A large cosmetics company received a complaint from a customer. She had bought one of their most popular soaps, but when she opened the box, she discovered it was empty.
The management took the complaint seriously, and identified the problem fast.
The assembly line that was carrying boxes of products to the distribution department had no way to detect empty boxes.
Afraid this would happen again, the management asked a group of engineers to solve this challenge. The engineers quickly started developing a fluoroscopy machine with two large, high-resolution displays.
Two people would staff the machine and remove empty boxes from the conveyor belt before reaching the distribution department.
The engineers worked quickly, and even this was expensive, it would be worth it. Several such complaints from customers would be more expensive in the long term.
In the meantime, one of the workers who worked in the production department heard about the problem. He came quickly to a different solution. He bought a powerful industrial electric fan and placed it next to the assembly line. The empty boxes passing, was blown off the assembly line, and the problem was solved.
Do you like to solve problems? It is in our nature to look for solutions. Sometimes we tend to complicate things, as this story is a reminder of.
During my courses, I see participants ready to implement solutions without spending time to understand the problem. We take for granted we understand the problem, and ignore the fact that our information may be based on assumptions.
It is only when the problem pop up again, we question the choice of solution: Did we fix symptoms, rather than the root cause(s)? It's like taking painkillers without doing anything with the cause of the pain.
What is the root cause of the empty boxes in the example? Can we do something to prevent empty boxes?
Einstein once said that if he had one hour to save the world he would spend 59 minutes to understand the problem and 1 min to solve it.
The course problem solving focus on understanding the problem and the process where the problem exists. Process mapping helps to create a common understanding of the process and agree on the solution(s). Sometimes those who raise their voices most, and appear most certain get approval for their solution. Focus on understanding the process and make decisions based on facts contribute to good solutions. The saying: "Make it simple" is a good reminder.
Thank's to Vibeke Holtskog who shared this story with me.