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.
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.
Our info grahic displays the various stages of maturity for a Management Operating System. Knowing where you lie on the curve is the first step in furthering your improvement capabilities. Each category lays out four characteristics that will help you assess where your organization lies on the curve. Once you know where you are on the curve and what lies ahead, you can begin to create a plan for how to shift to the right on the diagram.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Times are tough right now for miners and energy producers. China’s economy, as well as many others, have slowed and commodity prices are at their lowest level in almost a decade. Once healthy margins are tight or have vanished altogether, projects that met hurdle rates are less attractive or viewed as nonviable, and long-term plans are being questioned.