Assignment 1: Anatomy of a Problem
After examining a problem, creating a hypothesis is the next step. As you gather information relevant to the problem, you may consider the causation and correlation of particular facts. You begin to interpret the problem and plan a course of action; thus, a practical solution is formed. In addition to the information that you gather, your intuition may play a role in your interpretation of the problem and your plan of action.
Read the 9/11 Commission Report in this week’s Learning Resources. Revisit the Causation vs. Correlation webpage, and download the Week 2 Assignment Handout: Problem Scenarios.
For this Assignment, you take the role of a problem-solving consultant giving feedback to a client. The client has provided you with information and stated his or her view of the problem.
The Week 2 Assignment Handout: Problem Scenarios contains three client scenarios; select one to address for this Assignment.
Assuming that the information provided in the scenario you selected is accurate, identify what information is relevant to the problem described in the scenario and what further information is needed to analyze the problem fully.
Based on your analysis of the information presented in the scenario, determine whether any information shows causation (cause and effect) and whether any information shows correlation (co-relation).
You may want to rearrange the information using a visual tool to help you analyze the information more effectively. You may refer to your course text, Visual Tools for Transforming Information Into Knowledgefor visual tool ideas.
Note to Students: Keep in mind your major or field of interest when selecting one of the three scenarios in the handout. For some of you, your selection could connect to the Final Project where you are asked to identify a social change issue or a social problem related to your major or field of interest.
By Day 7
Submit a 2- to 3-page paper in which you do the following:
- Create a problem statement that explains your client’s problem.
- Evaluate the information by identifying any information in the scenario that correlates to the problem. Then, state based on your analysis if this supporting information shows causation [cause and effect] or correlation [co-relation]. Justify your rationale.
- Include two different perspectives of the problem that would influence the information needed and the approach taken in solving the problem. One approach should be your approach as the consultant. The other perspective could be another individual or party identified in the scenario or another party that would likely have a perspective on the problem.
- Create a hypothesis that might assist you in solving the problem.
- Analyze how intuition may play a role for someone involved in solving this problem.
Choose one of the following scenarios for the Unit 2 Assignment.
Note: Keep in mind your major or field of interest when making your selection. For some of you, your selection could connect to the Final Project where you are asked to identify a social change issue or a social problem from your major or field of interest.
You are a consultant.
The client is the director of the ministry of health (MoH) for a third world country. The problem focuses on a spike in the level of moderate to severe diarrhea among school-age children ages 9–11 in three smaller, rural villages.
In many third world countries, this is a life threatening illness and the death rate for this illness has increased signficantly. The MoH is trying to determine if these are related problems or are separate, distinct issues, unique to each village. Due to a scarcity of resources, the ministry of health has data on only two of the three villages, meaning they have only non-corroborated stories for one of the villages. The data below is an executive summary of the information they have gathered. Direction and distance is indicated from the capital city of Nosrac.
Two villages with statistical evidence of a spike in diarrhea morbidity: Aruam, Sanoj.
Village where a spike in diarrhea morbidity is suspected: Atsirk.
Health care data in these villages has been kept for 8 of the last 10 years, started by a grant from the United Nations UNICEF program and discontinued two years ago when funding stopped. Throughout the country, rural health care workers (RHCW) track the types of illnesses they treat. An RHWC from Aruam and her brother, who works in Sanoj, identified a statistical increase in the diarrhea rates and morbidity rates caused by diarrhea common to the two areas in the last 12 months during a conversation at their mother’s funeral last month. A senior analyst at the ministry of health, who is from Atsirk and a cousin of the director of the MoH, identified a third village based on a series of stories he heard from village friends when the friends were visiting the capitol.
All children who have suffered moderate to significant effects of diarrhea attend public schools in their area. The public school programs feed children ages 4–8 with a protein-rich porridge supplied by a central supplier from the capital, Nosrac. Children ages 9–11 attend school intermittently based on the needs of the family farms/businesses and the cycle of crops produced from their area. The children receive no nutritional supplements at school.
Aruam: 220 miles SW. Population: 1,245. Main industry: farming; main crops: peanuts, soybeans; 65% of farm acreage uses irrigation. Primary growing season for main crops: Sept–Feb. Primary water sources: Mit River and three communal, self-dug wells. Significant spikes in malnutrition: Jan–March. Significant to severe diarrhea rates, 9–11 year olds—UNICEF data set: boys 24/1,000 per year, girls 45/1,000 per year; last 12 months: boys 95/1,000, girls 70/1,000. Morbidity rates due to diarrhea—UNICEF: boys 9/year, girls 15/year; last 12 months: boys, 38; girls, 24.
Sanoj: 165 miles SW. Population: 1,873. Main industry: farming; main crops: lentils, carob. Primary growing season for main crops: Oct–Feb. Primary water sources: Mit River, three communal, self-dug wells, 1 government-funded filtered well. Significant spikes in diarrhea: Sept–Oct. Significant to severe diarrhea data, 9–11 year olds—UNICEF data set: boys 38/1,000, girls 45/1,000. Last 12 months: boys 115/1,000, girls 65/1,000. Morbidity rates due to diarrhea—UNICEF: boys 12/year, girls 26/year; last 12 months: boys, 75; girls, 52.
