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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 June 13, 2019

      10 Best Success Books You Need to Read to Be Great at Business

      10 Best Success Books You Need to Read to Be Great at Business

      Take a minute and think about some of the most successful people you know.

      I’d bet they’re great with people, are super-productive, and think differently than most. After all, that’s how they got to be where they are today.

      Jealous of them? You don’t have to be.

      You can learn these same skills by studying some of the best business and success books that can help you take your game to the next level. Here’re 10 of my favorites:

      1. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

        Dale Carnegie’s best-selling book that helped to launch a personal growth empire should be required reading for everyone who wants to learn how to build and nurture relationships for a lifetime.

        Read this book and you’ll learn some simple advice than can help you build popularity points within your current network and just as important, expand it to others.

        Get the book here!

        2. Focal Point by Brian Tracy

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          Got a lot on your to-do list? Of course you do. But what separates productive people from others is their ability to focus on a singular task at a time, and getting it done before moving on to the next one.

          Sounds simple in theory, but this can be extremely difficult in practice. In Focal Point Brian Tracy offers tips to help build discipline and organization into your day so you can get more stuff done.

          Get the book here!

          3. Purple Cow by Seth Godin

            Creating a “me-too” product can be easy at the start but can doom you to business failure. That’s why marketing maverick Seth Godin recommends creating a product that is truly different from anything already available in the marketplace.

            In essence by making the product different you’ll be building the marketing into the actual product development…which just makes your actual marketing a helluva lot easier.

            Get the book here!

            4. The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz

              If you’ve struggled with procrastination or small thinking, this is the book for you. In it Schwartz offers practical advice that can help you get inspired and motivated to create a bigger life for yourself. And with it can be a more lucrative and rewarding career.

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              Get the book here!

              5. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankel

                It can be difficult for lots of people to keep things in perspective, especially when working on high priority and urgent projects at work.

                Man’s Search for Meaning can be a life-changing book in the sense that it can open your eyes to a first-hand experience of one of the greatest atrocities in the history of mankind, while also teaching a valuable lesson about having purpose.

                Get the book here!

                6. The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss

                  Solo-entrepreneurs can learn a ton from the guy who made lifestyle design popular. But guess what? The 4HWW isn’t just for guys and girls who want to start a small online business.

                  Smart moves like outsourcing, following the 80/20 rule, and automating processes should be made by entry-level workers and established executives alike.

                  Get the book here!

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                  7. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

                    I remember sitting on a couch and opening this book on a Saturday morning, thinking I’d get through a chapter and then get on with my day. Instead, about 12 hours later, I was finished with the book. The concepts in it were mind-blowing to me.

                    To think that thoughts can create your reality sounded a little far-fetched at first. But after going through the book and understanding that your thoughts create your beliefs, which lead to actions, which then lead to habits….well you can get where I’m going with this.

                    If you focus your thoughts on success, achieving it will be much more likely than thinking about obstacles, failures and everything else that can get in your way.

                    Get the book here!

                    8. The One Minute Manager by Kenneth Blanchard

                      If you’re going to read one management book in your life, this should be it. It’s simple. You can read it in an afternoon. And the advice works.

                      Get the book here!

                      9. The Lean Start-Up by Eric Ries

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                        Before you create any sort of business you’ll want to give Lean Start-Up a read through. Doing so can save you money, time and other resources you could have potentially wasted otherwise.

                        Get the book here!

                        10. The Monk and the Riddle by Randy Komisar

                          The story Randy Komisar shares in the Monk and the Riddle offers advice about not just about how you need to think when starting a new business, but also about how to build a life you’re passionate about.

                          Understanding the technical aspects of launching a start-up is great, but if you don’t have the staying power to stick with it when the going gets tough then it’s not likely to work.

                          This book can help you understand this lesson before you spend blood, sweat and tears on a project that you’re heart isn’t into.

                          Get the book here!

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