Common MBA Problem-Solving Mistakes
| Peter Klein |
“What about the organizational design?” Figure out what is causing the problem, and then think about how to avoid the problem. A lot of papers identified a bad decision, and then suggested reversing it. But they neglected to address the issue of why the bad decision was made, and how to make sure the same mistakes wouldn’t be made in the future.
“Don’t define the problem as the lack of your solution.” For example, if the problem is “the lack of centralized purchasing,” then you are locked into a solution of “centralized purchasing.” Instead, define the problem as “high acquisition cost” and then examine “centralized purchasing” vs. “decentralized purchasing” (or some other alternative) as two solutions to the problem.
“What is the trade-off?” Every solution has costs as well as benefits. If you list only the benefits, it makes your analysis seem like an ex post rationalization of a foregone decision, rather than a careful weighing of the benefits and costs. If you spent some time thinking through the tradeoffs, show it. If not, then you should.
These are excellent suggestions. For example, students want us to teach them solutions, but usually the best we can do as instructors is help them understand the relevant tradeoffs.