RCA Part 4: Champion effectiveness above speed
“Fast is fine. But accuracy is everything”
Understand the issue and then plan for the solution: Successful organisations know that effective problem-solving requires curiosity and analysis. This, of course, needs time. Our previous article (“Great operations solve the correct problems”) focuses on how important it is to have a thorough understanding of any problem. The next step, once you know what you’re up against, is investing time to understand how to reach a useful and effective solution. So it’s vital to truly know what the problem is and only then can you resolve it with any hope of success.
Create the right culture: Having a positive ‘problem-solving culture’ is essential for any business. There isn’t a day that goes by in which a problem, big or small, doesn’t arise and has to be solved. In this day and age of time poverty, targets and financial pressures we feel the need to solve problems quickly, sometimes in an instant. This can be exacerbated by the perception that a good problem solver should be able to come up with great solutions immediately.
Taking time goes against much of our natural work instincts. It’s likely we are already working to, and beyond, capacity. We are time poor and demand heavy. “I don’t have time” is a regular refrain heard throughout the workplace.
Keep it realistic: Allowing the right amount of time, by understanding the commercial implications of your project, is also key. It is usually correct to assume that the higher the risk and potential cost, the more consideration will need to be taken. If you commissioned the construction of an offshore platform and a firm said they could finish the project in under a month, what quality of build would you expect?
Pressure, either real or perceived, to act quickly at all costs will lead us to a) jump to conclusions about what is required or b) jump straight to solutions. Without analysis how can we be sure that we know what is needed? And, more importantly, how do we know how effective and durable our solutions will be – or even that they are applied to the genuine causes?
Case study: In 1996 McDonalds invested $150m into promoting a new, more sophisticated product, the Arch Deluxe Burger. They did this without taking the time to analyse its customer data, creating a menu option that missed its mark and cost the company millions of wasted dollars. Had they taken the time to look at the reasons their customers bought from them and assessed all the available data, they would have arrived at a completely different product.
Create effective solutions: In order to effectively solve problems, great organisations encourage a problem-solving mindset, one that is prepared to ask questions and is given time to investigate, analyse and test. Good problem-solving does not always take large chunks of time, but it does take the right approach – one of methodical process, examination and persistence. Considering a solution from a number of angles is also important. Bringing in expertise from a variety of sources can strengthen and test your deliberations.
Great organisations commit to undertaking the necessary analysis – what exactly is the issue and how do we make sure we resolve it properly? It is only this approach that will generate robust solutions that benefit the wider operation. They do not become trapped in a loop of fixing repeat problems.
Do you allow enough time to fully understand a problem or challenge?
Are you resisting the need to instantly explain the causes and solutions?
There is regularly a temptation to solve problems quickly and, although this is often essential, it must happen in combination with (and never in place of) the desire to uncover the genuine root causes.