Heart of the Matter LO20747

Pilx (ilx@execpc.com)
Fri, 26 Feb 1999 14:56:43 -0600

Replying to LO20693 --

Fred Nichols wrote,

>I'm a firm believer in the notion that language shapes thought and
>thought shapes
>behavior. The label placed on a problem, for example, invokes a frame of
>reference that constrains and restrains the problem solver's efforts to
>solve the problem. So, I guess I'm more inclined to explore the
>"linguistic constructions" of problems than you might be.

My comment may be so late that the tread is cold and or dying. My computer
went down and I've been working. Anyway.

I find you comment very interesting, because it supports and throws cold
water on a point I make in Problem Solving Process classes. It is
summarized below.

It is necessary to define the problem and come to agreement on the
problem. That definition helps focus energy of the team all in one
direction. Unless there is agreement on the problem each person runs off
in their own direction. Without a problem definition and agreement on it
unified action and support is not likely. A problem definition serves the
same purpose as a mission statement. It unifies the energy of the team. It
also helps them know when a solution has failed.

Without a agreement on a problem definition, all we have is good
intentions and lack of focus.

We all take action based on how we perceive a situation. Because of that
and the different ways we perceive the world it is valuable to properly
define a problem. A supervisor who perceives that the problem is caused
by attitude goes looking for people to blame. Another might see the
problem as a tool room issue. Another as a communications issue. Whatever
you believe determines how you focus your energy. In the course of trying
many problems appear to be solved even when we chase the wrong cause.
Knowing which direction we were running helps us knew what was changed and
if the direction was right.

Unless we do that energy is wasted and real change avoided.

You are right in the process of defining a problem the discussion jumps
from solution to problem to action but I think a team should know the

Once in a roll form manufacturing situation I had a group that wanted to
define the problem as, "we need new machines". We persisted in defining
the problem in measurable terms and asked the right questions. In the end
we defined it around quality and downtime. The solution hinged around
improved operated training, who was responsible for maintenance. We gave
the operator sole authority to fix problems and stay with the machine
until it was fixed and running. That was 10 years ago. They still use the
same machines but make much more product. Had we simply agreed that the
problem was old machines we would never have addressed the real problem
which was the organization structure that did no have a good maintenance

Worse yet they would have had new machines that ran like the old ones in
18 months.


Eugene Taurman
interLinx Consulting

"Consensus is easy when all the facts are on the table"
Harry S. Truman
House Committee Chairman on Military Waste
Inresponse to a 1939 Press Question


Pilx <ilx@execpc.com>

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