By Ron Price
One of the primary jobs of a leader is solving problems. We often joke that if all the problems went away, we would be unemployed. Some problems are quick and easy to solve. Scheduling conflicts, customer complaints, and equipment failures are examples of problems we can often fix quickly and move on. However, there are also many problems that are much more complex and tedious to solve. It is these tougher problems that test and demonstrate our skills as problem-solving leaders.
In The Complete Leader, Randy Lisk and I wrote about two basic kinds of problems that leaders encounter on a regular basis. The first are linear problems. These are problems that have a clear root cause. By applying a scientific approach, whether asking “why” over and over again until you uncover the original cause, or by completing a more complex root cause analysis such as the fishbone model of identifying several potential contributors, one or more causes can be identified and solved. This is often the work of process engineers and is most effectively applied with problems are primarily connected with tangible parts, processes and results.