Throughout one’s life, one establishes many relationships. Some are built upon, and become strong and unshakable, some are broken and left to dissolve. While some are paved slowly and with love, blossoming to become something wonderful, others are blown apart – the pieces scattered, never to be put back together again. Though these relationships vary, from professional to personal, they are all prone to encountering some form of conflict. John Dewey has designed a problem solving sequence with 6 (six) steps, listed and explained below, to facilitate resolution of these conflicts.
Since the way one deals with conflict within the relationship will affect how the relationship progresses, it is vital that one posse all the necessary skills to resolve conflict in a way that brings satisfaction to everyone involved. Dewey’s steps provide a clear outline of exactly what needs to be addressed when dealing with conflict. This allows for effective time management and allows all parties to be on the same track or in synchronization about what has to be done. They also assure a fair and even discussion of the problem and allow all parties to play an active role in the finding of a solution.
Often times, when one is in a conflict situation or in a position of having to deal with a problem, the parties involved are affected by the problem. These emotions, or the stress of either risking loss or profit, could cause the parties to have different views or perceptions of the problem. This step allows both parties to have the same definition of the problem and to be aware of the exact implications of this problem.
Example: George, a co-owner of a small coffee shop has noticed that there are fewer customers coming in to his store. He is worried about his profit, and is reluctant to change anything about the store due to the cost. Max, the other owner, is more concerned with the quality of the food they provide, and is willing to make any changes necessary to avoid failure on this project. At the meeting, they define the problem in a clear open-ended question and they limit the problem to time period that is reasonable.
How can we improve our shop’s sales within the next three months?
2. Establish criteria for evaluating solutions.
The solution can be either a practical one, which would affect material gains or losses, or one based on value, which would fallow a goal that reflects image or purpose. Max and George have decided to incorporate both types, and each solution that they come up with must meet the established criteria.
The solution must cause a 5% increase in sales, must be cost effective, and can not affect the quality of the products.
This is where the parties (in this case Max and George) “Brainstorm”, or state as many solutions as they can think of. It is important to keep in mind, however, that these solutions must conform to the criteria mentioned above.
On Fridays and Saturdays there could be popular music playing from the radio instead of jazz
Have a special for students, since they make up a majority of the clientele.
Have a night put aside each week so that local talent, musical or comedic, can showcase. Etc…
This is where all of the solutions proposes are critically analyzed. At this point, the proposed solutions can be adjusted or added to. This is also where the ideas are made clearer and where it is possible to expand upon them.
The music on Friday would be pop, while the music on Saturday would be rock
The special for students includes a free coffee with a purchase of a sandwich, or pastry.
The idea for the showcase is a good one because it involves participation of the customers and people will come to see their friends. But how will we pay the performers? Etc…
The selecting the best solution can be accomplished in several ways. The first way is to have the decision made by authority. The leader would make the final decision since he/she has more importance and experience. A decision can also be reached through the process of “majority rules”. Though this process is a fairer one it must be performed by a small group, and not two individuals. Since George and Max are co-owners, and there is no leader among them, they will be using the consensus method for their decision making. In this type of method, a unanimous decision must be reached, therefor all parties must be in agreement.
George and Max have decided to combine the student special with the music nights. This causes little change in their budgets and satisfies their criteria for evaluating solutions.
After a solution has been identified and selected, a test should be made to ensure it’s effectiveness. This can be done through polling, analyzing, and other methods of collecting data.
George and Max will try their solutions for two weeks and observe the if there is an increase in their sales by comparing the totals of the two weeks to the two previous weeks. They have also chosen to advertise using homemade signs in the windows.
As with every change, there is a trail-and-error period where things are revised and new circumstances may render the old decision obsolete. These steps are to be followed in an orderly fashion, but this does not mean that they can not be returned to. If, after completing a step, the desired result is not obtained, one can always go back to any previous step they wish and start from that position. For example, if it is impossible to select the best solution one may chose to reevaluate the solutions, or even try again to identify more solutions. These guidelines are useful in allowing for greater efficiency and establishing an agenda, but can, and should, remain flexible enough to be able to be applied to any situation