What stops you and your company from sweeping away the main problems you face?
“Limited resources,” you may say.
Or, “There’s just not enough time to get ahead of things.”
Yet, if you add up all the money and time it takes to clean up after each individual mistake…well, the cost can be astounding.
Sometimes things just happen, and you do need miraculous saves.
And for those times, it’s good to have people on your team who can step up to be the hero or heroine.
But it’s better not to need to use heroes or heroines regularly.
It’s not good for your customers, profits, or company.
And it’s not good for your blood pressure, either.
Put your greatest problem-solvers to work on long-term plays.
Try this approach:
1. Make a list of the top three problems your company faces.
Start with the problems customers are most frustrated about.
These are the issues that might drive them to your competitors, if you don’t get the problems solved and, in the future, prevented.
2. Start with the problem that’s most painful to deal with now.
This is a problem that’s frustrating to customers and employees, both.
3. See the problem in its fullest extent.
Find a visual way to show or understand the problem, and to be able to communicate it well to everyone who is going to be involved in solving it.
A flowchart or simple drawing of the way the process works now can be useful for this step.
Show the pain points in the process in some way, such as by drawing red, radiating “pain points” or frustrated exclamation marks in the most troublesome parts of the process.
4. Tally up the estimated cost, lost time and other negative impacts of not having solved the problem yet.
Estimate the cost of fixing the problem each time you have to clean up something that has gone wrong, especially if the customer has received that work-gone-wrong.
Include, for example, the cost of rework, the cost of making things whole for an unhappy customer, the estimated impact of lost sales and referrals in the future if frustrated customers quit doing business with your company.
5. See the problem as a puzzle you’re trying to solve or a game you’re trying to win.
Many people crave a contest, no matter what it is.
And if crave a contest, they probably also crave a “win,” whatever a “win” is.
Look at the problem creatively and make a game out of problem-solving and problem-prevention.
For example, you can:
– Reduce the amount of time it takes to do the job
– Increase customer satisfaction
– Reduce cost while increasing customer satisfaction
– Increase flexibility and responsiveness as you reduce costs
Experiment with ways of trying to win the game you’ve created.
Make notes about what you tried, and why, and what you think will happen, as a result.
7. See if the experiment worked.
Check to see if the experiment worked.
If so, move on to Step 8.
If not try another experiment.
8. Educate and implement.
Record the information you need to pass on to others who will use this process regularly.
Set them up to win the game you’ve created through this improvement. Teach them what a “win” is, in this process and for the customers who buy this product or service from you.
Better yet, involve them in some way in creating the game they’ll now be trying to “win” on a regular basis.
This is the key to success in many things.
Check back to see if the problem was, indeed, solved, and if good intentions and ideas were sustainably implemented.
If not, go back as far as you need to in the process to understand the real problem you’re facing, and to solve it.
10. Repeat the process to solve the next problem.
Remember the list of your top three problems in Step One? Take the next one in the list and turn it into a long-term play, and a game you can win now, and well into the future.
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