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2. Problem Solving

Problem Solving describes the nature of problems handled by the job and the avenues available to the jobholder to solve those problems. For lower level positions, problem solving measures the degree to which the jobholder is permitted to vary from precedent or procedure to seek solutions to problems, and at higher levels the flexibility permitted by organisational culture and philosophy.

Problem Solving should be interpreted on two levels simultaneously, managerial problem solving and technical problem solving.

When selecting the Problem Solving level, consider only the types of problem the position will most frequently encounter. Do not consider rare or infrequent occurrences of higher level problems, unless the position is specifically designed to cater for such less frequent higher level occurrences at a fully competent level.

Table 2. Problem Solving

LevelDescription
1

Strict routine with simple rules and detailed instructions, ie. told how to do it and what the answer should be. The jobholder has no freedom to formulate or apply solutions that differ from a limited range of prescribed rules. (Any problems dealt with at this level should be able to be resolved by the job holder in minutes at most.)

2

Established routines and standing instructions providing precedents, ie. look to how it was done before in the same circumstances. The jobholder must identify, without modification, a solution from among a range of previously established options. (ie Look it up in the rule book or procedures manual and try to apply it directly to the present problem. Solutions should be achieved in under an hour.)

3

Semi-routine situations involving limited choice between established routines and precedents, ie. looking to experience to provide the answer. The jobholder must identify, with modification as appropriate, a solution from among a range of similar, previously established options. (ie Find references to similar problems and try use them as a starting point. Solutions should be achieved in at most a few days.)

4

Diverse procedures are prescribed but with specific standards to be followed, ie. guided as to how to approach and resolve the problem. The jobholder formulates a solution by following a procedural approach based on one or more of a diverse range of approaches. (ie Use a range of varied but established methods that are within the incumbents own range of experience or repertoire to give clues as to what the solution might be, then try to formulate a solution. Solutions should be achieved in a few weeks at most.)

5

Thinking is guided by clearly defined policies and principles, ie. the problem and the way to approach it is clear but the solution is not. The jobholder formulates a solution constrained by specific organisation policies. (Eg develop methods to find a solution, possibly with the benefit of expert advice, trial, monitor and modify the methods as required in an attempt to find a solution. Solutions should be achieved in up to six months.)

6

Thinking is guided by broad policies only but with specific aims in view, ie. here are the goals, define the problems and provide solutions compatible with broad policies. The jobholder formulates a solution constrained by broad organisation policies. (Eg Collation and sifting expert advice on a specific topic of wide organisational importance, and based on own judgement chose a solution. The solution may take up to a year to formulate, and the impact of the solution on the organisation not be evident in under a year.)

7

General policies and goals only are laid down, ie. what should be achieved in the medium to long term. The jobholder formulates a solution constrained by medium to long term organisation objectives. (Eg Based on expert advice coupled with own judgment, trial solutions that will have significant impact on the organisationís wellbeing. Solutions may take in excess of a year to formulate and take a similar period or longer before the extent of its impact on the organisation can be fully realised.)

8

Where only the general laws of science or business within the cultural and/or business philosophy and standards of the society apply, ie. tell us what the objectives ought to be. The jobholder formulates a solution constrained only by the laws of science and societyís moral and cultural values. (Eg Based on wide ranging and highly expert advice coupled with own judgment, trial solutions that will have significant impact on the organisationís long term wellbeing, and quite likely also those organisations and communities that interact with the organisation. Solutions may take up to several years to formulate, set a course for the organisation that will not be easily altered, and take several years before the extent of its impact can be fully realised.)

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