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Problems in the Business World

Question:

You are required to collect and analyze data for the purpose of problem solving at your current workplace. If you cannot undertake this task, you may base your analysis on previous employment recollections where you have undertaken or participated a problem solving situation. In doing so, you have to discuss your developed competencies, together with intrapersonal and interpersonal skills, through participation in a group/individual problem solving process. You analysis should critically evaluate the current organizational behavior practices and relate the day to day issues of organizational behavior to basic dilemmas and tensions. Recognize those aspects of the organization of work, such as motivation, leadership, job design, diversity and communication.
 

Problems are part and parcel of everybody’s life. They are prevalent everywhere. There would not be any single person in the world without any problem. The only difference is that the nature of problems varies from one to another. As it is for an individual, same is applicable when it comes to the business. Problems in the business world are more complex, critical and more complicated having large impact as compared to the individual problems. No business firm can turn a deaf ear to any problem, be it small or big. Sometimes, they are like slow poison to the businesses. In today’s world, problems become opportunities to the competitors and spread like wildfire through media and mouth publicity. It is directly linked with brand management of an organization defining the market share. Due to unavoidable losses, most of the business firms have started training and up-grading their employees on problem-solving skills. As a result, they would transform them from problem creators to problem-solvers.  In short, problem-solving has become the need of time in today’s business context. 

Problem can be defined as ‘something which is difficult to handle but not impossible at all’. It is nothing but space between the present and expected standard. Many people are afraid about problems.  They are mentally blocked for the same. Actually, problems are the hidden opportunities. It gives you further scope of improvement in increasing the service standards. Surprisingly, nature has given all of us immense power to solve the problems at our level. However, very few people realize or are aware about it. Our subconscious mind helps in this process of solving the problem. It gives some direct or indirect cues. The only thing is that we need to be alert on identifying them and understand its relevance in our personal and professional life (Moursund, 2007).

In corporate world, the problem-solving is required for consistent process improvement, product development, customer satisfaction, managerial effectiveness, change management etc. Automation is the major cause of problem-solving skills in United States. The ultra-modern and updated technology has brought revolutionary changes in every spheres of life. Globalization, digitization, mobile evolution made the life of end-user comfortable. They are now habituated to get more than they expect due to such cut-throat competition. As a result, solving the problems has become voluntary responsibility than customer requirement or any legal obligation.

Problem-Solving as the Need of the Time

Praxis Bank is one of the leading banks in Singapore. It was established in 2006 by six different business tycoons.  The bank could make progress under the guidance of Board of Directors. However, the changing nature of technology, economic slowdown, customer satisfaction is some of the emerging challenges since last two years. It is posting threat in terms of competition management. If these challenges are not addressed in time, the bank may face huge loss questioning its existence in the long-term. As a result, a newly appointed CEO Peter D’Souza called a meeting of Board of Directors in order to discuss the status, plan of action and seek suggestions to handle the situation.

The top management including CEO Peter D’Souza discussed various points from agenda and came to the conclusion that the root causes for these problems will be identified. They will be categorized based on ‘risk factor’ involved. Secondly, the priority list will be prepared for the “Urgent’ and “Important” problems. The experts committee will be formed. They will submit the report along with recommendations within 72 working hours. Each expert committee will hand each problem separately based on data, facts and research inputs to ensure validity, reliability. All of these committee reports will be submitted to senior management for ‘review’ purpose. They will check to what extent the recommendations are feasible with the help of third party consultant. Finally, the respective heads of department will be asked to work accordingly. The progress will be tracked on weekly, monthly basis and modified if certain changes are expected.

Being CEO, Peter D’Souza called all the Vice-Presidents and top officers and explains the current scenario to them. With his grand style, he influences his colleagues positively to work as a team stating its ‘Do or Die’ situation. He sets clear expectations and is known for fair treatment and noble character. He appeals them to come up with innovative ideas and prepare ‘Business Expansion Plan’ for Praxis Bank. The team is motivated enough as they could realize its ‘struggle for existence’. As a result, they proposed practical, well-designed plan along with accountability, budget and strategic planning. They were given an opportunity to present the plan before the senior management post reviewed by Peter. The management gave them green signal with some minor changes. The CEO was fully confident and ambitious about such expansion plan as he involved them in the decision-making process. Now, two different strategies were applied to regain the lost glory of Praxis Bank both by senior management and employees as well.

After few months, FY2016 (Quarterly) results were declared by Praxis Bank. The aforementioned initiatives could reflect in terms of outcome as a good sign. The net profit raised up to 16% The CEO, Peter D’Souza took pride in sharing the result as remarkable progress during the press conference and given its credit both to the management and employees as well. It was the shift from ‘No’ to being ‘somebody’. The customers were quite happy based on the feedback reports. The employees were given good increments in return. They were motivated enough to work smartly with team spirit to exceed the expectations and maintain the momentum in future. As a result, the market share was increased. The brand of Praxis was now know to almost all. 

