BSBCRT311 Apply Critical Thinking Skills in a Team Environment

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Chapter 4


Apply critical thinking skills in a team environment

Learning outcomes

In this chapter, you will learn how to:

  • Prepare to address workplace problems
  • Evaluate solutions for workplace problems
  • Finalise and review solution development

No matter what industry you are in, methods of “doing business” are common across most of them. There are certain skills and knowledge elements that are useful and, indeed, necessary in order to be successful.

One of these skills is the ability to think clearly and with a critical mind. Much time and effort can be wasted by jumping enthusiastically into an idea, or by exercising a strategy without thinking through the ramifications or exploring all the options available to you. There are always choices in every situation, and the choices you make can lead to success or (if they aren’t based on solid foundations) to problems or even failure.

Critical thinking, then, is the ability to stop and think before acting. It involves questioning, analysing and evaluating information to help you make decisions.

Preparing to address workplace problems

There is no such thing as a workplace that is problem free. There will always be issues, whether they are related to staff, administration, or the organisation’s services or products. How serious these problems are, or become, depends on what action is taken about them and when that action is taken.

Problems left unaddressed can fester and cause significant damage to an organisation and its relationships with its staff and customers. They must therefore be addressed effectively, and as soon as they are noticed.

Identifying and selecting workplace problems to be addressed

There are a range of issues to be considered when dealing with problems that you feel need to be resolved. You may, for example, need to consider if the issue affects others in the organisation, or just yourself. If it affects only you, you should be able to find a solution quickly and without impacting on the organisation too much, if at all.

You may also need to consider if the problem is a systemic one or localised within a small area of the company. If it is a systemic problem, then it is a larger issue that needs to be investigated and resolved at management levels. If it is a localised problem, then it may, again, be within the scope of your role and your team to find a solution within your department.

Then, too, when identifying problems that need to be addressed you should view them in terms of priority: Which problem is the most important and will have the biggest negative impact on your team or organisation? You might also look at problems in terms of urgency. A big problem may not always be urgent, just as an urgent problem may not always be big. The Eisenhower matrix is useful in properly identifying the level of urgency and importance of a task.

  • Urgent tasks demand immediate attention and have clear consequences if they are not satisfied or completed on time.
  • Important tasks contribute to longer-term objectives and goals that sometimes require planning in order to complete.

The matrix is divided into four quadrants (Figure 4.1). Assess the urgency and importance of individual activities, and sort them into the appropriate quadrants. Each quadrant has a specific call to action: do, schedule, delegate or eliminate. Each quadrant also has its own priority level: quadrant 1 tasks should be done first, while quadrant 4 tasks should be done last or eliminated.

Figure 4.1 The Eisenhower matrix



Quadrant 1: Do first

These tasks are both urgent and important, demanding immediate attention and action. Quadrant 1 activities are the highest priority group, with clear deadlines and consequences for not meeting the deadline.

Quadrant 2: Schedule it

These tasks are important but not urgent. They may or may not have defined deadlines but are still critical for long-term goals. Quadrant 2 activities should have the second-highest priority after quadrant 1 activities.


Quadrant 3: Delegate if possible

These tasks are urgent but not important. Although there is a level of time sensitivity, the tasks don’t necessarily contribute significantly to long-term goals. This is where the ability to distinguish between urgency and importance comes into play.

Quadrant 4: Eliminate or do last

These tasks are neither urgent nor important. Tasks in this quadrant are not really necessary and don’t contribute to long-term goals or interests. It is recommended to either do these activities last or eliminate them altogether.



An organisation’s website is dated and unable to handle new methods of online sales. This is potentially a big problem for the organization; however, introducing a new system can be complex and costly and involve long time frames. On the other hand, the organisation is missing out on online sales that would help to pay for system improvements.

When the team meets to discuss the problem, Amar, the sales manager, suggests that the task “upgrading the website” should be placed in quadrant 1. He feels it is urgent and important, as the business is missing out on sales as customers move increasingly online. The finance manager, Kamala, feels it should be in quadrant 2—while it is certainly important, it isn’t a matter of great urgency and is a project that needs to be properly planned. She also felt it would be very costly and hadn’t been budgeted for.

Identifying organisational and legislative frameworks

Before looking at how to address problems, however, you may need to consider if there are any organisational policies or procedures or legal aspects that need to be taken into account when developing solutions. For example, when working in an office environment you will need to ensure that all workplace health and safety (WHS) regulations are observed. This legislation covers matters such as ventilation and temperature in the office, access to toileting and eating facilities, and emergency exit plans.

