Problems manifest themselves in many ways but to truly solve a problem you must make sure you have found the root cause. A good place to start is by understanding the top ten root causes of business problems you will encounter.
Root Causes of Business Problems:
1. Poor Training
Mistakes are made due to the lack of proper training. However, it is not the sole reason why things go wrong.
2. Poor Procedure Usage
Unused procedures are not effective. Why aren’t they following procedures? Perhaps because they are…
3. Poorly Written Procedures
If a procedure is unclear it is a lot harder to follow. Even well-written procedures are not perfect.
4. Poor Employee Placement
This can result in business problems because your employee may not be the right person for the job. Better screening, job descriptions, or testing can help you to place the right person in the right job. Yet even with the right person you could have…
5. Poor Methods
This refers to methods that have been outdated but not changed, or at least the changes were poorly communicated.
6. Poor Inspection
This causes mistakes. This is really about attention to detail, understanding your product, and caring for the output that you are passing on to the next step in the process. Pay attention and take the time to inspect your product and you will reduce your chances of seeing these causes of business problems.
If you neglect your equipment then it is more likely to malfunction. Lean thinking focuses on preventive maintenance, which means regularly maintaining your equipment to ensure it does not break down in the middle of something important you are doing.
8. Poor Engineering or Design
We’re talking about bad design in the first place. Focus on designing in quality by doing it right the first time and you will avoid one of the causes of business problems.
9. Poor Inputs or Materials
Are you selecting these because the price is right? You shouldn’t be using poor quality raw materials.
10. Poor Rewards or Incentives
Does your management have these in place? I am not talking about just money. Recognition of good quality or pointing out poor quality performance may be all that is needed to send the message that quality is important and thus preventing many of these root causes in the first place.
People don’t make mistakes. Systems make mistakes. If you have a system for training, well-written procedures, following-up on procedure usage (i.e. internal auditing, metrics, rewards), developing competent employees for the role they are placed in, updating and innovating methods, attention to detail, disciplined maintenance, quality designs, constant rewards and incentives for good work, and supplier validations, then you would have eliminated 80% of all of your business problems. The last 20% is left to the individual’s ability to operate the system you have just created. What do we call such a system? A Quality Management System!
For a more in depth example, let’s look at writing articles. In the absence of any policy or process for editing and revising articles, the author might not catch his/her spelling errors or typos (humans err – that’s why newspapers used to have proofreaders). So when customers read the article — multiply the writer’s two eyes by thousands, maybe millions — the likelihood is great that at least one of them will catch the error.
On the other hand, if there is a process in place where a second set of eyes reads the article and necessary corrections are made (or the central idea is validated) before releasing it, the likelihood of mistakes getting out to the reader are vastly minimized.
This doesn’t mean that mistakes won’t happen. But here too, the system might have a role to play. Is the individual in the right place? If writing is a requirement for the job, was the individual properly screened or trained? Of course, there are situations where the person is clearly not qualified to do the job — here, too, the system comes into play (i.e., is the selection process foolproof?).
Quality standards and tools are there precisely to increase the likelihood of positive outcomes. You may be surprised at how a simple process change can result in a big drop in error rates.