In a perfect world, problems would fix themselves. In the real world, it’s up to every business owner to address their problems and implement working solutions. This isn’t easy when the problem has been ongoing or unnoticed for some time. The longer a problem goes unchecked, the harder it can be to reverse the damage.
The band-aid approach is a strategy everyone’s used at least once. It’s when you apply a thin layer of solution over a problem – a solution that only addresses your immediate concerns and ignores the root of the problem. Naturally, it’s only a matter of time before the problem pops up again in another area, and that, too, is thinly patched. Then, the cycle repeats.
Using the band-aid approach makes it easier for you to go on with your day to complete the task at hand, but it never solves the problem.
Not everyone uses the band-aid approach as a standard; many business owners do their best to pull problems up by the root. However, it’s not always obvious what the root problem is, and finding it can be a long battle.
Next time you’re facing a problem, consider these tips:
- Be realistic about what’s going on
When your business experiences failure, it’s natural to be defensive over systems, strategies, and people who aren’t working. After all, you created those systems and hired your staff.
It’s okay to find out your systems aren’t working and need to be restructured. That’s an important part of growing your business. All systems should be continuously evaluated for efficiency, and anything that doesn’t work should be tossed out.
- Hire a company to analyze your facility
The root cause of a problem is often so well hidden, it’s easy to address symptoms, thinking you’ve found the cause. This is why hiring an outside company to help is beneficial. There are businesses that specialize in investigating why failures happen, and the tool they use is called Root Cause Analysis (RCA).
In a nutshell, root cause analysis looks for three basic causes: physical, human, and organizational.
The physical causes include anything tangible that stopped functioning. For example, the bearings on a machine may have worn out, or a computer hard drive failed.
The human causes include anything people may have done, or not done, that led to the problem. For example, someone may have forgotten to pay an invoice, or there could be an internal security breach that exposed sensitive data to hackers.
The organizational causes include the existence or absence of any strategy, system, or policy that is used to direct the actions and decisions of workers. For example, having no policy to declare someone responsible for removing network access for contractors once the job is done.
RCA is only half the equation
RCA is essential for preventing future incidents where safety, production, and reliability are concerned. However, RCA focuses on solving existing problems. There’s another tool you need called Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA). Although both tools are essential, FMEA gives you deeper leverage.
Pinnacle Art explains the leverage of FMEA: “RCA shares many features with Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA), with one major difference: an FMEA is performed prior to failure events using experience, facility and asset history, manufacturer manuals, and operating context to determine dominant causes of failures and develop mitigating strategies in advance. It is a proactive strategy intended to reduce the incidence of failures before they happen.”
Mitigating strategies are your biggest asset for preventing future problems. Root cause analysis is the only way to stop an existing problem from doing more damage.
Problem solving and prevention strategies
There are times when applying a temporary solution is appropriate to help you deal with immediate situations, as long as it doesn’t get left in place permanently. Once you have the situation under control, it’s time to dig up the root.