Problem-Solving in the Corporate World

It is quite interesting to introspect on what are the learning and takeaways? The above case helped to explore many more skill-sets and developed competencies. Actually, they are not taught in a formal environment. On the other hand, they were learnt and applied based on experiences. Here, the Theory of Cognitive Learning is adopted. The associative learning could enable to link and correlate the insights with each other. It compelled to take calculated risk rather than just playing the game of gambling.  The risk management, damage control is witnessed through experiential and group learning. In short, it is ‘WE’ rather than “I” who make the experiments successful.

It is said, “Success has many fathers and failure is always orphan.” Such principle should never be implemented in work environment. If it is applied, you cannot expect complete involvement and support from your team or all the stakeholder of your organization. They will merely pretend to show the support. However, they will not in a real way.  As a result, there will be a question about integrity. This is why the leader should take the responsibility if team fails and give credit to all if the team wins. It will raise the morale of the team winning their minds and keeping them ready to tackle any future challenge. Here, the CEO, Peter D’Souza adapted the democratic style of leadership. He was lead by example. His fair treatment and command over communication skills convinced his colleagues. His vision was clear. He could make his points and conveyed the message right across the table. Only then, the team started working whole-heartedly. Otherwise, it could have been proved just a formality without any concrete outcomes. He also believed in others and supported as if he wanted them to succeed in all the ways. His ready-to-help nature developed trust amongst all. He involved them in the decision-making process which increased the sense of belongingness and ownership.

The behavior of an employee is a matter of concern during volatile phase of an organization. At times, it is trapped from both sides. One hand, uncontrolled situations like market updates, government reforms, technological changes, profit margin have to be overcome. On the other hand, controlled situations such as employees’ job satisfaction, retention, performance management are to be handled skillfully. When the firm is going through the struggling phase, the employees are sensitive enough on any issue. There’s huge scope for rumors and they may cause damage unnecessary. Here, timely, concrete, clear communication with them is the best way. The leader has to be supportive and empathetic rather than aggressive. Otherwise, the situation may go beyond control. He / She should understand the severity of the problem and its impact in the future. The principle of caring and sharing is very important in this context. It will minimize the intensity of turning something from rumors to news and spreading like wildfire. In short, communication skills ensure the damage controls.

If you observe carefully, you will notice that the CEO Peter D’Souza defined two different strategies for two different stakeholders (i.e. Board of Directors and Vice-Presidents/Heads of Departments). It is worth to mention that his rapport on both levels could reap out the fruits in planning and execution. He could become successful in changing the perception of management and staff for the common goal. Problem-solving is possible only when people come together to achieve common or organizational goal. The vision and mission of a company is set for the same reason since beginning. If the team perceives the organization positively without any doubt, it is bound to write success stories come what may be. This is because no one takes the work as a stressful activity. Work is enjoyed and burden is taken away. The work culture of Praxis Bank is redefined under the leadership. Another important thing is leadership is not a position, it is an action. It should be demanded and not commanded. Give respect and take respect work well in the office.

The Case of Praxis Bank

Problem-solving has to do a lot with critical thinking pattern. Thinking pattern modifies the individual behavior. Individual behavior influences the team. The team acts after repetitive and favorable situations. In short, thought is the father of an action. Working with assertiveness is the need of the time. Getting honest, workaholic employee is rare in these days. Talent hunt has become crucial task in today’s age. As a result, the firms have started focusing training on brainwashing the staff and boosting the confidence and loyalty among the staff members. The psychometric tests reveal the hidden nature of an individual and help to take a decision for the recruiter whether the candidate is worth and will contribute the way the company wants. Secondly, the personality traits will define the scope of problem-solving capacity. A person who has risk appetite, willing to learn new things, takes initiatives, addresses challenges has potential to work on various issues. The expert advice and support can be provided to him / her. On the other hand, there’s no point is wasting your energy and time to those who are confused, lazy, negative, self-centered. The leader can identify after regular interactions with the team members and face-reading. It is a duty of a leader to keep his team united and motivated all the time to address the challenges. The team should have confidence that ‘Boss’ is always there with the team. It is proved in case of Praxis Bank.

Another aspect of Praxis Bank is the success of ‘Business Expansion Plan’. It had great learning opportunities and great exposure in terms of intrapersonal skills. When any new policy is framed, it is quite essential to draft it from the end-users’ point of view. The business expansion plan was drafted by the senior officials themselves. It was not forced on them. In addition, they were handling the cases and experienced enough knowing the ground realities. They were given ample pace, freedom. Moreover, they were asked to prepare and present it before the management. In short, they were empowered, recognized and made the project owner of this task. It was made clear that after expansion, these officials may have growth opportunities in terms of promotions. As a leader, Peter created win-win situation both for employees and organization which is very crucial skill. It ensures the ease of doing business. The market research, feasibility report, resource management, financial budget, marketing strategy, checklist, and business model plan are critical things. Still, they were managed because the support by a leader and confidence of a team coined with experience. Here, the fear of future loss gave birth to Business Expansion Plan as a wonderful gift for sustainable growth.

