I had a client who had long been “solving” a business issue that was costing the organization nearly $200,000 a year. A member of its executive team brought me into the company to eliminate the problem. As I queried the leadership team and line managers about the issue and their attempts to solve it, I was given elaborate diagrams, creative explanations and mounds of data collection that were used to help them arrive at many dead-in solutions.
Why? Because they were not solving the right problem. In quality terms, their root cause analysis (RCA) process was flawed.
As I continued to probe different people within the organization, I soon discovered that no two answers to one question were the same. This was true even among peers within the targeted department.
I found this quite alarming to say the least; however, it was now clear why they could not solve the problem: They did not know what problem they were trying to resolve.
Without being able to clearly identify what the true business issue was, they could not create an effective strategy to solve it. The true business issue is commonly referred to as the root cause, and without it, problem solving becomes a game of chance.
If you’re like me, you’re thinking “this is just common sense,” and it is. Regardless, this scenario is not uncommon in the business world. Much to the chagrin of business leaders and process experts alike, many improvement efforts fail due to solutions being applied to ancillary causes as opposed to the root cause of the problem.
More on problem solving on IndustryWeek.