Peter Block Column
Views for a Change
---- I Never
Diary of a
Views for a
David Farrell Responds
--My curiosity drives me to
wonder if the organization applied the “10-step
structured, problem-solving approach” to address the
very problem raised by this month’s question. If not,
the inquiry into root causes could begin right there. As we
all know, effective solutions are targeted at the removal
of root causes.
--My experience, that
effective solutions require the appropriate amount of rigor
in problem-solving methodology, drove me to apply it here.
Although I used a cause and effect diagram applying my
experience with difficulties in implementing
organization-wide, problem-solving discipline, space
limitations here caused me to display the results in a
“fault tree” format rather than a fishbone. It
came out this way:
EFFECT: “Not many people use our 10-step
structured problem-solving approach.”
Data: Only anecdotal was provided; consider collecting hard
data or conducting a user survey.
People: The process is not perceived as adding value:
“I already know what the solution is,” “I
don’t know how to use the problem-solving
process,” “I don’t know when to use it
and when not to.”
Mental laziness: “I don’t like the 10-step
Process: Perceived as inflexible; no recognition for using
it; the 10-step process is overly structured, hard to
learn, hard to remember, takes too long and doesn’t
Measurement: There is no proof that using it adds value;
hard data does not exist on causes or on results.
Culture: Quick fixes are rewarded; fire-fighting is
rewarded more than fire prevention.
Management does not use the process itself. Management does
not expect/encourage/demand that others use it.
POTENTIAL SOLUTIONS: (Based on those causes, your data will
help you identify those most likely to be effective with
1. It may well be that having only a problem-solving model,
and a complex one at that, may in fact be overly complex.
Start with the process itself. Develop alternative models
so that the appropriate degree of rigor can be applied
based upon the complexity of the problem and the risk
associated with a bad solution. (Notice that a simple
4-step approach is used here.)
2. Create easy-to-follow visual aids for alternative
approaches and provide training on when to use which
3. Encourage management to model desired behavior.
Facilitate/coach senior management problem-solving sessions
on critical organization problems. Problem-solving
methodologies represent a mental discipline, a way to
think; they help organize thinking, not replace thought.
Encourage management to require subordinates to present
recommendations and solutions in a format that includes
appropriate levels of data and cause analysis.
4. Collect data on the entire timeline from problem
awareness to effective implementation of solutions. All too
often it appears that shooting from the hip is quicker, but
rarely is the time through to implementation, not just
solution identification, taken into account.
5. Publicize results and provide recognition not only for
those results but also for use of the good process.
6. Investigate compressed problem-solving approaches. Many
organizations have used “rapid” or
“express” models which employ pre-meeting data
collection, extensive co-processing and rigorous
facilitation to accomplish extraordinary results on complex
problems in half-day sessions. And finally . . .
7. Make it fun! Every study of creativity I’ve seen
stresses the correlation between having fun and the ability
to think outside the box. You, and your people, will find
solutions they might not otherwise have dreamed
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