Thursday, 10 December 2015

Problem Solving

The first question you should ask is: “What is your problem?” This is very often so hard to define that we look at the symptoms and not the root cause.
Take lifts. People used to complain that lifts (or elevators to Americans) were too slow. Everyone was always stuck waiting. So engineers tried to speed up the lifts. They got faster and faster, yet people were still complaining. So they started doing all these fancy models so that the elevators would travel to the most used floor or wait in the best location to minimize waiting time.
Yet people were still complaining. In the end somebody came at the problem from a different approach. They put up mirrors. Now people had something to do while waiting for the lift.
The problem was not that the lift was too slow, the problem was that people were bored.
So the next time you hit a problem don’t just try to fix a system, try to find the root cause and fix that. Sometimes it’s easier and cheaper.
When companies come to us saying that their current operation is no longer working, we always start with the most obvious problems. People are very good at seeing problems. We were designed to use our brains when we hit an obstacle; overcome it or go round.
When we are operating a business the same rules apply, we try to fix the current issue or if that’s too hard and expensive we remove the problem by cutting our losses.
Strangely enough most companies have the same root causes for all their staffing failures:
  • Not enough staff
  • Wrong skills mix
  • Poor Holiday management
  • Poor absence planning
  • Change to the workload

The problem is that something has changed. When you start a business it takes time and a lot of trial and error to get everything running smoothly, but once it is you tend to forget about it. Then something happens. It may be small like somebody leaves or big like a change in the workload. So you go back and put in little fixes. Something happens again, and again and each time you don’t overhaul the whole operation, you just put in little fixes because it is easier and cheaper.
Until one day you look back and can’t remember why you did something on one occasion and something else on another. Then something happens and you don’t know what to do. That’s where we come in. We can look at your current system and assess it for staffing failures. Sometimes it just requires a few minor adjustments. Maybe a change to your procedures or implementing a new shift pattern.
On other occasions we may find that all your little fixes are making you inflexible for the future and you have a good opportunity to futureproof yourself. Put in a new way of working, with new shift patterns and flexible working arrangements. Think about contingency planning so that you know what to do when the next little problem comes up, don’t reinvent the system just look it up and then each time a common problem occurs you can solve it quickly, simply and cheaply.
Let us save you time and solve your problems contact us on alec@visualrota.co.uk or call (+44) 01636 816466 and find out how to solve your problems.

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