Problem Solving Techniques: Digesting

After a good meal, you need to digest.

And, after a good session of the Problem Solving Techniques SimplyLooking™ and Mapping, you need to digest what you observed.

You have probably uncovered what some would call problems, but should call opportunities after a good session of SimplyLooking™. Choose one example that surfaced or emerged while observing, an obstacle in the flow, for instance. Define it

To ensure you consider every possible cause, and have a better chance of getting it right the first time, make it visual: start with a Fishbone, or Cause and Effect Diagram.  A Fishbone or Cause and Effect Diagram traces all influences that lead to a particular result:

  • People,
  • Processes,
  • Inputs,
  • Tools,
  • Culture
  • and Environment,
  • or whatever else tickles your fancy.  See a post on how here.

You can use a flow chart, and any of the other tools for improvement including concept maps, Pareto charts, etc.  The goal is not to be "right," but to come up with the best possible theory you can to test. Remembering that what you think is just the beginning. To turn it into validated knowledge you need to test, and confirm what you're thinking is true. So, if you don't get it right the first time, it doesn't matter. You will go through repeated cycles of tweaking your theory and testing it, until you find what's really true, until you validate your theory.

Shooting From The Hip Kills Innocent Bystanders and is Only Right Half the Time!

The key point is to stop shooting from the hip. To stop making the easy choice, and do the hard work. Try and put what you observed in context, to see what emerges, and then test the theory that emerges. Shooting from the hip is a lot more fun. You look smart if you're right, and chances are 50-50 you will be. It's fast and easy, and like a loyal pet, it plays to our vanity. Trouble is, shooting from the hip, as often as not, misses the target and kills innocent bystanders. The time has come to stop managing your business like doing a  drive-by.

An archer pulls back the bow and waits until the right moment to release the arrow. It is hard work pulling back the bow and even harder resisting the many temptations to let the arrow fly. Who can wait until the right moment, hits the bullseye. ​

​What Works

So first, you quiet your mind and simply look, and map what you see. Look for things breaking the flow, uneven flow, unnecessary steps, and boring, uninteresting, burdensome, and degrading steps. Then you get everyone together, and apply the tools you've learned to try and put what you saw in context and see what emerges. What emerges, will be your theory. The next step will be to design a way to test your theory and see if it works.​

About the Author

Dan Strongin works with medium to small companies, helping them master the art and science of managing.