problem solving

Right Answer, Wrong Question: How Our Brains Get in the Way of Effective Problem Solving

Right Answer, Wrong Question: How Our Brains Get in the Way of Effective Problem Solving

Asking the right questions is part of the art of great problem solving. By avoiding question substitution, a dangerous cognitive bias where we subconsciously simplify the questions we answer, we can focus our efforts in the right place and start solving your organisation's hardest problems. 

4 Warning Signs Your Problem Solving Effort is Going Off Track

4 Warning Signs Your Problem Solving Effort is Going Off Track

Getting off-track while solving a hard problem is to be expected. Getting back on track quickly is part of the art of great problem solving. Knowing how to spot when you’re going off track, and knowing what to do, can be the difference between rapid results and weeks, months, or years of frustration. Heed these four warning signs and you're more likely to right the ship before you veer too far off course.

Avoid Problem Stagnation & Solve the Problems Experts Say Are Impossible

Avoid Problem Stagnation & Solve the Problems Experts Say Are Impossible

When organizations run into problems they don’t know how to solve - really tough problems - the first step is often to call in a subject matter expert. Subject matter experts, be it the OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) or a local resource, will lean on their experience to try and draw out a solution. If the problem falls outside of their abilities, they’ll often proclaim the problem impossible. 

Four Signs a Problem Isn't as “Complex” as Your Team Thinks

Four Signs a Problem Isn't as “Complex” as Your Team Thinks

Think about the most valuable challenges your organization is facing. These are the really tough, messy problems that keep you up at night. If they weren’t so difficult, you most likely would have already solved them! What if it turned out that these problems were not complex, but instead were all surprisingly easy to solve? How would you approach the problems differently?

Where Simple, Elegant Solutions Go to Die

Where Simple, Elegant Solutions Go to Die

When you help businesses to solve their operations challenges for a living, you experience all the highs and lows of organizational problem solving culture. For a sampling of the lows, check out our playful tongue-in-cheek infographic below. To learn more about finding the simple, elegant solutions hidden within your operations, join one of our Stop Guessing Workshops.

To Solve a Hard Problem, Change These Two Mindsets

To Solve a Hard Problem, Change These Two Mindsets

When we’re brought into an organization to help it solve a hard problem, we’re often introduced to the situation like this: “Oh, the solution to this one is easy: we just need to build a whole new second well — or plant — or warehouse.” Then comes the next part of that statement: “And good luck getting capital approval for that.” The translation, to us, is that the people we’re talking to already know this problem can’t be solved, and so we’re either going to have to live with it, or throw a lot of money at it.

You are just guessing; stop it!

You are just guessing; stop it!

You have probably found yourself in this meeting before - the emergency, all-hands-on-deck sit in scheduled to solve the new, big problem.  It could be about people, customers, sales, a technical or quality issue--it doesn’t matter.  Your group spends the first 10 minutes excitedly proposing solutions to the problem.  These solutions are great, creative ideas that have sprung to mind.

The Lure and Limitations of Benchmarking

The Lure and Limitations of Benchmarking

The term ‘benchmark’ originates from surveyors marking a stone to act as a consistent reference point for where to place their equipment with each visit to a site. In life and work we now use benchmarks all the time as consistent reference points to measure performance against...

Carbon Tax: How will it impact oil sands producers?

Carbon Tax: How will it impact oil sands producers?

Earlier this year, Justin Trudeau and the federal Liberal government announced their intention to implement a Canada wide Carbon tax in the coming years, to the tune of $50/tonne at its peak. The reaction to this announcement was mixed, with recognizable names on either side of the debate.

Why asking stupid questions is the smartest thing to do

Why asking stupid questions is the smartest thing to do

“There’s no such thing as a stupid question”. You have probably heard that sentence before, maybe from a teacher or professor, encouraging you to raise your hand and participate in class. The concept of asking “stupid questions” doesn’t always resonate outside of the classroom.

3 Tangible Ways to Sustain Change

3 Tangible Ways to Sustain Change

A waste reduction team I recently worked on achieved 160% of its annualized savings goal yet saw the largest problem reoccur one morning six weeks later. The problem, a product spacing issue, caused a significant percentage of the product to be wasted, but on the other side of the plant from the solution.

Your data is telling you where to stand, not what to fix

Your data is telling you where to stand, not what to fix

In today’s manufacturing world we’ve become focused on collecting and analyzing data - creating pivot charts and paretos, moving data into buckets, rearranging so that it can tell us how our process is performing. Although good for initial prioritization, taking this analysis too far can get us into trouble because it distracts us from getting on the floor and starting the actual problem solving needed to improve.

Big-Project Engineers Have to Deal with Too Much Red Tape

Big-Project Engineers Have to Deal with Too Much Red Tape

On August 5, 2010, a mine collapsed in Chile’s Atacama Desert, trapping 33 miners more than 2,000 feet underground. Nineteen days later, as rescue crews grew desperate, a 24-year-old field engineer named Igor Proestakis decided to travel to the site with what he hoped was a breakthrough idea: using a particular drilling technology, called cluster hammers, to cut through the collapsed rock.

Do you solve problems like a NASA rocket scientist?

Do you solve problems like a NASA rocket scientist?

Most manufacturing and industrial businesses are not solving their toughest problems because common problem solving tools are ineffective at addressing the hardest, most technical problems. By attempting to solve challenging technical problems with ineffective tools organizations create beliefs that hard problems are “impossible” to resolve instead of bringing in the necessary tools and horsepower to overcome them.

Commodity Projects During the Downturn: Time for Value Engineering

Commodity Projects During the Downturn: Time for Value Engineering

Those who have been following know that 2015 has not been a good year for commodity markets. As of August, nearly all hard and soft commodities have dropped in value since January 1, other than a few outliers like canola and cocoa. Perhaps most significantly, oil is trading near a 6-year low, down 50% from just a year ago

Leading Change and the Trouble with 'Quick' Wins

Leading Change and the Trouble with 'Quick' Wins

It has now been 20 years since John Kotter first published his trendsetting article on leading change entitled: “Why Transformation Efforts Fail”. Since then it has served as the prevailing roadmap to help organizations devise and execute big changes to improve their performance. Among Kotter’s 8 steps we have found that the need to “Plan For and Create Short-Term Wins”, tucked away at number 6, is frequently being neglected and at great peril to these change efforts.

Meeting Your Growth Goals During the Manufacturing Boom

Meeting Your Growth Goals During the Manufacturing Boom

Manufacturing is expected to grow over the next few years in the US. A recent MAPI foundation report predicts US manufacturing growth will outpace GDP growth in 2015 and 2016. Industry growth is a great opportunity but doesn’t guarantee one’s success.