The Orgwide Problem Solving Process beats a four-leaf clover every time

I’ve got this buddy who, like me, is a business man. In fact, this buddy of mine (for this discussion, let’s call him “Seamus”) owns his own business about 20 miles outside of Dublin, as the crow flies. Seamus is an auburn haired lad of somewhat diminutive stature who is a hard-working, savvy entrepreneur. Despite all of these fine qualities, Seamus has a very serious business problem—he loses money at an alarming rate this time of year. “What kind of business does Seamus own?” you may be wondering. One might say Seamus works in the “financial” industry—he runs a “bank” of sorts. Seamus’ fiscal year starts on March 17th and, as I mentioned, his challenge is that he always has difficulty protecting his assets from theft around that time.

Well, just the other day, Seamus and I were enjoying a room-temperature stout at our local pub and he was bemoaning his business woes ad nauseum. It was literally 30 minutes of “They always stealin’ me pot o’ gold!” I finally had to cut him off. I looked at Seamus and I said to him, I said, “Seamus, you’ve gotta do something about this problem you’re having. Have you heard of the ‘Orgwide Problem Solving Process’”? Well of course he hadn’t, or else I wouldn’t be telling you this story. Let me tell you, Seamus nearly fell off his wee barstool as I described the Orgwide Problem Solving Process, known as “O3” to us insiders, which I will now share with you.

In a nutshell, O3 refers to the creation of a one-page visual (drawing, charts, graphs, words, etc.) depicting a seven-step problem-solving process. The focus of the steps of the process is:

1.  Background
2.  Current Conditions
3.  Goals/Targets
4.  Analysis
5.  Proposed Countermeasures
6.  Plan
7.  Follow-up

Let’s take a closer look at the purpose of each step as well as a few examples.

Background 
The Background step describes in a short (no disrespect to Seamus intended), simple phrase why you are even working on an issue. Elements of the background step include a business case, reason, need, or issue; identification of a specific target audience; and a focus on an issue rather than potential solutions. As an example, Seamus’ background statement might be something along the lines of: “I am working on this issue because everyone’s after me pot o’ gold and I’ll soon be bankrupt if I don’t find a solution.”

Current Conditions
The Current Conditions step is meant to describe what the current state of affairs is today in a way that the reader will understand. Elements of the Current Conditions step generally include visuals to help clarify the issue, including charts, graphs, and drawings. These statements and visuals should use quantitative measures rather than opinions to describe the problem. Seamus might use a graphic such as the one below to demonstrate the current conditions of his business.

seamus_chart1

 

Goals/Targets
The purpose of the Goals/Targets step is to outline the desired state of affairs and describe how one might evaluate success. Elements of the Goals/Targets step generally include numerical targets, precise measures of performance, and proposed data collection and reporting procedures. In order to demonstrate his desired state of affairs, Seamus might make the following chart:

seamus_chart2

 

Analysis
The next step of the O3 process is Analysis. The purpose of this step is to describe the data gathered from research and investigate the likely root causes of the problem under consideration. Root cause analysis involves asking a lot of questions, but especially a lot of “whys.” When thinking about potential root causes for your problem, you may find that asking “why” five times (or more) is required before you are able to uncover the source of your problems. Additionally, during the Analysis phase, you must separate symptoms from cause and effect. Here’s a sample of our analysis of Seamus’ issue:

Seamus: “They always stealin’ me pot o’ gold!”
Me: “Why?”
Seamus: “Because they want to be rich!”
Me: “Why?”
Seamus: “So they don’t have to work anymore! Or because they’re unemployed!”
Me: “Why?”
Seamus: “Because the global economy is in shambles, man! Don’t you watch the news? And why do you keep asking me ‘why?’ You sound like a wee child!”
Me: “Why?”
Seamus: “SHUT IT!”
Me: “Why?”
Seamus: “THAT’S IT!”

Okay, so the process broke down rather quickly in that example, but hopefully it helps to demonstrate that you must look below the surface (five layers or more) before you can fully grasp the root of your problem. After our little dustup, Seamus and I returned to the “five whys” and identified the root cause for his problem as a lack of security.

Proposed Countermeasures
The fifth step of the O3 process is Proposed Countermeasures. Your proposed countermeasures should illustrate potential actions that will improve current conditions and achieve stated goals. It is suggest to develop anywhere from three to five possible courses of action, address root causes, and remain neutral and objective. Recognizing Seamus’ root cause of Lack of Security, we developed these proposed countermeasures: 

Root Cause

Countermeasure

Benefit

Lack of Security

Armed Security Checkpoints

Physical Deterrent

Electronic Surveillance

Evidence for Prosecution

 

Plan
It’s finally time to implement your plan based on all of the data you’ve gathered during the previous five steps. Your plan should provide clear and unambiguous steps to implement your countermeasures. It should include the “Who, What, and When”; identify dependencies and sequence of events; and monitor and assess progress. Here’s a look at an outline of Seamus’ final plan: 

Deliverable

Responsible

Key Dates

Triangulate perimeter; position snipers, booby traps, and foot soldiers at strategic locations

O’Leary Security

Jan 1: Property Surveyed

 

Feb 1: Sniper and Soldier Boot Camp

 

March 1: Boot Camp Graduation

 

March 15: Snipers and Soldiers take positions, installation of surveillance equipment completed

 

March 18: First Status Briefing Due

Install and maintain surveillance equipment

Emerald Isle Surveillance and Monitoring

Provide Weekly Status Briefings

O’Leary Security; Emerald Isle Surveillance and Monitoring

 

Follow-up
The final step of O3 is Follow-up. Follow-up is meant to describe the effectiveness of the implemented countermeasure(s). Follow-up should use actual data to describe outcomes, identify potential post-implementation refinements, and identify opportunities to apply any learnings on a larger scale. The Follow-up step permits the opportunity to engage in the 3 R’s – Review, Refine, and Redeploy.

I’m happy to report that Seamus, after carefully considering each step of the O3 process, has reduced theft by 90% and increased his profits by nearly 80% in just one year. And, after paying particular attention to the Follow-up phase, Seamus has implemented his plan at each and every one of his “branches” and at his main gold reserve in Dublin.

The Orgwide Problem Solving Process, O3, has proven itself to be a powerful tool for problem-solving, process improvement, and just getting stuff done. As a firm believer that it’s “better to be good than lucky,” I hope this introduction to O3 will help you approach any current or future business problems you face with more confidence than that four-leaf clover you’ve been carrying around!

Until next time, remember to take care of your customers, take care of each other, and take care of yourself!

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