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Problem-Solving: An Attainable Superpower -- PART 2

Isn't it time to Break Out of the “Sisyphus-Groundhog Day” Effect?

WARNING 1: This writing contains “snarcasm” (snarky plus sarcasm… get it?) and is not recommended for those who are too hypersensitive. If you end up offended by the end, then this warning was for you, so you should have stopped here. (At least now you know that you are hypersensitive if you didn’t before. If not, that's reassuring isn't it?)

WARNING 2: This writing contains broken grammar rules and made up terms. That is intentional. Please don't waste your time correcting me. Redundancy for the sake of redundancy... I knew the rules and broke them on purpose.

Continued from Part 1


Part 1 Recap:

Why do I claim that the Ability to Effectively Solve Problems is like Attaining a Superpower?

Well... If you aren’t dealing with repetitious problems and their symptoms, and are continuing to prioritize solving more problems as they arise, you will be reducing a whole lot of negatives and increasing a whole lot of positives.

This is like performing little miracles that have an instant positive impact on the people that they affect. It helps them physically, mentally and emotionally when they don't have to deal with the nonsensical BS.

AND performance & results can be much better with the problematic dragons slayed.

By training people throughout the organization to become problem-solvers you create a powerful positive culture with improvement in its DNA. People will develop confidence and a can-do attitude with collaboration and truly be empowered and engaged at making things better at work.

You & your team mates can envision that tomorrow will be better than today...because together we will figure out how to make it so!

That's the type of organization people want to work for; not some organization that doesn't care how bad the daily grind is for them where there is an attitude of "not my job"/"not my problem" and views them as a body, a headcount, a pair of hands... or ultimately A COST rather than an asset.

With effective problem-solving, people in organizations adapt and overcome to make things better.


Some Good News: Everything Happens for a Reason. 

We have a set of conditions and a chain of events leading up to the final event that triggers us into fix it mode. By the time we start executing our fix as fail routine, we may be dealing with multiple symptoms of a problem. Then we find ourselves spending a lot of time and energy cleaning up messes rather than focusing more positively and proactively to help us navigate to a future where we are thriving and flourishing without all the messes to fix.


Here’s the thing. We've Got to Start Somewhere, Sometime.

We must recognize things can be better and imagine what that would be like. This is step Zero.

This can help us muster up enough inspiration and motivation to decide it is worth it to take the time to investigate and figure out what to do differently.

Then if we’re successful, we won’t have to keep dealing with the SSDD. (Same Shenanigans Different Day)

Where am I Going with This? How do we Do It?

This is where your problem-solving skills (Superpowers) come into play.

First, gain a basic understanding of how the process works.

This includes the inputs, outputs, steps, and the requirements for each of them to be considered “good enough”. Some useful tools may be Flow Charts, Swim Lane Flow Charts, SIPOC, as well as reviewing Standard Operating Procedures, Work Instructions, Operating Manuals, Maintenance Procedures, Inspection & Acceptance Criteria. Just by gaining this fundamental understanding some red flags may immediately jump out at you about things that are not as they should be.

Then you look for differences or distinctions between when things go “good” vs. “bad”.

One of my favorite tools is BOBs vs. WOWs analysis. This means the Best of the Best vs. the Worst of the Worst. It’s great for providing some contrast to find some clues for the ideal state (our current best approximation of ideal) versus the opposite.

Another favorite is Defect Maps (aka: Measles Charts, Defect Concentration Charts, or Heat Maps). This allows you to identify what type of thing is going wrong, where is it occurring, and how severe. These provide some pretty nice clues that may help with “splitting the dictionary”, or narrowing down your search for clues to the root cause.

Next, identify the conditions when the "Good" & "Bad" are happening and what are the events that happen that change the conditions.

There are a variety of tools that can be employed to discover these clues and work back from the symptoms to the causes: Fishbone Diagrams (Cause & Effect Diagrams), 6Ms, 5 Whys, Why-Why Diagrams, 3 Legged 5 Whys, Is-Is Not Analysis, Variation Analysis, Multi-Vari Analysis, Trend Charts, Histograms, Variables Search and many others. Use these and communicate with the SMEs to find clues and rule some factors out while honing in on and prioritizing others that are likely more important.

Don't Forget to Verify the Root Cause(s)

Once you think you’ve found the root cause(s), it’s important to verify that it truly is the root cause and not something that just sounds correct. You can do this by demonstrating a cause & effect relationship by devising and executing a test (preferably in a way with the least amount of risk to production possible). You predict an effect, and then come up with a way to temporarily manipulate or adjust the key variable to increase and decrease it. Then check the results to see if the symptoms (effects) increase or decrease proportionately with your changes in the suspected root cause variable. For this you need to collect data to make valid comparisons.

