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How to Always Solve a Problem Once and for All

How to Always Solve a Problem Once and for All

Does it annoy you when you see people “fix” a problem without getting to the bottom of why it became a problem in the first place? It’s frustrating because you know they’re just going to have the same problem to fix again in the future.

You certainly know someone who patches up things that have gone wrong, only to do it all over again in the near future. Don’t you?

So what can you do to avoid making a similar mistake with your own problems? Employ a few causal analysis tactics and you’ll be set.

The Effective Technique to Problem Solving: Causal Analysis

Causal analysis, also known as root cause analysis or cause-and-effect reasoning, is a popular and effective problem-solving technique designed to help you understand precisely why the problem occurred and how it can ultimately be fixed for good.

It’s a popular concept that has been discussed at length in the book Root Cause Analysis : A Tool for Total Quality Management.[1]

For example, instead of simply repainting your wall, you’ll use causal analysis techniques to work out that the wall is damp, then why the wall got damp in the first place, and ensure your costly repair job is actually going to be the end of the problem for good.

The simplest way to look at a problem using causal analysis is to ask ‘why’ five times.

Obviously, some problems will take more or less than five times to uncover the reasons behind them, but on the whole using five times as a rule should help you remember to dig deeper every time you’re analysing the root cause of a problem.

So, instead of saying “There’s a problem with my resumé “, you would ask “Why?” five times and get an answer something like this:

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There’s a problem with my resumé. Why?

Because I’m not getting the job offers I want. Why?

I keep getting offered sales positions, when I want marketing jobs. Why?

Because all my previous jobs were in sales. Why?

Because no-one knows I’m good at marketing. Why?

Because I never made that clear on my resume, I just listed the previous jobs I had.

Bingo, you have the answer!

But causal analysis can go wrong if you make the wrong presumption.

Although this is a great technique, things can go wrong quickly with causal analysis. How? Well, what happens when you make the wrong presumption?

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If you think something is a cause of something else, but it’s actually just tangentially related, then you get to the wrong answer. And fast.

Say for instance you’re trying to diagnose your common cold symptoms, and you happen to be Googling for help. You could easily go through a process much like this.

I’ve got a runny nose. Why?

Because I’ve got an allergy to something. Why?

There must be pollen in the air. Why?

My windows are open, but the pollen is inside. Why?

It’s windy outside. Why?

Because of the season.

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This could lead you to presume you’re always going to have seasonal allergies, and to buy the wrong sort of medication to deal with your problem. Or perhaps you might shut the window and presume the symptoms will go away now that the pollen can’t get into your house.

Either way, you haven’t come to the right conclusion.

    No, Dr House, it’s not Lupus.

    Go one step further with a fishbone diagram.

    If you’re getting pretty good at analysing your problems, you can take it a step further by noting the root causes on a fishbone diagram. This is the ultimate technique to tackle the really big problems you might face on occasion, such as ones you might face when problem-solving for your business.

    These fishbone diagrams, also known as Ishikawa diagrams, are an effective way of streamlining your thoughts, then mapping each possible cause pathway so that each possibility can be tested and eliminated one by one. They’re very effective for teams to use when focusing their brainstorming, and to get group thinking out of ruts.

      Image Credit: Fabian Lange

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      In business, these Ishikawa cause-and-effect diagrams are often used to map out possible reasons for product defects. In fact, they were first created to track quality management issues in the Kawasaki shipyards. In this sort of situation, the possible causes would be grouped to track causes related to people, methods, materials, machines, etc.

      Within each group, each possible cause is noted and then you follow the previous technique of using the five whys to determine the root cause. In the diagram, this is portrayed using little arrows to show the path of causation of each item.

      This effective problem-solving technique can be used in just about any industry or facet of life you can think of.

      It’s so easy to train yourself to think more deeply through the causes of your problems, why wouldn’t you do it?

      The causal analysis method is also used in quality assurance management professionals to ensure critical problems do not reoccur. If professionals trust this simple, yet effective method of working through problems, you should probably give it a chance yourself.

      So, always remember to ask yourself “why” five times.

      Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io

      Reference

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      Angela Randall

      Digital Marketer, Writer, Editor

      How to Always Solve a Problem Once and for All

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      Last Updated on August 16, 2018

      16 Productivity Secrets of Highly Successful People Revealed

      16 Productivity Secrets of Highly Successful People Revealed

      The same old motivational secrets don’t really motivate you after you’ve read them for the tenth time, do they?

      How about a unique spin on things?

      These 16 productivity secrets of successful people will make you reevaluate your approach to your home, work, and creative lives. Learn from these highly successful people, turn these little things they do into your daily habits and you’ll get closer to success.

      1. Empty your mind.

      It sounds counterproductive, doesn’t it?

      Emptying your mind when you have so much to remember seems like you’re just begging to forget something. Instead, this gives you a clean slate so you’re not still thinking about last week’s tasks.

      Clear your mind and then start thinking only about what you need to do immediately, and then today. Tasks that need to be accomplished later in the week can wait.

