Problem? What Problem?

Are you aware of all the problems or potential problems in your business? And how do you know which ones need attention? It’s not always easy, so this story might be thought provoking.

My husband is quite auditory, while I tend to be more visual which can make for some interesting perceptions of the world. For example, when I drive a car, I listen out for sirens and surrounding traffic, but he hears every squeak, grind and rattle coming from the car.

Now, there are plenty of rattles in our aging cars, so we need to be selective with which ones need attention! We do this by assessing the ‘rattle’ against 3 criteria:
1.     URGENCY – Are we about to go on a long drive or into a holiday period?
2.     SERIOUS – Is something not working properly, like poor steering or brakes?
3.     GROWTH – Is it getting louder or getting worse?

Let’s look at this in terms of a business. If someone has been injured then a response is both urgent and serious, but if this is the third similar injury then the problem is also growing, and we must conduct a thorough investigation to understand the problem and look at long term prevention.

But incidents are usually easy to identify, so let’s take a step back. Do you have a list of ‘rattles’ / potential problems that are bubbling under the surface, possibly getting a bit worse every week or month or six months?

Problems come in all shapes and sizes in business and the beauty of problem-solving skills is they can be applied in any situation. The challenge is identifying and prioritising your ‘rattles’.

In the health and safety space, near misses are good indicators of potential problems, and so are employee culture surveys. In the quality space, they may come in the form of complaints, faults, rework, returns, and deviations. Sometimes they come from interviewing people working ‘at the coal face’ day to day. Their description of annoyances can provide a brilliant insight into potential opportunities for improvement that can reap significant returns for the business.

Try doing a stock-take of your company’s ‘rattles’ (incidents, deviations, and annoyances). Take this list of potential problems and apply the three criteria listed above to determine which problems take priority.
And remember:

‘Problems are a sign of life. All they are, are challenges to be solved. And what makes you a great leader is your ability to solve problems or teach teams to build a culture to solve problems.’ – Tony Robbins