Fix The Right Stuff

Basic Business Cents

We only have so much time, energy, and emotional drive; we need to deploy it wisely. It is much harder to regain momentum in the organization after a false start than it is to initiate it. Following are three areas in which we need to constantly remind ourselves to avoid missteps.

Fix the Problem, Not the Blame

Few people deliberately make mistakes. They want to be proud of their work and their organization. Blame is demoralizing and counter productive. Blame wastes time and money and delays customer satisfaction. We want and need an environment where people feel free to identify problems without experiencing repercussions. It can cause employees to hide problems and stifle innovation. Fixing the problem is constructive use of your energy; fixing blame is destructive to the organization. Focus on fixing the problem; it gets solved and the employees are happier.

Fix the Cause, Not the Symptom

If you spend time compensating for the symptoms of a problem, it doesn’t go away. The problem continues to exhaust time and effort. Fixing symptoms is just rework, over and over again. Instead, spend your time digging for the real cause of the problem and eliminating it so you can go on to more productive activities. When you break your arm, you don’t just take pain killers to mask your discomfort, you treat you arm in order to heal and reduce the pain. The same holds true for work, you should not just mask the pain and continue doing the same thing without removing the cause.

Fix the Process, Not the Product/Service

All work consists of a series of processes that produces our products or services. Bad processes, not by people doing something wrong, cause most problems. Two world leaders in the field of performance improvement shared thoughts on the percent of fault for problems. Joseph Juran stated that in his experience, he found 80% of the time it was a process problem and only 20% of the time was it people at fault. W. Edwards Deming said he thought 90-95% of the time it was a weak or faulty process that led to the problem. Again, don’t blame people, they are doing the best job they can with the processes they are given. Typically, management’s job is to create and improve the work processes and the people’s job to follow the processes. The ideal is to create processes that are incapable of producing bad products.

By focusing on the right things, fixing the right stuff, we can conserve our time and energy and get the best results. This results in happier and more fulfilled customers, employees, and managers.