      Here’s a guide to help you empty your mind and think sharper:

      How to Declutter Your Mind to Sharpen Your Brain and Fall Asleep Faster

      2. Keep certain days clear.

      Some companies are scheduling “No Meeting Wednesdays,” which means, funnily enough, that no one can hold a meeting on a Wednesday. This gives workers a full day to work on their own tasks, without getting sidetracked by other duties or pointless meetings.

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      This can work in your personal life too, for example if you need to restrict Facebook access or limit phone calls.

      3. Prioritize your work.

      Don’t think every task is created equal! Some tasks aren’t as important as others, or might take less time.

      Try to sort your tasks every day and see what can be done quickly and efficiently. Get these out of the way so you have more free time and brain power to focus on what is more important.

      Lifehack’s CEO has a unique way to prioritize works, take a look at it here:

      How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

      4. Chop up your time.

      Many successful business leaders chop their time up into fifteen-minute intervals. This means they work on tasks for a quarter of an hour at a time, or schedule meetings for only fifteen minutes. It makes each hour seem four times as long, which leads to more productivity!

      5. Have a thinking position.

      Truman Capote claimed he couldn’t think unless he was laying down. Proust did this as well, while Stravinsky would stand on his head!

      What works for others may not work for you. Try to find a spot and position that is perfect for you to brainstorm or come up with ideas.

      6. Pick three to five things you must do that day.

      To Do lists can get overwhelming very quickly. Instead of making a never-ending list of everything you can think of that needs to be done, make daily lists that include just three to five things.

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      Make sure they’re things that need to be done that day, so you don’t keep putting them off.

      7. Don’t try to do too much.

      OK, so I just told you to work every day, and now I’m telling you to not do too much? It might sound like conflicting advice, but not doing too much means not biting off more than you can chew. Don’t say yes to every work project or social engagement and find yourself in way over your head.

      8. Have a daily action plan.

      Don’t limit yourself to a to-do list! Take ten minutes every morning to map out a daily action plan. It’s a place to not only write what needs to be done that day, but also to prioritize what will bring the biggest reward, what will take the longest, and what goals will be accomplished.

      Leave room for a “brain dump,” where you can scribble down anything else that’s on your mind.

      9. Do your most dreaded project first.

      Getting your most dreaded task over with first means you’ll have the rest of the day free for anything and everything else. This also means that you won’t be constantly putting off the worst of your projects, making it even harder to start on it later.

      10. Follow the “Two-Minute Rule.”

      The “Two-Minute Rule” was made famous by David Allen. It’s simple – if a new task comes in and it can be done in two minutes or less, do it right then. Putting it off just adds to your to-do list and will make the task seem more monumental later.

      11. Have a place devoted to work.

      If you work in an office, it’s no problem to say that your cubicle desk is where you work every day.

      But if you work from home, make sure you have a certain area specifically for work. You don’t want files spread out all over the dinner table, and you don’t want to feel like you’re not working just because you’re relaxing on the couch.

      Agatha Christie never wrote at her desk, she wrote wherever she could sit down. Ernest Hemingway wrote standing up. Thomas Wolfe, at 6’6″ tall, used the top of his refrigerator as a desk. Richard Wright wrote on a park bench, rain or shine.

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      Have a space where, when you go there, you know you’re going to work. Maybe it’s a cafe downstairs, the library, or a meeting room. Whenever and wherever works for you, do your works there.

      12. Find your golden hour.

      You don’t have to stick to a “typical” 9–5 schedule!

      Novelist Anne Rice slept during the day and wrote at night to avoid distractions. Writer Jerzy Kosinski slept eight hours a day, but never all at once. He’d wake in the morning, work, sleep four hours in the afternoon, then work more that evening.

      Your golden hour is the time when you’re at your peak. You’re alert, ready to be productive, and intent on crossing things off your to-do list.

      Once you find your best time, protect it with all your might. Make sure you’re always free to do your best uninterrupted work at this time.

      13. Pretend you’re on an airplane.

      It might not be possible to lock everyone out of your office to get some peace and quiet, but you can eliminate some distractions.

      By pretending you’re on an airplane, you can act like your internet access is limited, you’re not able to get something from your bookcase, and you can’t make countless phone calls.

      Eliminating these distractions will help you focus on your most important tasks and get them done without interruption.

      14. Never stop.

      Writers Anthony Trollope and Henry James started writing their next books as soon as they finished their current work in progress.

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      Stephen King writes every day of the year, and holds himself accountable for 2,000 words a day! Mark Twain wrote every day, and then read his day’s work aloud to his family to get their feedback.

      There’s something to be said about working nonstop, and putting out continuous work instead of taking a break. It’s just a momentum that will push you go further./

      15. Be in tune with your body.

      Your mind and body will get tired of a task after ninety minutes to two hours focused on it. Keep this in mind as you assign projects to yourself throughout the day, and take breaks to ensure that you won’t get burned out.

      16. Try different methods.

      Vladimir Nabokov wrote the first drafts of his novels on index cards. This made it easy to rearrange sentences, paragraphs, and chapters by shuffling the cards around.

      It does sound easier, and more fun, than copying and pasting in Word! Once Nabokov liked the arrangement, his wife typed them into a single manuscript.

      Same for you, don’t give up and think that it’s impossible for you to be productive when one method fails. Try different methods until you find what works perfectly for you.

      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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