Last week, we explored the significance of manual problem-solving skills in a world dominated by automation and complexity. Today, I would like to focus on a common challenge that often plagues even the most adept problem solvers—the art of defining the root cause.
In my years as a consultant, I've witnessed a recurring obstacle that trips up both managers and professionals: the challenge of defining the core problem they face. While we might effortlessly identify the symptoms of an issue, connecting those symptoms to the underlying root cause can be a puzzle in itself. For instance, low website traffic might be attributed to a lack of SEO strategy, but it could also be as simple as omitting the website address from marketing collateral. Similarly, high customer churn could arise from price-competitive alternatives or a shift in industry trends. There are science-drive techniques in unveiling the true culprit of problems; it is a practice that demands both skills and insight.
Let us begin with a technique that has stood the test of time—the Pareto Analysis. Also known as the 80-20 rule, the Pareto Analysis asserts that 80% of occurrences are influenced by 20% of causes. Imagine a hotel grappling with customer complaints. By grouping these grievances into categories and plotting them on a Pareto chart, patterns emerge. As we examine the chart, we may notice that at the 80% threshold, concerns related to (as an illustration) room, appliances, and cleanliness take center stage. These are the focal points that must be addressed to quell the tide of discontent. The beauty of Pareto lies in its ability to transform a chaotic sea of complaints into a navigable route towards solutions.
Yet, what if data isn't readily at our disposal? Here's when we can consider the method of the "5 Whys." A technique that leads us to the root cause by unwaveringly questioning the status quo. In highly complex processes, where precision is paramount, the "5 Whys" method shines brilliantly. Consider a situation in a hospital, where a patient is ushered late into the operating theatre. Why? Because trolley beds were in short supply. Why? Because a replacement was needed. Why? Because the initial trolley bed had a wobbly rail. Why? Ah, here we unearth a deeper truth—faulty trolley beds. Why? Because equipment checks lag behind damages. Why? A telling revelation emerges—the hospital houses an increasing number of older equipment compared to five years ago and the frequency of equipment checks have not been updated with the rapidly declining state of equipment.The power of this technique lies not in settling for surface answers but in summoning the courage to probe deeper, unravelling the layers of complexity to expose the root cause.
As we grasp the essence of techniques like Pareto Analysis and the "5 Whys," we have set the stage for next week's exploration. Creative problem-solving, where innovation, new perspectives and unconventional strategies enable us to encounter new frontiers.
Don't miss my next article of the serie where we venture into the realm of creativity to unlock innovative solutions to our intricate challenges.