Problem Solvers are Specific

By Mark Galley

Have you ever heard anyone say “the procedure is a piece of junk?”  If you ask the person if every step of the 40-step procedure is wrong they will usually say “No, not every step.”  You can ask them to show you which step is wrong.  When they point out that step 14 is wrong, you can ask, “Is every word in step 14 wrong?”  They will usually say “Well, no, not every word, but that 5 is supposed to be a 7.  You can then say “I understand.  That is an issue.  Thanks for catching that.  I’ll get it updated.  These things have got to be clear and accurate.”

The original statement “the procedure is a piece of junk” is too general.  It refers to the procedure as one thing, not 40 things.  People that blame and complain speak in very general terms.  They group things together and generalize.  People that are very good at troubleshooting and solving problems naturally think and speak in very specific terms.  Analyzing a problem is about breaking a problem down into parts.  Analyzing problems is always about getting more specific so that very specific actions (the solutions) can be taken.

Terms like “human error”, “procedure not followed” and “training less than adequate” are used regularly by companies to explain why a particular problem occurred.  These terms are too general.  They inadvertently give the impression that the cause has been found during their root cause analysis.  Knowing that someone didn’t follow a procedure is important, but is not the end of an investigation.  We’re just getting to the good stuff.  We’re just getting the specific information that created the incident in the first place.

Our interest is not limited to fixing that person that didn’t follow that procedure.  We want to address how we developed, approved, utilized and updated this particular procedure so that the procedure process can be improved.  It’s about improving how we capture and communicate the best work practices in our organization as a whole.  This is the leverage within the organization.  To solve problems effectively be specific.  Ask those who blame and complain to help us understand the issue by being more specific.

For more information about improving the problem solving skills within your organization, visit ThinkReliability – specializing in Cause Mapping – Effective Root Cause Analysis training.