Look at the problem from all angles
The Decision Analyst or DA has to look at the problem from all angles rather than from his own point of view only. This goes a long way in high quality problem modeling and its solution, satisfying needs of all stakeholders.
Application of this powerful approach is found to be highly effective in dealing with problem cases in Complex Project management, Conflict resolution, Negotiation, Counseling and the likes.
In a critical negotiation process, you may think from the perspectives of all important stakeholders involved in the negotiation to fine-tune your strategy and achieve a great final outcome. Successful negotiators adopt this powerful 360 degree analysis approach as a part of their expertise.
Case example 1
You were traveling by the Underground with two other friends in London. At Tottenham Court Road station all of you felt very hungry and decided to have something filling from a fast food outlet. You and your friends were new to UK and were not aware of its custom. Entering a nearby fast food outlet, all of you looked at the attractive large pictures of burgers with many different names on the walls. Two of you chose your items but the third friend hesitated, he asked you, “Well, can I get any vegetarian burger here?” He was a pure vegetarian. He depended on you. You examined the attractive names and found one with mention of “Cheese” in it. Unhesitatingly you referred it to your friend.
However, after finishing three quarters of his burger, the friend expressed his doubt to you, “Is it really a cheese burger? What is this thick brown colored cake between the two loaves?” You looked at him, and asked without faltering, “How do you like it?” He confirmed, “It is very tasty.” “Well then, finish it if you like it. Look at the name, it is written over there-Cheese burger.” You say. Somewhat reassured, he continued to finish his burger.
Meal over, satisfied you started your jaunt again.
But you had niggling doubts. You put your doubt later to one of your UK friends, and came to know for sure that a Cheese burger at Tottenham Court Road Station fast food outlet contained cheese, but the brown cake between the two loaves was not veg by a long shot.
Question: Your friend was a pure vegetarian. Was your decision that day wrong? Was it proper for you to allow a pure vegetarian person to eat meat?
From your point of view: Firstly, you didn’t know. Once your friend had started eating, checking the nature of the food was meaningless. Rather it could have caused serious complications. So you would think that your decisions and actions were right.
From his point of view: All of you were very hungry. A burger name with cheese in it should be cheese burger, especially when vetted by his friend (that is you). If he were particularly inquisitive, all of you might have had to search much longer for food. Why bother everybody! Most possibly, he also must have inquired later and found the truth. A permanent guilt would have been created in his mind, and even though indirectly, but it was you who had guided him to it.
What would you have done in his position? Being a pure vegetarian, you might have inquired the salesperson at the shop more closely before committing.
Recommendation: To avoid committing to a possible permanently compromising option, you could have guided him to checking the nature of the food before taking the food. If he himself decided not to go for detailed inquiry and went ahead to have his cheese burger it would have been his decision and possible compromise, unguided by you. If he decided not to go for the food after knowing its nature, a new decision problem would have been created, with some probable discomfort, but conscience of both of you would have been clear.
You don’t like the recommendation? Well, each real life problem and its solution are very closely tied to the people involved and the environment in which they act. This technically is termed as Context Embedding. Real life problems are deeply context embedded and so are inherently complex. No general solution here.
With this case example, we only wanted to give you the idea of thinking from another person’s point of view. Put on the other person’s shoes. Only then you would understand how he feels. If you do that, you will discover new aspects of the problem and its possible solution. If this approach is used appropriately for real life problem solving, it is possible to enhance the quality of solution significantly. If you extend this idea to all stakeholders in a problem, you have what we call: the 360 degree analysis approach.
Case example 2
You are a working couple with both partners quite busy with your careers. Your wife makes special efforts to come home before you and prepare the food. One day she calls up and informs you she would be late by an hour. You reach home before her and wait till she comes and prepares food for both of you.
Question: what would you have felt if you were the wife instead of the husband? What would have been the gain if you had that other point of view and acted on it? What would be the possible loss otherwise?
Analysis: Both the wife and the husband have their careers, possibly going through hard daily grinds in their respective workplaces. But social custom and growing up environment taught the husband to play the role of bread earner with his wife as the home maker doing all the chores at home even if she has taken up modern day role of bread earning by women. By the pressure of environment that includes her husband, the wife may silently go on doing double duty.
This inherently is a lossy situation for both, as unequal share of responsibilities in a family inevitably erodes and weakens the spirit, the health and the relationship.
