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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

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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 19, 2019

      How to Succeed in Life on Your Own Terms: 7 Essential Steps

      How to Succeed in Life on Your Own Terms: 7 Essential Steps

      There is a great deal of advice in the world telling us how to succeed in life, but often we are given advice that isn’t tailored to our needs, desires and priorities. Success means different things to each of us, and living a life that feels genuinely successful to me might be very different to your idea of a successful life.

      Naturally, when we follow the advice of someone else, which is tailored to their life goals and personality, we can end up with something that doesn’t deliver on the promise. We don’t get rewarded with our vision of success: we get theirs.

      This is why I’m a proponent of self-discovery, introspection and personal sovereignty. So how to succeed on your own terms?

      These 7 essential steps are not going to tell you exactly what to do, but they will provide you with the tools and the questions to ask so that you can discover your own path, so you know how to succeed in life on your own terms.

      1. Know Thyself

      One of Socrates’ most well-known quotes is,

      An unexamined life is not worth living.

      I argue that an unexamined life is not a successful one. Self-knowledge is something we could dedicate our lives to, but I’m not suggesting you sit around and navel-gaze in order to find happiness and meaning.

      Thankfully, there are people who have created techniques and systems that less us fast-forward through a lot of personal philosophizing, and quickly identify some key aspects of what makes us, us.

      You might want to find out what your ideal daily schedule is,[1] and you can take tests that reveal just that. Or you might want to figure out what you need to get things done – and yes, there’s a quiz for that too.

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      None of these tests are infallible, and some are more scientific than others, but the process of asking yourself questions about your behaviors and traits is invaluable when it comes to determining your path to succeed in life.

      For example, if you know you are an introvert and are unhappy in your current workplace, it might be worth considering why that is (an open plan office space perhaps) and what you would prefer.

      It’s these little questions that will provoke answers in you that can guide the decisions that truly improve your life now and in the future.

      2. Figure out What Matters to You

      What lights you up? This is a question that often gets forgotten as we age. A fortunate child will be given the stimulation they desire in the form of bright toys, affection and entertainment. Little by little, the things that bring a child joy get replaced by what society demands on their behalf.

      When we return to that question, and ask ourselves what really matters and what brings us joy, we can move closer towards a successful life. It can help to think back to your childhood, and the times in your life when you were in what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls a flow state.[2]

      In a state of flow, time slows and our focus is directed like a laser. We are fully present.

      Whilst not everything in life that matters to you will conjure up a flow state, it’s a good indication of the kind of activities and experiences you can try to incorporate into your life on a regular basis.

      A successful life is made up of moments like this, and when you know what matters to you and brings you a sense of joy and purpose, you can go about creating more of that.

      3. Play to Your Strengths

      Why spend your time only on mitigating your weaknesses, only to feel average? Instead, playing to your strengths and amplifying those skills and qualities you already have will help you go from average to extraordinary.

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      If you’re great at big picture thinking and love dreaming up new ideas, but often lack attention to detail, acknowledge that. Then instead of trying to improve your analytical skills, focus instead on developing your existing skills of imagination and insight. When you need someone with a keen eye for detail, you can collaborate with those people.

      Jackson Pollock was an extreme introvert, with no real desire to get his artwork in front of people. Fortunately, he had Clement Greenberg, who was much further towards the extrovert end of the spectrum, to popularize his work and get Pollock the publicity he needed.[3]

      Start by identifying your strengths and what comes naturally to you. Then work on developing those and becoming known for those strengths. You can always find someone who will help you in fill in the gaps.

      4. Listen to Yourself

      It isn’t always clear to us that we’re on a path that leads us to failure or to success. People can spends decades in a job that is unfulfilling and slowly breaking their spirit, without even realizing it – until it’s too late. This is usually because they haven’t learned how to truly listen to themselves.

      The challenge we face is that we’re listening to so many other sources of information; whether it’s the news, television, social media, family, friends or colleagues. Many may want to help, but that doesn’t mean they know what’s best for us. Only you know what success means for you, and working this out begins with listening to yourself.

      Listening to yourself requires practice. It’s a daily effort, which over time, does get easier. That inner voice of wisdom will get clearer, and the decisions you make will feel more convincing.

      To start, you could try to set aside 10 to 15 minutes when you first wake up, in silence. Rather than look at your phone, checking emails or social media, simply sit in silence, listening.

      Ask yourself a simple question like, what am I feeling right now, in this moment? Notice the answer that bubbles up, without getting lost in the story. Starting an inner dialogue, without judgment is one of the key tools you can use to start making better decisions in your life.

      Learn more about listening to your true self in this guide: How to Listen to Your Inner Voice for Greater Fulfillment

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      5. Listen to Others (But Not Everyone)

      Listening to yourself is one thing, but listening to others is crucial in order to learn, empathize and be of benefit to your community.

      Truly listening to others is not just waiting patiently until it’s your turn to speak. Active listening requires focused attention, and the intention to understand where the other person is coming from.

      When you do this, you can ask better questions and discover more about the world and everyone in it, as well as learn how to interact with others in order to succeed in life on your own terms.

      However, this doesn’t mean you have to listen to everyone you come across. Trolls on the internet may come into the category of people not to listen to. Some people’s opinions will do more harm than good, as not everyone has your best interest in mind.

      It’s worth identifying a shortlist of people whose opinions you will listen to. Brené Brown, author of the New York Times best-seller Daring Greatly, recommends taking a 1-inch x 1-inch square of paper and make a list of people whose opinions matter to you. These are the people who love you and will genuinely support and help you. According to Brown,

      “If you need more paper, you need to edit.”

      6. Make Time for Reflection

      It’s easy to go through life without taking inventory of what you’re actually accomplishing. Missing this crucial step means we end up jumping from one goal to the next, without feeling like we’re getting anywhere.

      Make time, ideally each day to reflect. You might keep a paper journal, or an online document. Either way, jot down:

      • What went well today
      • Something you’re grateful for
      • What would make tomorrow even better

      Doing this can have measurable benefits to our overall sense of well-being, as well as keeping us focused for more success in the future.[4]

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      It also helps combat feelings of lack and doubt, that arise when we compare ourselves to others. When we look at someone who appears to be more successful than us in an area of life, we can forget how far we’ve come and how much we have to be grateful for.

      Making time to reflect on what you have accomplished is critical to keep you on track, and just not looking at what others are doing.

      7. Don’t Be Afraid to Change Your Mind

      Arguably the most important step of all:

      Remember that there’s nothing wrong in changing your mind and correcting course.

      The path to a successful life is not straight and narrow. It meanders and there’s no harm in going back and picking a different (and better) route.

      “I think our life is a journey, and we make mistakes, and it’s how we learn from those mistakes and rebound from those mistakes that sets us on the path that we’re meant to be on.” — Jay Ellis

      Be willing to make mistakes, learn from them and change your mind. Ultimately, there’s no better way to succeed in life on your own terms.

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      Featured photo credit: Shirly Niv Marton via unsplash.com

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