What are your thoughts on the Healthcare Debate? No matter what they are, I get the feeling that they were not sure what problem they were trying to solve even though I agree there are a lot of problems.
I want to use this topic to show you proper problem solving technique.
I have led many groups through problem solving exercises and one situation I see over and over is that people want to jump into solving the problem, but they spend little time defining the problem. If you jump right into solving a problem you typically have a vague sense of the problem which means you have a poor solution.
For example, when I was at my last job, there was a problem with boxes not being marked correctly. It was my job to solve the problem. I was new to that area so I had to get information from the people who worked in that area. When I began talking to someone about the mis-marked boxes they would then tell me that so and so was being lazy and that was the cause. The quandary I had was that the whole process was automated and how could someone’s laziness cause the problem. When I was gathering information most people thought the problem was a lazy person while I thought the problem was with marking boxes. The problem was not clearly defined in either of our heads so we were each going after a different solution.
This leads me to my next step, finding the root cause.
Many times we solve a problem but it comes back. Have you ever had a dead battery in your car then you changed it just to have the new one dead soon too? It is because the battery was not the root cause of the problem, where it could have been a dome light left on or bad alternator.
After some digging into the mis-marked box problem I found that someone was not typing the right numbers into the printer. We could have fired the person but the next person would run into the same problem since we did not find the root cause. The person’s job was to get a number from some piece of paper and type it into the computer. Sounds easy enough right? After doing some research I found that there were typically 8 versions of this paper laying around and it was hard to tell which piece of paper was correct. So the root cause was a bad system and not a lazy person.
If you want to be a super problem solver or at least just a little better (than our government) then I recommend that you fully understand the problem first (writing it down first helps), then making sure you find the root of the problem and fix that.