Friday, April 12, 2013

No Return Policy for Problems

I started my career as a CPA and transitioned to business after three years with Price Waterhouse. I envisioned myself as a problem solver. The difficulty with that was that there is always another problem right behind the previous one. I wish I had understood that success comes from pursuing opportunities, not problems. I discovered that most problems work themselves out. They are solved in the course of opportunity pursuits. After years of on-the-job training, my motto has become “Not all problems deserve to be solved; of those that do, not all of them need to be solved by me.”  When you do tackle a problem,  you should have a "No Return Policy."

Don't be an aspirin doctor--do not just treat the symptoms.  Find out why the problem exists. Get to the root cause. Your watch word should be that people do not fail, processes do.  Ask "5 Whys" Empirical observation indicates that five it typical number of iterations of questions required to resolve the problem--to get to the root cause. What guiding frame work for questions comes from the newspaper world--what, when, where, why and how. 

WHAT: What happen?
WHEN: Why did it happen when it did?
WHERE: Why did it happen where it did?
How: How did it happen?
WHY: Why did it happen?

Wikipedia gives the following different example of the "5 Whys":
The vehicle will not start. (the problem).
  1. Why? - The battery is dead. (first why)
  2. Why? - The alternator is not functioning. (second why)
  3. Why? - The alternator belt has broken. (third why
  4. Why? - The alternator belt was well beyond its useful service life and not replaced. (fourth why 
  5. Why? - The vehicle was not maintained according to the recommended service schedule. (fifth why, a root cause)

(possible 5th Why solution:
Start maintaining the vehicle according to the recommended service schedule.

To illustrate that there is no magic that indicates five whys are adequate, consider a possible sixth why: Why? - Replacement parts are not available because of the extreme age of the vehicle. (sixth why) 

Possible 6th Why Solution: Purchase a different vehicle that is maintainable.

The "5 Whys" technique was developed by Sakichi Toyoda and was used within the Toyota Motor Corporation during the evolution of its manufacturing methodologies. 

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Mysteries by Tom Collins include Mark Rollins’ New CareerMark Rollins and the RainmakerMark Rollins and the Puppeteer and the newest, The Claret Murders. For signed copies go to Print and ebook editions are available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other online bookstores. The ebook edition for the iPad is available through Apple iTunes' iBookstore.

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