Search This Blog

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Process Improvement = Problem Solved

Problems:  A matter involving doubt, uncertainty, or difficulty; a question proposed for solution or discussion; an obstacle.  For most of us, life is riddled with all kinds of problems.  Some are easier than others, but they come and go as surely as the wind will come and go.  The issues this week will not likely be the same issues we face next week or the one after that.  They are new, but really most of the problems we face have similar roots - they just put on different appearances.  It is probably pretty hard for us to imagine a problem as an opportunity for growth.  In my line of work, I have a particular role of identifying the problems, assisting the teams to analyze those problems and then attempt to come up with a solution so the problem doesn't arise again.  One thing I have found is the truth of "recurring problems" - some of these issues we "think" we fix today really just come back again and again - the "fix" was just not long-lasting.  It doesn't mean the "fix" wasn't a good one - it just means it may not have been more than a "patch" for the present problem.  Truth be told, "patches" don't work long-term.  We need to grow if we are to get beyond our problems.

By your words I can see where I’m going; they throw a beam of light on my dark path.  I’ve committed myself and I’ll never turn back from living by your righteous order.  Everything’s falling apart on me, God; put me together again with your Word.  Festoon me with your finest sayings, God; teach me your holy rules.  My life is as close as my own hands, but I don’t forget what you have revealed.  The wicked do their best to throw me off track, but I don’t swerve an inch from your course.  I inherited your book on living; it’s mine forever—  what a gift! And how happy it makes me!  I concentrate on doing exactly what you say—I always have and always will.  (Psalm 119:105-112 MSG)

It may not come as a surprise to you, but bad comes with good.  I would love it if you could just march up to the grocer's aisle and get yourself a whole case or two of "good" each day, totally bypassing the aisle where the "bad" is stocked!  Most of the time, a little "bad" gets into the case of "good" when no one is looking!  So, when you think you are getting "good" in life, you likely get a little thing called a "problem" somewhere along the way.  Problems surface anytime there is an opportunity for growth.  If we begin to see them this way, we might just embrace our problems a little differently.  In fact, we might just begin to see the solution as something quite unique to the "last time" we attempted to solve the problem!  

There is something else I have come to realize in my line of work - people are quite willing to give us their problems!  They don't want them - so they try to pawn them off on someone else!  Have you ever stopped to consider what you have taken on just because someone else did not - or because someone convinced you it belonged with you?  More than likely you have problems you don't even know when or where you got them - they just came to be yours! The fact is - problems require owners.  Ownership of the problem may not always be yours - but others will often convince you you at least play a part in them!  We need to beware of taking on problems which do not rightly belong to us - those things in which we play no part.

There are many responses to problems.  Probably one of the most common is to shift the blame for the problem (and the "fix") to another.  If we can successfully do this, we escape the work!  Issues keep creeping up, though, because the problem never really gets "fixed" until the owner of the problem steps up to take ownership!  Another response is to just pull your head in and hope it goes away.  This is especially true when the problems we face seem to be the recurring type.  We just don't want to "deal" with the issue again, so we bury it.  The ugly truth - buried problems don't go away - they just take root!

For many of us, we focus on the problem and not the process.  In my line of work, we examine process.  It is usually the best means of dealing with the problem.  Process is really a systematic series of actions which lead to some outcome.  When faced with life's problems, we really need some systematic series of actions to "fix" the problems, don't we?  Maybe this is why it is so important to consider the problem in light of what God thinks about it - because our "thinking" is kind of wrapped up in the problem and not the solution.  He sees the solution - and even provides the means by which the solution becomes possible - we just need to take the systematic series of actions he asks in order to see the problem in its true light.

When I come to the table to design processes which address our problems at work, I am looking for the long-range solutions to the problems.  Sure, we want immediate "fixes" and we celebrate these.  Yet, we want the longer, lasting process improvements so the problem stands less of a chance of recurring in the future.  The same is true in our lives - go for the quick fixes and celebrate them, but don't stop there.  Processes have to be set in place to ensure the consistency of the outcome.  When we finally get to the point of doing the same thing and getting the same results, we know the process worked.  Until we reach that point, we "tweak" the process as we need to - all in order to produce the series of actions which will continuously produce the results which reflect the outcome we desired.  

Growth is inherent in each problem.  Instead of burying them and allowing them to take root, maybe it is time we begin to bring them to the table of God's grace and direction.  His "process redesign" may just be the ticket for what will finally deliver the right solution to the problems we face!  Just sayin!