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Quick… solve the problem. Do it now! No waiting… fix it! Use your expensive and extensive skills. Right now, solve it! Do it! Now!

Sound familiar?

Unless you are on a SWAT team, it is highly likely that you have the time to ponder a problem and develop a good solution. Your team can help and there are certainly insights based upon real data that can help you as well.

But there is a problem…

The problem is… the problem itself. Do you have a clear picture or statement of the problem? Is the problem really a problem? Does anyone really care? Is the solution part of the problem? Bottom line is: Do you have a clear and properly written problem statement in front of you?

Here are some good problem statements:

  • My 401k has dropped 29% in value over the last 18 months
  • The maintenance budget for 2021 exceeded the planned upper limit by $230,000.
  • Operations missed their production level last month by 120 units.
  • Our recruitment rate is just below our attrition rate for the year to date.
  • Pump A stopped producing at 10:35 AM on July 6, 2022. Operation resumed 6 days later, resulting in a loss of 15,300 units.

Note that all these well worded statements point out the What. Not the How, nor the Why, and especially not Who was at fault. Just a concise representation of the situation. Nothing else. No faults. No blame. Just the raw facts. You can take each one of these into a conference room full of grumpy people and have very little disagreement.

A good place to start. (The discussions will devolve from there for sure)

Take the time to tighten up your problem statements

Slow down. Don’t jump to conclusions as we humans are predisposed. Make sure you, and the rest of the team, agree that the problem statement is accurate. Rarely should the problem statement be more than one, maybe two sentences. Having the results or the consequences of the problem in the statement does help to set the stage. Clarity, simplicity (even if the solution is expected to be complicated), and consistency are important aspects.

Don’t take the details of the situation and try to present them as the problem statement. The mini novel you may have written has too much detail. Save all that detail for the investigation you will do into the root cause of the problem, and the potential solutions.

How about your feelings?

What if you have a “feeling,” that there is a problem, but you cannot put your finger on it? What if the problem being presented is based on some emotional reaction to a situation? Now more than ever you need to slow down and think.

If you feel there is a problem, there probably is. The key will be getting past the feelings and down into actual data. You might have to go talk to people… an excellent source of data. What information do you have to support your opinions and feelings?

“I feel as if the Maintenance teams have not fully embraced the new improvement initiatives. After both public and private discussions and looking at process data, I can conclude that most have, but there are a few holdouts that need to see the light. My feelings were confirmed, but the scope of the problem is less than I thought. My solutions will now be more focused and effective.”

See how easy that was? Rather than dragging all the Maintenance teams into the conference room and yelling at them, your yelling can now be more focused! 😉

Should I do this with all my problems?

Yes.

If it is on your desk or on your mind, take a moment to write out a “good” problem statement. It can be difficult at first because we want to get right to the solution. Push that out of your mind for now and focus only on the actual problem. What is the issue exactly?

Side note: This is a great exercise if you have teenagers in the house! “There is a foul smell coming from your room that is not present in the rest of the house.”

Always involve others in the formation of the problem statement. While you might know more about the problem (or are more accountable for its resolution), others will have different insights that can help you. Problems, like islands, are not alone.

We are nearing the end of our allotted time…

Here is hoping you are feeling better about your choices and have a clearer picture of the future. By taking the little bit of time to get the problem right, you might be able to solve it more rapidly. Be on the lookout for very clear problem statements leading to very complicated solutions. It is possible.

It can be difficult to find a single company that can help you improve both your industrial maintenance performance and CMMS technology. At Total Resource Management, Inc. (TRM) we do both.

Using best practices, coaching and innovative technology solutions we help you execute a comprehensive maintenance strategy which will eliminate gaps between your people, processes and systems.

 

John Q. Todd, Sr. Business Consultant / Product Researcher at TRM. Reach out to us at AskTRM@trmnet.com if you have any questions or would like to discuss deploying MAS 8 or Maximo AAM for condition-based maintenance/monitoring.

 

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