PIPS

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The phases of integrated problem-solving (PIPS) technique (Morris and Sashkin, 1978) described by VanGundy (1981; 1988), is a variation of the classic Creative Problem Solving - CPS method. However, in addition to defining the range of analytic steps required, PIPS also defines the inter-personal actions needed for each step, as shown in the table below:

Problem-solving Tasks Inter-personal Tasks
1. Problem Definition Search for information about the problem
Detailed understanding of problem situation
Agreeing group goals
Does the information search involve everyone?
Open sharing of problem information
Consensus building
2. Solution Generation Brainstorm ideas
Elaborate and refine ideas
Develop tentative list of solutions
Encourage all to brainstorm
Encourage no criticism
Encourage co-operation when listing solutions
3. Ideas into Action Evaluate strengths/weakness of each idea
Try combining good ideas
Select a tentative solution
Avoiding non-productive criticism
Resolving conflicts over combining/ modifying ideas.
Consensus building
4. Action Planning List steps needed for implementation
Identify resources needed
Assign responsibilities for each step
All participate in listing steps
Group adequately evaluates available resources
Develop real commitments
5. Plan Evaluation Success measures for each step
Timetable to measure progress against
Contingency planning in case steps need modifying
All contribute to developing success measures
All comfortable with time-table
Real commitments for contingency plans
6. Evaluate product and process How well do effects of solution match original goals?
Identify any new problems created
Any future actions needed?
How much group participation overall?
Are self-expression and offers of support easy?
What has group learned about itself?


To work effectively PIPS requires:

  • Problem-solving group
  • A Facilitator
  • An observer to monitor the problem-solving tasks
  • An observer to monitor the inter-personal tasks

In theory the observer’s roles should be rotated, in as much as, at the end of each phase the previous observers would swap with others in the problem-solving group. The authors of the PIPS technique also provide a questionnaire (considerably more detailed than the table above) which all participants have for reference, but which the observers fill in. There is a general review at the closing stage of each step of the process issues, and members only go on to the next step when all the tasks of the previous step have been satisfactorily completed.

The complete PIPS process is almost certainly too cumbersome for routine problem solving, but may prove beneficial for training. Thus the general rule of placing explicit inter-personal goals alongside the task goals of any problem-solving method has a lot to be said for it.