Kepner and Tregoe method

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This technique emphasises the ‘rational’ rather than the ‘creative’, it is essentially a method for fault diagnosis and repair rather than for disorganized or systemic problem domains, or those where freshness of vision is essential. Kepner and Tregoe (1981) describe the method below, but its origins date from the 1950’s.

The method is fully developed, with recommended techniques, worksheets, training programme's, etc. The headings below provide a bare outline and it follows two main stages, each has seven steps:

Problem Analysis

  1. You should know what ought be happening and what is happening, this can then be expressed as a deviation, comparing them and recognising a difference that seems important to you.
  2. Ascertain provisional problem priorities (how urgent/serious or likely to become so) and pick a problem to work on. Break down unhelpful problem categories (e.g. ‘communication problems’). If the cause is immediately apparent you can pass straight to Decision Making (below).
  3. Investigate and identify the problem deviation (what, where, when, and to what extent).
  4. Identify features that distinguish what the problem is from what it is not.
  5. Identify the potential cause(s) or contributory factors of the problem, these should be clear-cut events or changes that lead to the problem and are clearly associated with the occurrence of the problem. What the problem is rather than the problems absence, what it is not. Preferably you identify just one predominantly good contender.
  6. Attempt to infer any likely causes of the problem, by developing hypotheses that would explain how the potential cause(s) could have caused the observed problem.
  7. Now test the potential cause of the problem, checking that it is not only a potential cause, but also that it is the only cause (e.g. that occurrence of this problem is always and only associated with occurrence of this cause or combination of causes).


  1. Set up specific requirements:
    • Expected results (what type, how much, where, when)
    • Resource constraints (personnel, money, materials, time, power, etc.)
  2. Prioritise your needs (distinguishing ‘musts’ and ‘wants’)
  3. Develop optional supplies of action. Kepner-Tregoe suggests systematically investigating each requirement and identifying ways of accomplishing it. Alternatively, other idea generation methods could be used.
  4. Rate the alternatives against requirement priorities (e.g. Comparison Tables).
  5. Choose the best option as a provisional solution
  6. Identify potential unfavourable consequences. A possible checklist is given in the table below:
Possible Adverse Consequences Motivation, skills, health
Capital, outgoings, return Source, availability, handling, storage
Security, adaptability Relationships, communications
Space, flexibility, location Quality, quantity, pace, timing
Economy, competition, law, government
  1. Plan implementation, including minimising adverse consequences and monitoring progress.