By Jon Miller | Post Date: November 6, 2007 10:29 PM | Comments: 3
A problem was brought to my attention today. Some of our consultants are not submitting expense reports on time, causing us to be unable to bill clients on time. Simply put, some people are keeping other people from doing their job. This is a problem. It is not a new problem.
The requested action was to talk to certain people about this problem, in the hope that they would change their behavior. I have a dollar that says that this will not work. Why am I so confident that I would bet a dollar on this? First, a dollar today isn't what it was a few months ago against other world currencies (but this is a separate problem). More to the point, asking people to "try harder" is simply doing what Deming taught us that we shouldn't do; treat problems as people issues rather than process failures.
We need to ask why. What is the reason that after instruction, explanation, and some pleading, problems like this persist? Stop. I almost started listing the answers, with specific reasons tied to faces in my mind. These are surface causes, and moving onto solutions too quickly puts us asking "who?" rather than "why?" It is human nature and so easy to do. It takes a lot of discipline to follow through on proper and practical problem solving.
In fact the first question I asked when this problem was brought to me was "Who is still not getting their expenses in on time?" Why do we ask "who?" Perhaps because it takes far less asking to get the the answer to this question than when you ask "why?"
As I was driving home asking myself why and trying to formulate a problem statement in my mind, another question came up. What is the standard? That may be the most important question that has been unasked about this problem for too long.
What is the standard, the clear reason for the standard, and how do we make it immediately visible when this standard is not being followed, so that we can ask why? In a proper problem statement, the standard should be implied or implicitly included. So the first step in the investigation of this problem begins tomorrow morning by asking "What is the standard?" and comparing this to the actual.
Perhaps we will put up a visual board showing on-time percentage of expense reports and how this correlates to accounts receivable amount and cost to service our line of credit. But here I go again proposing solutions before root causes have been identified...Comments are moderated to filter spam and inappropriate content. There may be a delay before your comment is published.