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How to Always Solve a Problem Once and for All

How to Always Solve a Problem Once and for All
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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 July 21, 2021

      The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

      The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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      No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

      Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

      Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

      A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

      Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

      In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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      From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

      A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

      For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

      This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

      The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

      That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

      Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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      The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

      Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

      But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

      The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

      The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

      A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

      For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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      But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

      If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

      For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

      These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

      For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

      How to Make a Reminder Works for You

      Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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      Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

      Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

      My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

      Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

      I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

      More on Building Habits

      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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      Reference

      [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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