3 Ways To Highlight Issues And Boost Productivity
By Using Engineering Toolsets, You Too Can Reduce Issues and Boost Your Productivity
How can you characterise an issue?
Think about it: what is an issue? An issue to you may not necessarily be an issue to your peer, your loved one or your boss?
So how can we reduce something so subjective to circumstance?
That's what we will be discussing today, how we first characterise issues, highlight them as a problem, and finally cut them to boost productivity.
If we were to look at an issue in Engineering, we would first produce a problem statement. A problem statement recognises the disparity between reality and the recognised expected outcome.
Therefore, to characterise an issue, we need to generate a statement around the problem- A Problem Statement.
How would we go about generating a problem statement?
Tip number 1: Use facts and produce a problem statement
The majority of tips will stem from this single ability to accurately produce this problem statement. Remember that unless you can characterise your issues, then it's tough to solve them.
Start by looking at the recognised expected outcome:
What is it?
How far away from it, are you?
How far away is a level of acceptance?
What does success look like?
A long-winded in-concise statement won't have the granularity required to define your issue. It won't focus on the key issues and unless driven and containing facts; will be open to bias and interpretation.
Anything that is not backed up by data, is an opinion. And much like arseholes, everyone has one.
This problem statement should concentrate on one single issue; if you have a large issue containing many factors, don’t try to fix everything at once, list the factors individually contributing to the larger problem. This exercise will gain clarity and offers the first step in understanding the problem.
It’s crucial at this point to not fix the issue. We are only concentrating on defining the problem here, not fixing it.
Tip number 2: Define your goal
You should obtain a goal statement from the recognised expected outcome. Use your problem statement to develop your goal.
An example of a goal statement has actual data in it. It's achievable (as should be your recognised outcome), be specific, measurable, attainable relevant, and time-bound, there is a simple way to remember this S.M.A.R.T.
Once you have a goal in mind that ticks these points, you will find the issue resolution comes to fruition faster and as efficiently as possible. Again, don't try to fix the issue or come up with the solution to your problem. Remember we are only outlining the preferred outcome of the matter, not the fix to the issue.
It’s a hard concept to wrap your head around. You want a fix, but unless you put some foundations into the groundwork of issue rectification when you eventually go looking for the cause of your issues you will be introducing bias into the situation.
The bias here is the enemy.
In your goal statement, you can also encompass the case as to why you are trying to fix the issues at hand. What's the problem? Why are you putting effort into improving the issue? Is it tangible and measurable- are there any benefits of doing it? If so, what are they?
Tip number 3: The five whys
Some people scoff at the five whys, but it's an invaluable tool when seeking issue resolution. If you don't know of the five why’s it goes a little like this:
Start with the problem at hand, and ask why; each answer will give you a basis for the next question.
Can you guess what the next question is?
Until you eventually get to a point where you no longer know the answer. At this point, you either go to the final solution (and investigate the fix), or you go and investigate the issues that you raised in this answer.
It’s a simple but effective tool, it's not always a necessity to continue to a full five whys if there are items of investigation, and similarly, your five whys may extend five questions of whys. But it allows you to think about the issue and the causes of the subject from a different angle.
If you are running this as a team exercise or even as a pair, try and remove bias from the answers to the why’s. Use data in your response, and be honest.
What to do when you think you have found your issue?
Using the above tips, you hopefully have generated a few ideas as to where your issues lie, the ideal outcome, and the areas to fix the problems.
It could be as simple as wanting to improve your efficiency in writing, reading, housework, work at your workplace, or wanting to be a happier person.
These tips are the basis for a broader engineering toolset process into root cause analysis. But a great foundation to look to if you require a few tips to improve your efficiency at any aspect of life.
Ensure that you are working to reduce as much emotion out of the issue as possible, bias is a killer of good decisions, and emotion drives bias. Try to move your decision making and fact-finding out of the subjective world and into the objective world.
Hi, I am George. I am a seasoned quality engineer originally from the UK.