MBA – Skills for Leadership – Analtyical Thinking

MBA – Skills for Leadership – Analtyical Thinking

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I did my MBA at The Schulich School of Business, York University in Toronto, Canada. One of the very first courses I had to take was called ” Skills for Leadership” . I am like a sponge, and I love to learn. This class provided alot of new and interesting material, and I totally loved it. In this class we had to do learning portfolios of the concepts we have learned. One of the very first learning portfolios I had to do was on Analytical Thinking. I thought I would share that with you.

The key concepts that I have learned about Analytic thinking is that you have to have a problem statement.  Once you have a problem statement, you have to look at some facts to come up with one or more hypothesis that can help you identify the root cause of your problem.  For simple problems “The 5 Why” techniques can be used to identify the hypothesis.  For more complicated problems identification of issues for the problem statement can help lead to the hypothesis.  Once you have a hypothesis it will help to focus the data collection.  After the data collection, an analysis can be done to determine if the hypothesis is valid or not.  
            The strength of analytic thinking is that it helps you identify root causes, and it helps you focus your data collection for a problem.  If we don’t have a clear focus we might forever be spinning in data collection mode.  Strength of analytic thinking is that it provides your mind with a clear process for thinking.  If you have a good process the chances of you coming to the right solution is higher.  The weakness of analytic thinking is that if you come up with the wrong hypothesis you will be led in the wrong direction.  It would take some data collection and analysis for you to discover that you might be on the wrong path.
A business situation where I sort of applied analytical thinking without knowing I was doing analytic thinking is to solve why we weren’t receiving feedback from our beta participants on some of our products.  At my company we run many different beta programs to provide a preview of our products and to collect feedback from some of our strategic partners prior to the release of the product.  My company’s products can be spilt into three categories such as phones, servers, and development tools for 3rd party to develop applications .  I was in charge of managing the beta programs of development tools.  When we ran betas of development tools we had a hard time getting feedback from our customers.  I was trying to identify the root cause for not receiving feedback from our beta customers.  The problem statement I had identified in my mind was “We are not getting as much feedback as we would like from our customers in development tool betas.”  Since I ran the beta programs, I knew all the details of how these programs ran, who was involved with them, and the type and amount of beta feedback we received from the beta participants.  Based on my knowledge I came up with a list of hypothesis as answers to the problem statement above.  At that time I didn’t think of them as hypothesis for the problem.  I thought of them more like the answers to why the problem might be occurring.  Reflecting back, I realize that they were hypothesis, and they were derived with the “Why” method.  Also another interesting observation is that each hypothesis did lead to questions that helped focus the data collection in finding an answer.  Reflecting back, I realize that having the questions for each hypothesis helped with determining what type of information was needed for validating or disproving each hypothesis.  
Based on the data points, I used three different data collection techniques to collect data such as interviewing the beta participants during conference calls, using surveys , and using existing information (some of the data we needed, we had to gather from our past beta program records).
The analysis that I did in this case was benchmarking and a partial SWOT.  I was comparing the effectiveness of the development tool beta programs against the other beta programs.  I was also looking at the weakness of the program, but I realize now that I didn’t think of analyzing the strength, opportunities and threats of this problem.  I believe if I had done that I would have benefited more from my analysis phase, and perhaps would have achieved a better solution.  Based on my analysis I provided some recommendations to my team in improving the effectiveness of the development tool beta programs, and was able get commitment from my team in implementing these suggestions in the next round of development tool beta programs.
            I realize that when I did this project I didn’t have an understanding of analytical thinking, or a clear view of what I was doing.  I conducted an analysis based on intuition and it matched very well with the analytical thinking we learned in class.  However, there were holes and I believe that if I were to do this analysis again I would be able to do it a lot faster, and in a clear order based on the steps of analytical thinking.
            I believe that Analytical Thinking is best suited for both complex and simple business problems. For simple business problems we can use the “5 Why” technique to derive hypothesis, and follow the steps of analytical thinking. For complicated business problems we can use the steps of problem identification , issues identification, hypothesis for each issues and then key questions to focus the data collection.   In today’s world we are exposed to an amazing amount of data.  It is very effective to have a structured process to approach a problem, and to focus our data collection based on a defined hypothesis.  One of the best things I have learned in this class is the concept of having a hypothesis and questions to focus data collection. 
            I will definitely use the analytical concepts that I have learned in attacking issues at work.  I like having this structured process and I know that I will be using this in my other MBA courses. I can see myself using analytical thinking in case studies, and other group projects.  Currently I am taking an Accounting course. In this course there is a group assignment in which we have to analyze the key accounting issues that has to be considered when lending money to clients in a chosen industry. Prior to learning the formal analytical thinking process, I would have struggled with how and where to start this assignment from. Most likely I would have tried to start the assignment in data collection mode, without a clear focus. However after learning the analytical process, I will definitely take a clear approach to this assignment. In my new approach, I would try to identify some of the key accounting issues as problem statements and follow the analytical process to complete the assignment.  I can see myself using analytical thinking whenever I am confronted with a problem statement or an overload of information.

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