Now-a-days many business firms have started working on developing problem-solving skills. The customized, tailor-made and application based training programs are designed by Learning and Development department. The primary focus is on intrapersonal and interpersonal skills. The model of SWOT Analysis is applied to explore the personality in order to identify the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats. Self-awareness, self-management, integrity, flexibility, punctuality, professionalism help a lot in everybody’s life. Interpersonal skills consist of relationship management, respecting others, being social, emphatic (Goleman, 2004). It is observed that the problems are the outcomes of either internal or external conflicts. The blame game never ends. Hence, intrapersonal and interpersonal skills enhance the capabilities to resolve conflicts (both internal and external) to avoid dilemma or a state of confusion. It leads to foster the culture of problem-solving (Jeong, 2010). Praxis Bank was also not an exception to this fact. Similarly, cognitive, associative, experiential and group learning is applied by many experts and consultants to minimize the threat of problems and design process flow to handle it tactfully. A big problem is separated into various small segments and different teams work accordingly. Here, the technique of synthesis and analysis is followed.

The Plan of Action

Stress is a modern disease in today’s age. It is because of never-ending expectation by all. When you’re under stress, you cannot really think about solving any problem. Therefore, companies emphasize on developing ability to cope up with stress. Team-work is very essential to avoid work pressure. It increases efficiency and productivity leading to great job satisfaction. Stress management is essential for generating new ideas and making workplace as ‘a second home’. Naturally, people are motivated and take initiatives to fix problems at their own level rather than waiting for somebody else to solve it. 

Various techniques are implemented in various organizations for problem-solving. They vary based on the nature, risk and impact factor of the business. Some of them are Cause-Effect Analysis, Pareto principle (80:20); Top-Down and Down-Up Approach, Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) Cycle, WIIIFM technique (What Is In It For Me?) The relationship management is a major key to problem-solving. Your relations with colleagues, boss, customers, vendors and other stakeholders help you to monitor and control their behavior in an expected manner. 

It would be interesting to know the research inputs conducted in the corporate world. It is revealed that around 75% people consider that problem-solving is everyone’s responsibility rather than any particular person or a position (LEADINGedge, 2004). Secondly, human capital is another important aspect.  It should be noted that 78% team-members rely on their co-workers as resources to solve the problems at workplace. You would be surprised to know that U.S. Government [Department of Labor] spent amount of $ 3 Million to train 1500+ engineers on problem-solving skills in 2003. They were trained by Delphi Corporation (AchieveGlobal Research, 2003). One can simply understand the seriousness, intensity, severity and its significance in business context.

Motivation has lion’s share in problem-solving. In this regard, the leader should be self-motivated. He should recognize and reward for different initiatives taken by team-members. Spot rewards, certifications, cash prizes, team picnics, fun fair, family / birthday celebrations, creating ‘A Wall of Fame’ really add value to their quality of life. Such culture enables the team-members to understand that they are valuable asset of the company. They accept and support you with mind and heart. No wonder, the company is perceived as ‘the Best Employer to Work For.’ It ensures stable, secure and long-term business growth which benefits to all.  

Conclusion:

The above discussion shows that problems exist everywhere. If you learn to consider problems as hidden opportunities, you’ll enjoy solving problems. Intrapersonal and interpersonal skills, leadership support, managing diverse workforce, motivation, synergy, stress management, company philosophy, work culture, business ethics and excellent communication skills are very essential in problem-solving process as per as business is concerned. They finally lead to overcome the various other indirect issues in timely and effective manner. The recent trend is to problem prevention rather than problem solving. Here, damage control is considered well in advance. In short, prevention is better than cure. Only then, problems will be treated as golden opportunities.  

References: 

Ceserani J. (2014). Creative Problem Solving: Taking Imagination through Action. Bookboon. London. (Page 22-26).

Grieves Jim (2010). Organizational Change: Themes and Issues. Oxford University Press: Oxford. (Page 257-258).

Kallet Michael. (2014). Think Smarter: Critical Thinking to Improve Problem-Solving and Decision-Making Skills. John Wiley & Sons: New Jersey. (Page 11-15).

Miner John. (2006). Organizational Behavior 2: Essential Theories of Process and Structure. M.E.Sharpe, Inc.: New York.  

Proctor Tony. (2nd Edition, 2005). Creative Problem-Solving for Managers: Developing Skills for Decision-Making and Innovation. Routledge: New York.

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