How to boost your organisational problem-solving ability – part 5/9 – Other kinds of problems

Welcome to the fifth blog post in this series about problem-solving. Today’s blog post will be about other kinds of problems.

One example is a system product with integrated parts of electronic parts that is failing at legal requirements at the test house. The company first goes home and checks their own test equipment used for the sub-system tests which have shown to be ok, and also the sub-subsystem equipment. At first, they cannot understand the fail, but further investigations show that they have missed a new and harder legal EMC requirements. And since it is not part of the system requirements, this led to that the sub-requirements are not complete, and of course not the design specifications either. Going further in their investigation shows that there was too much coordinating work, which led to that this activity was never taken care of by anyone. The scenario looks like this:


And as you can see, the EMC problems are affecting the whole Product and is normally requiring some hardware prototypes. Without the correct planning for taking care about EMC already from the start, it will be a nightmare and most probably require big changes of not only the requirement specification, but also significant changes in the design specifications of the different parts of the total product. Other areas that show the same behaviour are parts of a system product regarding their respective; electricity usage, heat dissipation, volume needed, bus load, memory usage for programs and working memory need for programs. The parts will affect the total system product, so without looking at the whole from start will get us into trouble.

Another company, making cars, makes a severe fail, when missing the width requirement for their new type of car in the introduction to another country, making the car wider than allowed for driving on all kind of roads. All parts of the car will then get a reduced space for its operation, leading to redesign of most parts, extremely expensive changes. And since most of the cars today are built on platforms, also the platform needs to be rebuilt. Further investigation about how this could happen, showed that people were to stressed due to too many other people on sick leave. This scenario looks like this:


In this example with a missed legal requirement, it is easier to understand what to do about it, but due to narrowing of the volume for all parts within the car, we are really talking of a total makeover of the car as a system product.

A last example of another type is a manager at a company that consider that all employees in the team are low performers. By hiring a psychology consultant to look into this, the manager hopes to find the problem. The psychologist interviews the team members one by one and very fast in respective interview it comes up that the employees are not feeling well, since there is something wrong with the atmosphere. Further investigations about why tells the psychologist that all the employees have the same answer, the manager needs control and are micro managing every employees’ work. But now the psychologist has a very big dilemma, since the manager pays the psychologist and the manager is a part of the problem. This scenario is unfortunately very common when changing context for the work of the psychologist. If a private customer comes to the psychologist, the circumstances to the customer’s problems normally are difficult to change, but if the manager makes all employees stressed, the manager is part of the problem, but maybe not the root cause. In an organisation we most of times have the answers ourselves, even if we cannot see and understand it, or accept it.

If we continue to ask why on this particular problem, maybe the manager’s manager has the same behaviour, which in turn depends on that the organisation is too expensive, that in turn depends on too low resource efficiency. The scenario looks likes this with a dotted line between who is paying and the continuation of asking why to find the organisational root cause:

In this example with the psychologist, we can see that the original problem is an organisational problem and not a product problem. So, an organisation originating from a bad system can behave in any way, since the chains of symptoms are endless.

And about the psychologist’s dilemma:
Companies should have a centralized function in HR, that buys external help, to avoid conflict of interest, if the company really need to solve a people problem with the help of external consultants. Because, this is about respect for people, meaning that managers and non-managers in the organisation should represent the organisation on the same conditions.

This was all in today’s blog post and tomorrow we will dig into the problem with queues of activities in organisations and how to deal with these queue problems.

C u then.

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