RCA Part 9: Don't rely on a magic bullet
Looking for a quick fix? Effective solutions need a combination of measured, ongoing, creative and logical thinking. Really good solutions can also present as quite mundane – they are the result of a mix of common-sense responses to an issue. Looking for a single root cause to fix a complex problem is usually doomed to failure.
Ask any marketeer how many CEOs ask for the magic wand solution that will raise the brand, get the traction, achieve the likes and sell all of the products! In any business situation it’s unlikely that you will ever find that particular holy grail. And, really importantly, if you do happen to strike gold it’s highly unlikely to be a lasting, long-term solution.
Of course the magic bullet solution can work. It can work in a seemingly successful way… until it doesn’t. And because we haven’t addressed every aspect of the problem with a rounded solution we are no better placed to move to a new one. What works now will most definitely not be the case in a few years’ - or even a few months’ - time.
Sticking with the marketing theme, a good example of this can be found in the trend away from wordy, content heavy websites. Online viewing habits now strongly favour images, videos, few words and instant impact. A few years ago imagery was simply included as an after-thought to support the text. It is easy (and foolhardy) to focus on solutions that worked at a point in time without updating the context. You can follow similar trends in all areas of business – people management, finance, logistics and others.
Businesses are made up of many moving parts and have multiple external influences, much of it largely out of our control. The magic bullet solution is as likely as finding a unicorn. Searching for the mythical solution tends to distract us from meaningful analysis and towards romanticised outcomes.
Organisations that complete a high-quality analysis of major problems using a visual method, like cause and effect charting, are at a major advantage when it comes to generating solutions. They can use their analysis to methodically and regularly visit all of the many causes of a problem, both big and small. They can see where major causes stem from and where their evidence is strong. From here they can work out potential solutions that might break the causal chains. Tactical and strategic solutions can then be targeted at specific causes with pinpoint accuracy. Change within this framework can be reflected through the analysis and translated into an updated solution.
Great organisations will assemble problem-solving teams who are able to evaluate possible solutions using a combination of logic and creativity and who understand how to develop and implement their chosen actions. Using a structured process allows teams to quickly identify a full range of solutions and evaluate these against a set of criteria, including; effectiveness, ease of application, speed to apply, return on investment and hidden risk.
The best solutions will flex and evolve, respond to changing situations - and address the root causes and not just the symptoms.