Today, it’s not politically correct to use the term “problems” – everyone wants to call them “issues,” or “concerns” or my favorite, “opportunities.”  But, let’s face it – in business, we have problems and we need solutions.  Recognizing this fact is the first step toward managerial recovery.  With that, we are going to embark on a three-part series designed to help you and your organization solve problems using Orgwide’s problem solving process.  What is Orgwide’s problem solving process?  At its core, it is a comprehensive approach to equipping managers with both the process improvement skills and mentorship capabilities necessary to achieve their organizational objectives.  Our process, which we refere to as O3 Problem Solving, is based upon the belief that today’s most significant organizational challenges can only be overcome by individuals and teams trained to systematically identify and solve problems.  O3 leverages mentor – protégé relationships as a means of increasing the number of “problem solvers” while providing meaningful, real-world developmental opportunities for high-potential team members.  O3 mentorship is a relationship-based, operations-focused development process by which a more experienced person (mentor) helps a high-performing, high-potential team member (protégé) learn the skills needed to systematically identify and solve operational problems.  O3 provides mentors with a “framework” to guide discussions and shared learning.  O3 reflects an understanding that solving problems is intrinsically rewarding and an essential requirement of an engaged workforce.

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.  Mentors use the process to guide their discussions and teaching of their Protégés.  At each step, the Mentor asks questions and guides the Protégé in the discovery learning process to make better business decisions.  In the process, key business problems are explored, investigated, and ultimately solved.  The steps of the O3 Problem Solving Process are:

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

Today, we’ll take deeper look at the first 3 steps in the O3 Process – Background, Current Conditions, and Goals/Targets.  In the following parts of the series, we’ll explore the other steps in the O3 Problem Solving Process and the unique role using a one page hand drawn visual plays in solving organizational problems.  Let’s get started.


In today’s world of “get it done yesterday,” many of us are so quick to “solve” a problem that we end up only treating symptoms.  This happens because a thorough understanding of a problem, while crucial to being able to solve the problem, takes time.  Thus, symptoms often are treated and real problems go unsolved.


The Background section of the O3 report forces you to do two things: 1) zero in on what the problem really is, and 2) document critical information others will need to understand the problem. 


Written with the audience in mind, there should be as much information in the background section as necessary (preferably in visual form) for the audience to understand the entire situation.  Be sure to tie the problem (or results of the problem) back to company goals.

After reading this section, your audience should be able to answer the questions “what?” and “so what?”


currentCurrent Conditions
The second section of the O3 report provides measureable information about the problem and the condition in which it occurs.  Often times this includes a graphical representation of data that results from the problem (decrease productivity from Machine A, rise of absenteeism in Sales department).


In addition to the problem itself, it’s important to also compare the problem area to other areas where there isn’t a problem.  For example, one part of the Current Conditions section may show a detailed graph of Machine A’s output.  Another part may show the total output of Machine A as well as Machines B, C, and D.  If it isn’t possible to compare the problem area to a similar, problem-free area, consider summarizing the information presented in the graph in table form.


After reading this section, your audience should understand the state of the problem as it exists today and how it relates to the organization.


Once the reader has all the necessary information and facts to be able to thoroughly understand and support the current the situation, it’s time to articulate what you want the situation to look like after corrective actions.  This is also known as the ideal target state, and it must be as specific as possible.


The measures of success (or other means of evaluation) you will use to determine whether or not the ideal target state is achieved should also be included in this section.  After reading this section, your audience should be able to tell where you want to go and how you’ll know when you get there.


We’re off to the races now!  We’ve identified our problem, shown the current state of affairs as compared to other problem-free areas, and articulated nirvana – or at least the target for our eventual actions.  The heavy lifting begins with Step Four (4), Analysis.  Why?  That’s right; now ask it four more times.  Huh?  You say.  We’ll explain the “5 Why’s” of the Analysis stage next week.  Until then, remember take care of the customer, take care of each other, and take care of yourself.

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