In this chapter, I introduce a simple framework to guide you through the critical thinking process. The framework, which provides tools and techniques, consists of three components: clarity, conclusions, and decisions.
The single most important reason why headscratchers—projects, initiatives, problem solving, decisions, or strategies—go awry is that the headscratcher itself—the situation, issue, or goal—isn't clear in the first place. Clarity allows us to define what the issue, problem, or goal really is. For example, instead of a broad general statement, such as “We need to improve our quality,” a clearer statement might be “We need to reduce our defect rate to less than 10 units per 1,000.”
After you are clear on what issue you must address, you have to figure out what to do about it. Conclusions are solutions and a list of actions (to-dos) related to your issue. For example, “To reduce our defect rate, we will add a product test cycle prior to shipping.”
Once you come to a conclusion about what actions to take, you have to actually decide to take the action—and do it. For example, “The vice president has approved implementing the product test cycle before shipping, so we will start tomorrow morning.”
Most people combine conclusions and decisions when they're asked about problem solving or decision making, saying, “I need to decide what to do.” However, it's important to separate conclusions and decisions, because the thinking ...