Problem Solving Process Research Proposal

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Problem Solving Process - Why a Standard Work Schedule Does Not Work for Every Federal Employee in the National Capitol Commuting Area

The modern day employers are faced with rapidly evolving issues. If in the recent past they sought ways to increase customer satisfaction and integrate the latest technological advancements in order to increase operational efficiency, today, they come to place an increased emphasis on employee satisfaction. Academic studies and practitioners' conclusions have revealed that a satisfied employee is generally a hard working employee, who will strive to increase his performances and support the organization in reaching its overall objectives.

Private and public executives develop and implement numerous strategies aimed at increasing on-the-job satisfaction, some of the most notable ones including promotions, salary raises, extensive medical coverage, the organization of social interactions outside the workplace or the creation of more flexible schedules. The need to address these issues comes from the recent changes in the social and economic backgrounds. With more and more women working outside the household, with a growing economy that allows for increased levels of consumption or the growing numbers of automobiles owners, traffic has become a real challenge for organizational commuters. The aim of this paper is to analyze traffic as an organizational challenge as well as to propose solutions to resolving it, such as the offering of more flexible schedules. This will be achieved in five successive steps, as suggested by the Creative Problem Solving program (Treffinger. Isaksen and Stead-Dorval, 2005).

1. Analyzing Problems

Traffic in the Washington area is extremely congested and this constitutes a severe problem due to the fact that the large majority of those employed in the region lives in the Virginia and Maryland suburbs and has to commute to work. This basically means that they have to spend increasing amounts of time stuck in traffic, issue which generates a series of negative effects. The Forbes Magazine has for instance reached a conclusion that the workers in the Washington area spend an annual 60 hours stuck in traffic; this is the second largest rate within the North American country. Additionally, only a limited 26% of all the employees in the region manage to get to work in less than 20 minutes, with the 59% having to waste somewhere between 20 and 60 minutes to get to work; 15% of all employees in the Washington area take more than one hour to get to work. The magazine ranked Washington D.C. The seventh worst city for commuters, with the single features that did not ensure a higher position within the hierarchy being the city's high levels of efficiency relative to carpooling, walking areas and public transportation, which in fact stand for the second best system within the United States (Woolsey, 2008).

2. Redefining Problems

The issue stated in the first section seems clear-and-cut, but a more in depth look will reveal that the direct and indirect effects commuting in a congested traffic give birth to more severe challenges. In this order of ideas, the employees who commute to work and spend several minutes to more than hour in heavy traffic are often frustrated and when they do get to work, they need time to calm down in order to be able to complete their daily chores. The commuters are not only disturbed by the time wasted, but also by the actual agglomeration and noise generated by heavy traffic (American Society for Testing and Materials, 1979). Otherwise put, the consequence of the problem is materialized in reduced employee morale, which in turn generates reduced desire to work and a decreased overall operational efficiency.

Secondly, the employees' being late materializes in the need for the administrative staff to reorganize the daily tasks and to address the matter. This then means that the executives and secretaries of the organizations in the Washington D.C. area have to adapt to the 'traffic conditions', putting aside or delaying their chores in order to address the tardiness issues. Ultimately then, the matters of traffic congestions as they influence commuting employees result in organizational weaknesses, mostly due to a reduced employee morale, the need to address the problem and an overall reduced operational efficiency throughout the entire institution. This will consequently lead to a reduced quality of the company's products and services and a reduced satisfaction from the part of customers.

Managers in the region have already recognized the gravity of the situation and have strived to develop and implement several solutions that resolve the traffic and tardiness problems, or at least limit their negative effects upon employees and employer.

3. Generating Ideas

Public and private managers have limited to none control over traffic conditions; ergo they cannot change them for the better. However, in order to reduce the side effects of heavy traffic and long hours of commuting upon their staff members and overall organization, some measures could be taken. The first of these potential solutions sees the development and implementation of a more flexible schedule. In this line of thoughts, the federal employees would still work 40 hours a week, but they would be given the ability to make up their own schedule. Some might work ten hours a day for four days and have the fifth day free; others could however work five eight hours days, but outside the traditional nine to five schedule. "Flextime allows an employee to select the hours he or she will work. There are usually specified limits set by the employer. Employees on a flexible schedule may work a condensed work week or may work a regular work week. Those working a condensed week may work four ten hour days, rather than five eight hour days. Those who work a five day week may work hours other than the typical nine to five" (McKay, 2009).

The second approach that could be used refers to the taking of no action. The managers would simply stand aside and recognize their inability to address the problem. The hope for future improvements would rely on the Washington D.C. authorities, which would be expected to resolve the problems related to heavy traffic and difficult commuting.

A third approach could revolve around the consideration of two hours per week as acceptable for tardiness. Each employee would be able to book a couple of hours in his weekly schedules as lost due to heavy traffic. These hours would not be recuperated by the staff members and would simply be considered as losses due to forces independent of them or the organization.

The final proposed strategy sees that the federal institutions offer their employees the ability to telecommute or telework. This basically means that the employee is facilitated to completing his professional tasks from remote locations, other than the actual organizational headquarters (Hansen). The interest in this approach grew significantly at the end of the twentieth century, but even more so throughout this century, as a result of the September 11 terrorist attacks. Telecommuting practices grow at an estimated 12% per annum and reveal benefits for all parties involved (Website for Telecommuting, 1999).

4. Evaluating and Selecting Ideas

At this stage of the Creative Problem Solving, the manager has to assess the previously identified solutions and select the most suitable one. The process is generically conducted through the analysis of the proposed solutions through the lenses of several criteria. In the current situation, the most adequate analysis manner seems the cost-benefit analysis, which will reveal the benefits and limitations of each strategy. The most adequate resolution will consist of the plan generating the most beneficial outcomes and the fewest limitations. The intensity of the advantages and disadvantages must also be assessed. Taking no action will for instance generate the benefit of no additional risk, but the limitation of no improvements. In this scenario, the limitation weights more than the gain.

1. Flexible schedule - Far more benefits, which weight heavier that the costs

Costs: additional time, efforts and resources to adapt to the new schedule; operational efficiency could decrease in the short run, throughout the period of adjustment to the new work schedule

Benefits: employees can arrive at and leave work at times which avoid heavy traffic hours; this will then ensure that their frustrations are reduced and they are better able to perform their tasks; the fact that the management addresses their problems will ensure employees that they are valued by the employer; other issues could be resolved through the implementation of the schedule and the most relevant example in this sense is a single working parent who has to drive the children to school, the doctor or other appointments and might come in late - the flexible schedule would also resolve this personal problems to further increase employee satisfaction (Rogier and Padgett); given that tardiness is reduced, the administrative staff will be able to focus more on their daily chores and less on lateness issues; with increased employee morale, performances are likely to increase and consequently, so are the company's operational efficiency and chances for successful outcomes on the… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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