planning I have seen reports that refer to the
process and that it generated a number of ideas that upon initial screening were determined as not
plausible or viable. What you are doing here is not a full analysis of everything. Rather you are
conducting an initial screening and narrowing the choices to those that seem most likely to
succeed at the outset.