Applying Critical Thinking to a Work Related Decision
Critical thinking is a multi step process that aids individuals in problem solving which is to identify real problems and finding a strategy to fix the problem. Many forms of decision-making models involve critical thinking process. In most cases, critical thinking is based on several foundations. Trabandt (2002) comments that critical thinking can be divided into four steps: “identifying the problem, explore interpretations and connections, prioritize alternatives and communicate conclusions, and integrate, monitor, and refine strategies for re-addressing the problem” (p.1, ¶2-5). Within these steps individuals can generate possibilities, analyze, compare and contrast, infer and interpret, and evaluate and met cognition (Critical thinking crucial to global success, 2002, p.2, ¶7). As a result, the ability to identify and apply each of these critical thinking components is important to good decision making. Before applying critical thinking, an individual must be aware of the four fundamental steps that occur in the decision cycle. According to Helliwell (2002) four fundamental steps that occur in the decision cycle are:
Analyzing the problem or opportunity to understand the need for a decision,
Integrating and weighing the importance of all sources of information,
Applying commercial intuition to the logic of the decision as it takes shape, and often
referred to as ‘Gut Instinct’, the value of commercial intuition should not be downplayed when analyzing the potential positive and negative impacts of the decision (p.45, ¶7).
When applying critical thinking during the decision making process in business, shrewd, wiser, constructive, and productive decisions and results often occur.
Identifying the Problem
Once a problem or issue has been identified, caution must be exercised. As Martin (2002) states “Facts just give you a basis. You need to also understand how to synthesize those facts and expand that and that’s how the critical thinking and problem solving skills come into play” (p.2, ¶4). A common issue within business organizations is expenses as they relate to profitability. Expenses often are scrutinized during economic downturns.
The domestic automobile industry, especially at the dealership level has been adversely affected by the recent economic downturn. As a result, Bickerstaff Buick Pontiac GMC, my employer has had to scrutinize and evaluate all organizational expenses. After an initial review, organizational expenses were judged excessive for the overall sales and lack of profit for the organization.
The next critical step is to move beyond the obvious issue of excessive expenses and reducing them to a more acceptable level. “Critical thinking is sometimes called directed thinking because it focuses on a desired outcome” (Fowler, 2004, p.1, ¶4). In many cases, expenses can be justified and reduced at the same time. Often the acknowledgement that there can be more than one possible solution allows organizations to prepare and accept differing and alternative views. Of all expenses discussed, personnel expenses raised the most heated debates and differing views.
Explore Interpretations and Connections
During the exploration of interpretations and connections stage of critical thinking, the temptation of personal bias must be eliminated. Understanding and “articulating the reasoning associated with alternative points of view, and organizing information in meaningful ways” will be crucial (Trabandt, 2002, p1, ¶3).
Managers meetings especially end of month meetings pose many questions, issues, and concerns for the department managers such as me. The profit or loss of the department is my responsibility as parts manager. The report card of a business organization is the financial statement of the organization. As with each department manager, I review the financial profit and loss statement carefully for irregularities and unusually high or low figures.
A recent managers meeting focused on the decreasing profitability of the dealership and the contributions of expenses had on profitability. After reviewing the financial statement, the three largest expenses at the dealership were advertising, inventories, and personnel expenses. Since the downturn of the U.S. economy, domestic dealership business had decreased substantially. Many cutbacks and cost reductions have occurred previously at Bickerstaff Buick Pontiac GMC.
At the expense managers meeting, there was no shortage of cost cutting suggestions. Starting with the big three of advertising, inventories, and personnel, the management team evaluated and formulated various views and viewpoints that each individual could understand and appreciate. During the meeting discussions, management discovered that advertising could be reduced in some areas, as there was duplication among the newspaper ads, the Auto Trader magazine, and direct mail ads. Cost and expense reductions could also be realized by reducing the amount of vehicle and parts inventories kept on hand to meet the lower sales volumes now seen.
The only expense structure that involved much give and take was personnel expense. Agreeing upon the importance of each respective employee and the job function they performed built the foundation of prioritizing alternatives and communicating the upcoming conclusion. While working through this process, individuals such as management have to realize the importance of using the nine tips of how to become a better critical thinker. Management has to:
Be open-minded to new ideas, know that people have different ideas about the meaning of words, separate emotional and logical thinking, question things that don’t make sense to you, avoid common mistakes in your own reasoning, don’t argue about something that you know nothing about, build a strong vocabulary to better share and understand ideas, know when you need more information, know the difference between conclusions that could and must be true (Thinkquest, n.d., p.1, ¶7)
Using these 9 tips prevents and protects management from letting assumptions, emotion, language, and logic overly influence and interfere with the decision making process. Suggestions to reduce personnel expenses included the reduction of the number of support personnel such as hourly porters, cashiers, and receptionists. Furthermore, reducing the number of non-productive salespeople whether in vehicle sales, service advisors, or parts counter people would be considered.