If you flip the switch on your supposed root cause variable and there is not a correlated response, then that is NOT the root cause. If you change the rules, policies, and/or procedures relative to that variable, you will see ZERO improvement (unless there is some type of placebo effect, or someone does something else to change the actual root cause during the same time frame…like put the mechanism back together correctly or quit skipping key steps in the process now that someone is paying attention after all of these years…lol - snarcasm noted).


Digression 4: 

So, just because you have the authority to force a change on people and your pretty smart (at least your Mom told you that you were), it doesn’t mean that you’ve actually solved anything. Not all changes are improvements. I’ve seen (and most of you probably have as well) many rule and policy changes enacted as kneejerk reactions to issues that ended up causing peoples’ jobs to be harder, less efficient, less effective, and more stressful. Meanwhile, the person driving the change is often claiming a victory and possibly getting rewarded in one way or another… possibly even getting bonuses or further promotions…OMG…encouraging more BS!!! :(

Digression 5: 

(Sorry, not sorry. I just can’t help myself…I’ve got to go here. I've dealt with this BS enough throughout my life that it needs its own classification.) That my friends, is what I call “Globetrotter Shenanigan Syndrome”. It’s when someone has some level of authority and has had some level of success historically, but now overestimates their ability to achieve perfection every time with minimal effort while counting it as successful without bothering to verify. So, they rank their skill levels on par with the Harlem Globetrotters who can make some pretty amazing basketball trick shots while entertaining a crowd. Now this person equivocates their abilities with being able to shoot a basket from anywhere in the arena, while backwards and walking away from the basket, and proceeds to count it as 3 points without even bothering to turn around and see whether it in fact went through the hoop or not. Then they go throw a celebration and slap each other on the back. Simultaneously, they’ve lost credibility with the SMEs and many are plotting their downfall in their minds while feverishly updating their resumes like rats jumping off of a sinking ship contaminated with the plague.


Collaboratively Develop & Test Solutions with the SMEs

Now that you know what the root cause is it’s time to come up with solutions that will address the root cause and survive the environment that they will be operating in. It’s wise to include the SMEs (Subject Matter Experts) of the process during the initial investigation, root cause analysis, and when developing solutions. By doing so, they won’t be blindsided (which leads to a lack of trust and resistance by default) and they will contribute valuable insight into details and features that should be incorporated into robust solutions.

Implement & Sustain through Management of Change & Effective Training

Once the solution(s) have survived a trial period and tweaks have been added to enhance their efficiency and effectiveness, it’s important to update any relevant documentation and train everyone on the changes. Don’t just tell people about the changes. Demonstrate it and let them demonstrate that they can competently perform it prior to marking them off as trained. Forcing someone to watch a presentation and then sign & date a piece of paper does NOT mean that they fully comprehend anything or can successfully execute it in real life. Furthermore, it would be advisable to track the training on a training matrix to make sure no one slips through the cracks.

The Ultimate Proof - The Problem and Symptoms are Gone for Good

If this is done sufficiently, you shouldn’t have to ever deal with the symptoms (aka: BS) associated with that particular problem anymore. This means less time, energy, mental capacity, and other resources will be wasted dealing with things that shouldn’t even be happening in the first place, let alone repetitiously.


If you found that you were offended by my sprinkles of “snarcasm”, that’s ok. You don’t have to read it again and I can’t stop you from continuing your Globetrotting Shenanigans…lol…YET.



Who should Enhance their Problem-Solving Superpowers?

Well Bob… Without problem-solving, the root causes will remain and thus the plethora of symptoms, and progress is much slower… because we’ll just keep doing things the way we’ve always done them just because “it’s the way we’ve always done it.”

Problem-Solving is a core skill needed for everyone, and at every level of an organization from top to bottom. It should start with executive leadership and engineering, process improvement, quality departments, then middle management and front-line leaders, then finally staff and other employees. Those mentioned first need to do it first... and stop the Globetrotting Shenanigans and demonstrate what good looks like. Otherwise, the staff and employees will see through their BS even more than they currently do, and once again rapidly update their resumes.


Want to Start Building Your Arsenal of Superpowers?

Check out our self-study eLearning course if you would like to learn more about problem-solving in our Fundamentals of Problem-Solving course. 

We also have this course included in a package of classes to help develop your other Superpowers that everyone should work on attaining before we all go extinct:

If you're curious about our other courses, check out our course catalog.

For More Info Contact:

O 888.489.5121

F      704.479.7206

Charlotte, NC, United States

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