I am sure it happens to you, just as it does to everyone, that problems show up in your work as well?
It might be:
- that something you thought would work, doesn’t.
- that you don’t achieve the results you hoped you would from an activity.
- that something you are supposed to complete gets delayed every time.
- that something you do ends up going wrong, over and over again.
Since you are striving towards working in a structured manner, you want to quickly find possible solutions in an efficient way.
For you who prefer listening to reading, this post is also available as an episode of the “Done!” podcast:
This is when you should use Japanese Kaoru Ishikawa’s brilliant ”Fish-bone diagram”, which is also referred to as the ”Ishikawa-diagram”. In combination with Sakichi Toyoda’s ”the Five Whys”-method it is an excellent way to simply sort out a problem and its causes, so that you easier will find a solution to it.
The methods contain many nuances, but let’s make it as easy as possible. If you’re a Six Sigma Black Belt, then this will be peanuts, but for you who are not previously familiar with the ”fish-bone diagram”, this is something you’ve just got to try out for yourself.
- At the far left end of an empty sheet of paper, define and formulate your problem (or, try my “Five whys” template). The more concretely, measurably and specifically you phrase and describe it, the easier it will be to solve. The problem will be the head of the fish.
- Draw a straight line from the problem and horizontally across the sheet, towards the right end of the page. This line symbolizes the spine of the fish.
- Now read the problem out loud to yourself and ask ”Why?”. That is, you ask ”Why?” and answer yourself with ”because…”, and then write down all the reasons and causes you can think of in the shape of fish-bones emerging from the spine. Also, make sure that the reasons are as concrete, measurable and specific as possible.
- For each cause or reason you came to think of, again ask yourself ”But, why?” (similar to a curious, indefatigable 5‑year old…) and again answer ”Well, you see, because…” et c.
- You note these ”causes of causes” as fish-bones coming out of the original fish-bones (Alright, so no real fish actually look like this, but blame Kaoru, he made it up).
- Repeat these ”Why?”-questions for another three rounds. At this point, you will probably and hopefully have a handful of reasons and causes of the problem, a few causes of the causes and another few more causes of the causes of the causes of…
- After five ”Why?”-questions you will reach what, for now, can be regarded as the root of the evil.
- For now, settle with the questions you have asked and instead try to find a solution to at least two root causes:
- the one which is easiest to solve
- the one which, provided with a solution, ought to give the greatest effect
The solution can be something which eliminates the root cause completely, something which speeds it up, something which makes the process smoother, something which makes it more stable.
The solution may be a template, a checklist, an automation of a process, it can be that you delegate to someone else, that you outsource, et c.
When you have implemented the solution, you will notice that the good results propagate and spread back through the branches of causes, through the fish-bones, through the spine all the way to the head, that is, to the problem you wanted to solve.
Both large and small problems
You can use this method to solve problems of all sizes.
- Your personal structure: “My computer desktop is filled with files and documents – because I save files there – because I don’t know where else to put them – because I haven’t decided where they should be – because I’m unsure of my options – because I missed that edition of Done!”
- Your company’s most important issues: “We aren’t reaching our profitgoals – because we haven’t landed business transactions which are large enough – because we have been working on clients which are too small – because that’s what we are used to and those are the clients we know and know how to work with – because we aren’t sure of how to approach the big fish…”
If you have a simple, structured method by which you can “sort out” the problem, then it’s much easier to get to it than if you are just sitting with the problem in front of you thinking “Do something!”
How do you do it?
What’s your smartest way of solving a problem you are faced with? Tell me!