Problem Solving The Next Frontier
Updated: Feb 25
As you build capability and processes around problem-solving the good news is the results just get better and better. It was Einstein who defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Surely you can’t expect your business to improve if you don’t invest any time in solving problems to root cause?
Over the last few years, I have run several courses and seminars for business leaders, wanting to improve their business performance and productivity. One of the questions I typically ask is how much time a week they invest in problem-solving?
The answers vary, but many suggest they do a fair amount of problem-solving. I then ask how many of them dedicate a set amount of time each week to structured problem solving as opposed to reactive, on the event problem-solving. Usually, after some muttering and reflection, the answer for most of the group is none. Less than 10% invest structured time with their teams to solve problems!
Improvement itself is defined as solving the right (more impactful) problems at a faster rate than the ones that are occurring. If all you are doing is reacting to what occurs then you are treading water and in today’s competitive landscape, I believe going backward.
The question I have is why do we do this? Or why don’t we invest in structured problem-solving? Here are the top 5 great myths:
It takes too long, and we don’t have time. But we have time to react to the failure and lose production while we fix it
We are too busy. This is because we are reacting to all the problems that we haven’t fixed
We don’t need to do this as we have engineers who solve the problems. Placing all responsibility on one group for this activity. This is I operate, you fix mentality and does not help teamwork, or long-term problem resolution.
We just need to get going. This leads to rubber band, duct tape, cable tie, and cardboard engineering-type solutions. These are at best countermeasures and lead to repeat failure.
We all know what the problem is let’s just do what we did last time? If you did it last time and it failed, why would you do it again? This is leading to recurrent failure and ever-decreasing circles of despair!
So, what do world-class companies do? Here are 5 key things they do:
They invest in training leaders in problem-solving skills. This is done under the guidance of a mentor. They are given specific problems to work on and coached to develop their problem-solving skills. Like any skill, it requires practice and training.
They mandate structured problem-solving. So, when a trigger is hit (a certain amount of downtime for instance) then a structured problem solve is required.
They categorise problems so that they know which resources should be applied to each problem. Some problems are best done by operators, some by engineers, and some by teams, for example.
They check that problems are solved to root cause and stay solved. The concept of a 100-year fix, so that the problem doesn’t come back and as a result, you create capacity and bank the improved productivity.
They use the right tools in the right way, so 3Q, 5Whys, 5W1H, Fishbones, Cause and Effect Trees, and RCA analysis for example so we hit the right nail with the right hammer.
As you build capability and processes around problem-solving the good news is the results just get better and better. People also get involved as it is human nature to like to improve things, reduce waste and solve problems.
So, if you are not doing this already I highly commend you start identifying some of those recurrent problems and start a structured problem-solving intervention. If you need help with how to go about this drop me a line as happy to help, and this is a critical first step in building a world-class company, All the best on your journey.