ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

Online Edition - March 2000
--- Issue Highlight - The Hunt For Next November
April in the state of Missouri is turkey-hunting season. It is an annual spring ritual that for many is extremely satisfying. It lasts two weeks and there is a limit of one turkey a week. Turkeys are not easy to hunt. They have great eyesight, great hearing and they are smart. If you are willing to get up at 5:30 in the morning, sit perfectly still for an hour, dress like a tree and make sounds like a lovesick female turkey, you might get lucky and attract a handsome male named Tom or Jake. Whether you shoot it or just take pleasure in its company is up to you. For some reason the experience, despite its discomforts, is spiritually renewing and leaves you a little more optimistic about life.

In This Issue...
Angles With Rotary Wings
Reality Mirrors Movie
Stop The Merry-Go-Round

Peter Block Column
Views for a Change

Diary of a Shutdown


Views for a Change
Consultant Q&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 problem-solving process.”
--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 add value.
--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 your organization.)
--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 one.
--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 of.

John Runyan responds:


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