by Kenneth Phillips

Cultivate Effective Problem-Solving Skills 

Resolving workplace challenges can be complicated even for an experienced supervisor. Managers must decide whether to engage employees to help fix the problem or come to a resolution on their own. While there’s no single “ideal way” to solve problems, Problem Solving Style Inventory (PSSI) will help you to evaluate your most common problem-solving technique and explain the four key factors to consider when choosing a style to best fit the situation at hand. PSSI has both a self-evaluation and feedback component available to help supervisors, managers, and team leaders identify their dominant and supportive styles of decision making and problem solving within their work environment.

What You Will Achieve:

  • Identify which styles you tend to use – or ignore
  • Understand when and how to use different styles
  • Determine which of the five styles is most effective for your team
  • Identify the important factors to consider when choosing a style

How it Works

Both the Self and Feedback Forms include 30 pairs of statements that describe how people solve problems and make decisions. Using only the PSSI – Self, individuals choose the statement that is most characteristic of their approach. By scoring and charting results, participants generate an overall Problem-Solving/Decision-Making Style Preference Profile, with sub scores indicating one’s usage level of each of the five styles. Using the Self and Feedback scores, managers will be able to compare their personal data with the responses of their team. Participants learn about the different problem-solving styles, the four key factors in choosing a style, analyze the possible overuse or underuse of each style, and design personal action plans. The Self Inventory may be completed either prior to training or at the session. The Feedback Inventory should be completed and returned in advance of the session in order for them to be scored and summarized.

Theory & Development

The Problem-Solving Styles Model illustrates the various styles available to a supervisor or manager for solving problems and making decisions. A manager’s problem-solving or decision-making behaviour can be plotted along two axes: 

Ego-Centered Behaviour: 

The extent to which a manager attempts to solve all problems or make all decisions by him/herself with little or no input from others. 

Other-Centered Behaviour: 

The extent to which a manager includes other people in the problem-solving or decision-making process.

Use of these two primary behaviours gives rise to the five styles shown in the model:

  • Ego-Oriented
  • We-Oriented
  • Deferred
  • Other-Oriented
  • I/We-Oriented

Depending on the situation, each of these five styles are useful managerial approaches when solving problems and making decisions. 

Uses for the Product

The Problem Solving Style Inventory Assessment and Feedback Forms are effective when used together as a stand-alone training tool or as part of supervisory or team leader programme. Additional applications include: 

  • Development tool for higher-level managers to coach lower-level managers
  • Diagnostic tool with dysfunctional teams or work units to assess whether the use of styles might be a contributing factor to the ineffectiveness of the team or work unit

What to Order

Order one Facilitator Guide per trainer and one Participant Guide per participant. To provide individuals with feedback, order one Feedback Form for up to eight of the participant’s employees, peers, or managers. (We recommend ordering at least three Feedback Forms per participant.)

Product Type: Assessment

Measures: A manager’s personal preference for one of 5 styles

Number of Items: 30

Time Required:
Scoring: 10 minutes
Interpretation: 1 hour

About the Author

Kenneth R. Phillips, PhD, president of Phillips Associates, a performance management and sales performance training and consulting firm based in Grayslake, IL, has been helping large and small organizations achieve improved performance since 1975. A noted authority in the performance management and sales performance training arenas, Ken is a frequent speaker for numerous regional and local ASTD and SHRM groups. He has held administrative positions with two national corporations and two colleges prior to pursuing his PhD in organizational behavior at Northwestern University. Phillips Associates has a reputation as a supplier of programmes and services that make a measurable impact on productivity.