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Multi-tasking and Problem Solving Don’t Mix

Heading up I-24 into work, I noticed the guy passing me was on his phone, eating with one hand, drinking coffee with the other and speeding.  I thought to myself, all he needs is someone in front of him to tap their brakes a little too hard and his day would change in a blink of an eye not to mention how his actions would impact (literally) those around him. Luckily, I exited before finding out the rest of his story.

Because I was contemplating this post I thought of the analogy between that I-24 driver and how making multiple changes while multi-tasking doesn’t affect just you – but how it impacts those around you. As a leader your first priority should be those you serve.

One of the hardest things in problem solving is taking the time to do it right. You have the pressure of leadership wanting an answer, the voice of the customer wanting progress, and the weight of fixing failures before they happen again.

With all that going on, it is easy to succumb to changing everything at once. It could be x, y or z – so let’s change all three and “save” some time.

There is just one problem with that, ok, actually there are many problems with that. You now have NO idea what “thing” fixed the issue, or if all three changes just made it worse. So much for sleeping tonight as you lay awake in bed pondering a new potential outcome.

Tried and true scientific studies specifically control all things AND they only change one thing at a time. A former boss of mine used to say tongue-in cheek, “We never seem to have enough time to do it right the first time, but we always have plenty of time for rework.”

This works in root cause problem solving on the shop floor too. If not, you may find something that correlates, but is not causal. It appears to be fixed, and sometimes for a while. Then one day the problem is back. That is usually a sign you worked on a correlated issue, not a causal issue.

Patience really is a virtue. Work to one change at a time – especially if you really want to find the causal and fix it once and for all.

Be intentional