Scroll to top
© Optimize Consulting Inc. | All Rights Reserved

Possibly Impossible

Optimize Blog - June 2, 2011 - 0 comments

Quality assurance in examination papers probably doesn’t get a lot of thought in general, after all how hard can it be to set questions based on a given curriculum and then the determine the answer for each? Apparently harder than it seems… In a recent exam paper taken by students in England, Wales and Northern Ireland a question was set that was indeed impossible to answer.
As you’d expect, this caused a great deal of concern and stress for the candidates sitting the examination. As a result, although the examination body OCR has apologized unreservedly and has added that no individual will be disadvantaged by the error, almost 7,000 teenagers who took the examination are calling for the test to be re-run.
OCR released full details of the error contained in a paper entitled “Decision Mathematics 1”. The question asked candidates to verify the shortest route, for two given conditions, giving values of 32.4 + 2x km and 34.2 + x km. These values should have been 34.3 + 2x km and 36.1 + x km respectively. The error was not to have included twice the journey between A and B (0.9 km) and the journey between F and G (1.0 km) in the values given. Not being Math experts we hope that this means something to somebody…
In our business lives and leadership roles there are plenty of times when we are faced with the seemingly “impossible question” – a situation where there appears to be no obvious solution. Of course as leaders, everyone in the team is looking at us to have the answer and like the students sitting the exam paper, stress levels can quickly rise.
Unlike examination papers with erroneous, impossible questions, all business issues have a solution no matter how difficult or unpalatable the answer or solution might be. The key for the leader is coming up with the best possible solution, communicating it properly to the team and stakeholders and then implementing the solution effectively. Good information is required, coupled with experience in interpreting the information. Of course the willingness to make a decision and implement a solution is required.
One thing is for certain – just because the issue has no obvious solution and appears impossible to answer doesn’t mean that it is OK for us to throw our hands in the air, give up and fall victim to the circumstance. The good leader is happy to seek counsel and advice from others. Experience gleaned from others who have made tough decisions in the past coupled with a framework to help you do so is invaluable.
Here is a short eight step guide to help you through the process:
1. Determine the root cause of the issue – don’t treat the symptoms
2. Outline your goal and desired outcome – exactly what is it that you need to achieve?
3. Gather data – this enables you to make informed decisions
4. Brainstorm to develop alternatives – don’t simply go with your first thought, you need to develop options
5. List the pros and cons of each alternative
6. Make the decision
7. Immediately take action
8. Learn from, and reflect on the decision-making… by doing this you will increase your experience and your decision making capability
Decisions are at the heart of leadership success, and at times there are critical moments when they can be difficult, perplexing, and nerve-racking. The courage to make decisions can be elusive. It is difficult to find the calmness to be able to make and live with those decisions.
Unlike the unfortunate youngsters in the examination, the impossible question doesn’t exist in the business world. Difficult questions? Certainly, but our leadership accountability requires that we find a solution no matter how hard that might be…

Related posts

Post a Comment