Describing and Documenting Problems, Stakeholders, and Decision Make
Whether we wish it or not we are involved in the world's problems, and all the winds of heaven blow through our land.
-- Walter Lippmann ( 1914/ 1962, p. 83)
Before tackling a problem it is important to be very clear about what exactly concerns you. The clearer you are in documenting the problem, the more effective you will be in clarifying the extent of its damage to the organization and people in it, the degree of interest among important constituencies, and the factors that must be addressed in seeking a solution.
Typically, organizations keep track of important bottom-line indicators. Schools keep records of student grades, attendance, and enrollment. Universities track applications, admissions, and the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) scores of incoming students. Businesses maintain data about sales, profits, productivity, and return on investments. Hospital administrators track patient care; efficiency in the use of personnel, facilities, and equipment; staff performance; payment and reimbursement; cost accounting; and the like. Institutions maintain records about these and other key performance indicators, and problems can be identified by examining such formal records systematically.
Problems also surface in organizations in general and impressionistic ways. In schools there are feelings about staff morale, student motivation and discipline, homework, vandalism, and so forth. In colleges and universities apprehensions may focus on issues such as recruitment, retention, quality of teaching, crime on campus, grant-and-contract activity, or fund raising. In business firms concerns surface about questions related to employee motivation and commitment to work, job performance, product quality, and next-customer satisfaction.