The bad news is that problems are a part of everyday life and work problems are no exception. Those who can solve problems quickly and effectively with no muss, and no fuss are a manager’s pride and joy and co-workers’ new best friends.
The good news is that anyone can learn to be an effective problem solver. All it takes is a simple problem-solving methodology, the ability to remain objective and calm, along with the patience to practice.
S-BAR (Situation, Background, Assessment, and Recommendation) is a simple problem-solving technique. It is easy to learn, implement, and use. It also takes the “emotion” out of problem-solving because there is no place for finger pointing. S-BAR is fact-based problem-solving. In 1979, NASA developed the S-BAR communications model for problem-solving as a tool for the Crew Resource Management (CRM) program (also known as TeamSTEPPS in health care). NASA developed CRM and S-BAR as a way to reduce human errors leading to the majority of aviation accidents. In written communication, it is known as S-BAR(C). The (C) stands for communicate.
You may not work in a high-risk field like the military, aviation, health care, or nuclear energy. Even so, you still need good problem-solving skills and S-BAR(C) is a simple tool that is easy to implement and use.
The essential element of S-BAR is open, objective communication that takes the emotion out of the situation because it uses a Dragnet approach – “just the facts.” In addition, S-BAR sets a standard for the information required to solve a problem effectively.
S = Situation: Briefly describe the current situation, giving a clear concise summary of the situation and issue(s). Identify what needs to be decided.
B = Background: Briefly describe “how we got to this point,” including pertinent history without pointing fingers or placing blame.
A = Assessment: Summarize your view of the topic, alternatives assessed; key questions; and the proposed scope of the decision – who/what will be affected.
R = Recommendation: What solution are you recommending? What actions are you requesting? How will you implement the solution? How will you monitor the solution’s effectiveness?
(C) = Communication: How will the decision be communicated and to whom – among administrative areas, all those affected by the decision, all interested parties, etc.?
You, your co-workers and manager will find that S-BAR is simple and easy to use. Decision makers like it because it is clear and concise and gives them the information they need to make decisions. If supporting details are needed, use the S-BAR(C) for written communication and attach the supporting documents to it.
A Final Thought
Author Wayne Dyer offers some words of wisdom on problem-solving:
“Don’t “pole-vault over mouse truds” – by the time you’ve discussed the many options available to you, the problem itself could have been long behind you had you simply disposed of those rodent droppings with a simple tissue and dumped them into the garbage!”
In other words, keep it simple and S-BAR is the “simple tissue” (tool) you use for solving all types of problems – both simple and complex.