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Defining the Issue

The first step in the process is defining the issue.

  1. Defining the issue
    1. Questions to ask
      1. Why do I have to do anything?
      2. Why is a decision necessary?
      3. What is / is not the problem?
      4. What is / could be / should be happening?

"The formulation of a problem is often more essential than its solution." -Albert Einstein

We are going to continue here first with some more excerpts from the book The Art of DECISION MAKING: 7 Steps to Achieving More Effective Results, by John D. Arnold...

"The need for a decision presupposes the existence of a problem. To make a good decision, you must first have a complete understanding of the problem.

"How do you get that kind of understanding? By asking yourself three questions:

1. Why? . . . Why?
2. What is/is not the problem?
3. What is/should be/could be happening?

"These three steps are a tool kit to help you define the problem and assess the need for action" (40).


"Recognizing a problem and asking, "Why is a decision necessary?" is an important technique in problem solving and decision making. It's the first step in smoking out the Issues. But say you've decided that a decision is necessary. What do you do next? Don't accept your first answer. Keep questioning each answer as often as necessary to smoke out the Issues. Ask WHY until the Issues - for you - are exhausted.

"Suppose your problem is deciding whether to get some new living room furniture. WHY? Because your daughter is ashamed to entertain her friends at home. You should not accept that answer without again asking why. WHY is she ashamed to entertain her friends? Is it because of the furniture or is it because she doesn't want you to see her friends? You may have a daughter problem, not a furniture problem.

"It is very easy to deceive yourself with superficial answers. By asking why repeatedly - and verifying the answers - you can peel your way down to the REAL issue. When the REAL issue is finally exposed, you will be in a better position to make a correct decision" (42).


"When we begin to suspect the reflection we see in the psychological mirror is not a true one, the IS/IS NOT tool is especially effective. We must ask ourselves, "What IS the problem? What IS NOT the problem? And, by so doing, winnow it down to its core" (44).


"Many of us tend to ignore the gap between what IS and what SHOULD BE and adjust our lives accordingly. On a personal level, we tend to adapt to the pebble in our shoe. We learn to walk with it. Not until we get a blister do we decide to do something about it - to change what IS happening to what SHOULD BE happening. Only then do we empty out the pebble, replace our foot in the shoe, and walk on" (49).

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Please send comments to: Colby Glass, MLIS

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