Monthly Archives: June 2017

Random Thoughts: Communication, Projects and Problem Solving

I have been thinking about processes… We find something – communicate – interpret – execute then either approve or revisit (PDCA). Sometimes it is true project work and other times it is day-to-day operations. When I think of how we could fail, there is a cartoon that comes to mind that I was shown in one of my MBA classes. There are different iterations of this image but they all are fundamentally the same.

Communicating effectively can be a difficult one to tackle. Half of it is the sender and then you have a receiver that needs to translate what you just said. I know I struggle with this from time to time. I have met a few people in my lifetime that have done exceptionally well with this. The common thing they do is repeat the message back. “Here is what I heard you say…” in their own words. When we write emails or issue work a lot of this can be lost. For critical to success functions we need some sort of direct communication such as an office visit or a phone call to get and give that 360 communication cycle.

While heading down this topic path, I could not resist a comical approach to how the meetings take place. Imagine all of the meetings for projects that you have been a part of. The tasks that are asked and what we are capable of doing are two very different things. Along the same lines of the cartoon above, view the video below. It is easy to see how one idea can go so many different directions and the idea never gets fully realized.

Another topic that I have been thinking a lot about since my visit to Toyota is how we problem solve. Often we have an issue, then call a problem-solving meeting, identify several things it could be, and slap a whole list of action items against it. Sort of like buckshot when you hunt. I only need to get directionally correct and I should hit the target. Sometimes the root cause is not what we really want to hear. It may not be an ah-ha moment and is something as simple as we have good processes in place but didn’t follow them. The root cause may be self-inflicted. Through the solutions phase we need to address the root cause – own our mistakes – and correct that one. That does not mean we need a jillion checks to check our checks. That only creates more work and greater opportunity for us to miss something with the extra work we created just to cover the one thing we missed. Granted checks are not always bad and can be a good precursor or way to see something failing prior to it actually halting a process. When we see the problem at its root we need to fix why that item happened which leads to lots of other symptoms or results. That does not mean we should not create contingency plans for continuity; we just need to be cognoscente as to what we are really gaining. I know I have led events where I facilitated scattershot approaches to cover everything under the sun. I would challenge us (myself included) to simply, standardize, be accountable and repeat.

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