Atsirk: 100 miles east. Population: 2,951. Main industry: cattle; hide tanning; main crops: alfalfa, corn. Primary season for industry: year-round, with significant spike in March/April. Primary water sources: Nej River (tributary to the MIT), seven communal, self-dug wells, two government-funded, filtered wells. Significant spikes in diarrhea: UNKNOWN. Significant to severe diarrhea data, 9–11 year olds—UNICEF data set: boys 31/1,000, girls 40/1,000. Morbidity rates due to diarrhea—UNICEF: boys 14/year, girls 16/year.
You are a consultant.
The client is the vice president of a major US airline. The vice president is responsible for fuel costs for the airline. Airline fuel costs have wildly fluctuated over the last 10 years and the ability to manage fuel costs and set ticket prices accordingly is the difference between profitability or bankruptcy. In an attempt to control these fluctuations, in the last 4 months the airline added a new supplier (15% of total purchases) and tripled the amount of fuel purchased from a supplier they have been using from 12%–36% of total purchases. This has provided stability and predictability for present and future costs.
The airline has two types of planes. Half of the fleet are new planes purchased 3 years ago that are long range and boast fuel efficiency, promising a stable cost per air mile. The other half of the fleet are a mix of older, mid- and short-range planes from a variety of manufacturers. Their mean age is 11 years. All were purchased from other airlines as previously used.
There has been no significant increase in maintenance cost for any of the airplanes in the last 4 months. Two months ago, the VP noticed a 5% decrease in the fuel efficiency across the board for the fleet. Thinking that some of this may be weather related with stronger headwinds, more circling, etcetera, she was not alarmed. Last month there was a 12% decrease in fuel efficiency and the accompanying increase in the expenditure on fuel that “seems to be led” by the newer long-range planes. During this time, the price per gallon of jet fuel has been stable. The first 2 weeks of this month indicate an even greater decrease in efficiency and increase in fuel expenditures, in the 16%–18% range.
Forecasts for the next 6 months are for jet fuel costs to climb 20%. Due to a number of promotions and discounts, the airline has sold twice as many advanced seat purchases for the next 6 months than were sold each of the last 3 years. Low revenue seats, decreased fuel efficiency, and increasing fuel prices could be very difficult for the airline to survive. There seems to be no clear pattern or cause of this decrease in efficiency between the older planes or the newer ones. In various, unofficial, back-channel phone conversations with friends at other airlines, no one else is experiencing these types of decreases in fuel efficiency. This includes two other airlines that purchase from the same jet fuel suppliers.
The quarterly report to the board of directors is due in 3 weeks. In order to maintain the personal credibility and perhaps the job of the VP, the fuel problem needs to be diagnosed or, at least, have a correction for this significant increase in fuel expenditures, especially with the looming increase per gallon of jet fuel.
You are a consultant.
The client is a city councilman in charge of parks and recreation (P & R) in a small river town in decline. The once proud mill town has suffered the closing of the mill, the aging of the population, the decline of housing values, tax revenues, public school performance standards, and a shrinking population. City employees have been laid off to what is considered a skeleton crew of full-time people and lower cost, supplemental part-time personnel. In the 15 years since the mill closed, the city leaders have applied for, received, and spent county, state, and federal monies to help support the infrastructure, retrain the population, keep people in their homes, supplement the tax revenues, build community centers and playgrounds, and make up for shortfalls in education funding. None of it stemmed the continued decline. These types of funds have dried up as new priorities have taken over government’s interest.
A recent low cost initiative promoting maintaining property by painting and landscaping relied on volunteers and contributions from many long-time area merchants and service groups. The results were significant in creating a better appearance in nearly every neighborhood of the town but not in increasing property values. The nicer homes with the better appearance attracted people to rent and buy in the town. From the townspeople’s view, the newcomers did not share the town’s collective values, and had, what some considered a shady or checkered past. While the town historically has been somewhat diverse in its racial, ethnic composition, this was a different mix with more.
recent immigrants added to a balance achieved over many years. These families, who comprise 15% of the town’s population, also swelled the ranks of children and younger adults in the town while lowering the average age by 2 years (a statistically significant decrease).
The city has seen an increase in vandalism, graffiti and what some of the old timers call, “gang-like activities.” Police calls are up, tensions are high, and rumors abound. The head of P & R has spent significant time talking to kids on the streets and playgrounds. His sense is that the town’s cost-saving policy of locking the playgrounds at 7 PM to save on lighting and maintenance costs and not providing any recreational spots or material tailored to this particular youth population is contributing to the boredom, mischief, and problems. In his view, if something is not done now to integrate this population into the town, these problems will escalate.
Over half of the council members say that no increase in money to P & R should occur to extend the playground’s hours. Furthermore, they recommend that the current level of funding money for P & R should be reduced and redirected to police and public safety services to deal with the “bad element” that has moved into town.
The head of P & R feels some of the council members would change their mind on his proposals if he had better data and a clearer articulation of what is going on in the city. Public hearings commence on the budget next month. He will be asked to share his vision of the town and to justify his budgetary requests.