If changes are made to staffing levels or conditions, you will need to be aware of equal employment opportunity and fair work legislation to ensure you are not discriminating against anyone. (This also applies to diversity regulations.) These and other industry-related legislation and codes of practice, as well as organisational standards, should be considered when addressing issues and developing solutions, to avoid creating further problems.

Developing questions to identify key issues and challenges

Making changes to address workplace problems can often be a complex matter, sometimes impacting on several layers of an organisation’s operations. It can also be time consuming and expensive, so changes shouldn’t be made without, first, asking certain important and relevant questions—and being sure that you have all the answers necessary to make informed decisions.

Questions that might need to be asked and reflected upon include:

  • What is the exact nature of the problem?
  • Why has it become a problem?
  • What impact does this problem have on:
    • staff
    • customers
    • products and services
    • efficiency
    • general organisational wellbeing?
  • Can we fix the problem?
  • How can we fix it?
  • Where do we get help if we can’t fix it internally?
  • Do we need to get approval?
  • Where do we get that approval?
  • Are there any legal or ethical ramifications?
  • What resources will we need?
  • What are the cost factors? For example:
    • financial
    • resources
    • time frames to implement any changes
    • customer impact
    • staff impact
    • organisation reputation, and so on.


Think of an area of your personal life, a workplace situation or a task that you do regularly that could be improved upon. Apply these questions to that issue.

Consulting key stakeholders to gather information

Finding answers to these and other questions may mean discussing the issue with other people and getting their perspective on it. By gaining a variety of viewpoints, you can get a deeper understanding of the problem from different angles.

People in other areas of the organisation will have differing ideas on why something is—or isn’t—a problem, as the issue may impact on them in specific ways unique to their job roles. As you saw in Example 1, Amar and Kamala placed the problem of needing a website upgrade in two different quadrants of the Eisenhower matrix because they were thinking of how the issue applied to their specific roles.

In addition to consulting with others on your team, you may need to consult with people from outside of your team, such as other employees or even external experts, depending on the nature of the issue. They may have a “big picture” perspective that can provide insights into why something will or won’t work. In summary, key stakeholders might include:

  • colleagues from your own department or organisation
  • supervisors or managers who might need to be made aware of issues and may need to approve any proposed solutions
  • specialists in fields such as financial or legal issues
  • government authorities who can provide information about legislation and compliance issues
  • industry associations or governing bodies that can provide insights into your specific industry and offer advice on industry-related issues, technology and many other things.

During the consultation process, all of your key questions should be asked and answered accurately so that any solution you come up with is viable and based on known facts. You may also ask further questions of subject experts that had, perhaps, not occurred to any of the team previously. For example: “What might be the legal ramifications of making specific changes to company policies?” and “What can be done to legally mitigate or eliminate the issues surrounding these ramifications?” or “What new policies or procedures would we be obliged to put in place to ensure legal compliance?”

All of the information you gather can provide a solid foundation upon which to hold a stakeholder consultation and ensure that you have a sound understanding of the problem so that options and solutions can be assessed for effectiveness.

Knowledge check

  1. When identifying and selecting a workplace problem to resolve, there are a number of issues to consider. Explain what they are.
  2. Identifying workplace problems may involve addressing organisational and legislative issues. Give at least one example of how procedural or legal issues might impact on problem resolution.
  3. It is useful to develop a set of questions to identify any key issues or challenges you might face in resolving workplace problems. List at least six questions that might be relevant to ask.
  4. Explain why it is important to consult with other stakeholders.
  5. List at least four stakeholders who might need to be consulted in problem resolution.

Evaluating solutions for workplace problems

As will almost always be the case when consulting with others on workplace issues, there will be differing ideas and opinions on how to solve a problem. Some people will agree with the suggestions made, while others won’t. For an issue to be resolved successfully, it is essential that the team stays focused on the problem at hand. To do this effectively, a thoughtful process of working through the key questions should be followed. For example, you could begin the consultation process by discussing the individual solutions generated with team members. This includes explaining and being able to apply critical thinking methods.

Identifying a range of critical thinking techniques to generate solutions

Critical thinking is the ability to stop and think before acting. It involves questioning, analysing and evaluating information to help you make decisions. Critical thinking involves the following steps;

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