Possible enhancement of problem situation: Beliefs are difficult to change, but if the husband for once used the 360 degree approach and tried to feel the feelings of his wife that day in our case example, he would have understood the silent pain his dear wife was going through every day. Even if didn't know how to cook, he could have ordered home delivery food to give a little relief that day. It would have been a small but significant step in the positive direction.
Case example 3
In a meeting with your junior officer, your views differ on a particular point. He is cautious and you are in favor of taking the bold step. Being the boss, you forcefully establish your view in the decision making process. In excitement you also reprimand your junior for having a negative mindset.
Next day, you review the case and find that your decision was wrong. You make the required course correction. But you do not call up your junior.
You know, I know and everybody knows that the boss is always right, no?
Analysis: The boss was wrong in this case. Anyone can be wrong. That is normal. But abnormalities were two. First mistake: there was no need to reprimand his junior. That was a violation of basic leadership principles. But the hurt in the mind of his junior could have been assuaged somewhat if the boss called up his junior and at least admitted his mistake. This is a more general failure and the two mistakes together created a divide between the two.
If only the boss remembered his younger years and thought how his junior could feel, he would have understood his mistakes.
Case example 4
You are in an important meeting with four of your trusted lieutenants. Decision is to be taken on when final stage of action of an important project is to start. You already have analyzed the problem and formed your opinion. But for long you are in the habit of consulting your trusted team before final commitment. After all it is they who have to bear bulk of the work load.
You put the question to the group and ask for their opinion, "Can we start the final action tomorrow?". You are a strong decision maker and do not easily change your decisions. But knowing the value of their opinion you push each one for their frank opinion - what each thinks, for and against the decision.
Your team is good and capable of facing hard targets. They know the value of time. One by one each of them agreed except the last man. He is silent. You are surprised. You ask him, "What about you, boss?" He looks up at you with a grave face and says, "I think it should start day after tomorrow."
Silence fell. He is the closest to you and most capable. He is your deputy. None expected this reaction from him." You look at him for a moment and think - he is not looking his usual self today. Something is wrong. Without hesitation you close the discussion, "Yes, it would be day after tomorrow." With surprise in their faces the team disperse. You tell your deputy to stay back.
Alone now, you ask without any preamble, "Anything wrong at home?" Tonelessly he replies, "My wife is sick. Food poisoning. Last night I hospitalized her. Today my neighbor is at the hospital. I will leave the office a bit early today and have to take over from him. Tomorrow he won't be available."
Your response is immediate, "Please go ahead and be with your wife. We will take care here. Just wait a moment." Before he leaves, you tell your secretary to convey to your lieutenants that the final action will start not tomorrow but three days later. You would explain the situation to the team later.
You reckon your team to be more valuable than a few days' delayed project. And deep down you know this team would make up the this loss of time somehow.
Case example 5
You have made all arrangements for release and shifting of your close friend from hospital to his home after a month's hard struggle with life and death. He had suffered cerebral thrombosis and was admitted to the hospital by his neighbors. His wife is sick, his only son is 21 year old, still young and his relatives are very old.
After you got the news and went in, you had no other choice than to take up the role of main decision maker. But having decades of experience you never fail to ask for opinion of the main persons concerned before implementing a decision.
So you asked his son, "Would it be okay if we bring your father back home on this Saturday? We have made all arrangements." He is inexperienced but intelligent. After a bit of hesitation he said, "Uncle, can we avoid the Saturday? Can it be any other day?" Surprised, you firmly push ahead, "But why son? Explain." He replies, "You may laugh at me, but if we bring my father on Saturday my mother might die." You waited.
After a moment he continued, "Father of my mother expired on a Saturday. She is very afraid of Saturdays and is very unwell. She might also die. Please uncle." Already this boy had gone through deep grief. You decided quickly, "Sure, don't worry. We would skip this Saturday." His relief was visible.
It would be quite a bit of trouble and some extra expenses. But what of it? Human emotions and beliefs, even if superstitious have to be given due regard sometimes.
The 360 degree analysis is very useful in negotiations. Generally in negotiations, if you are not prepared to release some ground, you may not gain any ground at all. How much ground would you release? If you put yourself in your opponent’s place you may have a better idea and finally may have a satisfactory ending of the negotiation process.
Professional Psychiatric Counselors, Lawyers, Mediators and many other professionals need to use this approach heavily.
We feel though, regular use of this approach in daily life is more important and invaluable in increasing the positivity and happiness in the environment.