The Customer Isn’t Always Right

In the past three months, I have taken seven trips to our family mechanic to have a car serviced.  New tires… Master cylinder… Bad sensor…  You name it, we’ve had it repaired.  The good news is, both cars are paid off, so the sting doesn’t feel quite so bad.

If you are anything like me, you enjoy a trip to the mechanic as much as you enjoy shoving an ice pick under your toenail.  It’s not pleasant.  But I’m beginning to wonder if we might be part of the problem.

Consider this scenario:  You get in your car for your morning commute.  You turn the key and hear a “click, click, click.”  After mumbling some words your mother doesn’t like, you take your car to the mechanic and tell them you need a new battery.

Later that morning, you pay for your battery and drive the car to work, only to find you have the same problem hours later.  You take your problem to the mechanic and complain.

“You didn’t fix my car!”                                                                             

And the mechanic replies, “But you didn’t ask me to fix your car.  You asked me to replace the battery.  So that’s what I did!”

We would never accept that response from our mechanic but we accept it all the time in business.  Leaders often approach problems with what I call a “bias for action.”  Rather than spend time analyzing the issue to find the true root cause, we hastily arrive at a solution. Let’s face it, analysis, while valuable, doesn’t feel as good as doing something.  So we implement a fix based on assumptions or misplaced experience.  The result is wasted time and costly rework.  Our organizations are littered with “Phase I” system roll-outs that miss the mark or Band-Aid fixes that eventually failed and caused the problem to recur.

Here are three tips for avoiding the “bias for action” and ensuring you implement successful solutions.

1.      Encourage questions – When leaders demand solutions, questioners can be perceived as naysayers.  Avoid this trap by encouraging all stakeholders to ask, “What is the real problem we are trying to solve?” 

2.      Treat causes, not symptoms – If you encounter a problem and cannot answer the question “Why is this occurring?” you do not know the root cause.  Don’t implement a solution until you can answer the entire why’s” related to cause.

3.      Beware the unintended consequences – Fast fixes are frequently a mirage in the desert.  Before implementing solutions, ask “What other problems might this solution create?”                                   

So, don’t confuse speed with effectiveness.  Over the past thirty years, we have seen leaders improve their problem solving performance by demanding less and questioning more.  If you are looking for problem solving solutions that last, just give us a call at (800) 386-5611.  We would love to hear from you.






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