Problem solving is a part of what we do and sometimes we spend way to much time doing it. What if there was a way to reduce the time you spend solving problems? Problems will always be a part of your business. Even if you have a strong problem prevention program you will still experience problems. Sometimes, because of time, limiting beliefs or preconceived opinions, we solve the problem with the wrong solution and thereby create a whole new set of problems. Sometimes we put a bandaid on a problem. Bandaids Aren’t Problem Solving.
For example, An employee keeps breaking some of your equipment. In many instances, you would tell them it isn’t working out and let them go. In this example, you have an assumption being made that may or may not be the cause of the problem and ultimately a decision that may or may not solve the problem. So what do you do?
There are several methods that work and work well. Both require a little bit of knowledge and training before using them. Yet, both are simple and require no special tools. The first is the “5 why’s”. Putting it simply you are going to ask “Why” 5 times. The second is more structured but allows you to map the entire process to find the root cause.
The “5-why’s” are simple. You are going to ask a series of questions starting with the word why, approximately 5 times. Using our example from above we see the problem as “An employee keeps breaking some of our equipment. So having defined that as the problem you simply start with:
“Why is the employee breaking our equipment?
“They keep dropping it”
“Why do they keep dropping it?”
“They don’t use the handle that comes attached to it?”
“Why don’t they use the handle?”
“They don’t know where it is?”
and so on
So what have we done here? We have identified that it isn’t the individual as much something else. Firing them may well have simply set you up for another episode of the same thing. It would not solve the problem.
Bandaids Aren’t Problem Solving
The second method, or process mapping method, is equally as simple but takes a bit more time. You would start at the very beginning of the process and then take it all the way to the end to see where the problem is.
Use recruiting as an example. I recall a time in my past where we were experiencing significant turnover in one specific group of jobs. The company said there was nothing could be done, it was the nature of the job and the types of people they had to recruit from. We began with “I need an employee for this job”. And progressed through every step in the recruiting process. What kind of employee, how do you get them, how do you qualify them, how do you decide who to select, what do you pay them, when can they get benefits, etc. All of those questions must be answered as a part of the process, in the order they happened.
Examining every answer we determined that at no time was the actual work environment ever shown to the job candidate. Once many of them saw it they thought at least they would try. The reality of its danger and cramped space with long periods of physical confinement because of the duties made many quit. In fact, most quit in the first 30 days after they started the job. What was learned was that injecting a simple step into the process we could almost eliminate this problem. That step was to show and tell about the work environment; to actually let them experience it.
Bandaids Aren’t Problem Solving
So instead of simply going on and expecting to eventually find someone who would stay we created a single very low-cost step and almost eliminated voluntary turnover in the first year of employment. The savings to this company was significant in monetary terms.
Understanding some simple problem-solving processes can not only save your company money but it can also improve your profitability. Further, in some cases, it can improve your company image in a positive way making the employee search process easier.