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We Can Solve Problems

(image: exfordy/flickr)

(image: exfordy/flickr)

Two excellent recent diaries, here and here and recent events and the responses and reactions to same have, for me, brought to heightened focus my years spent in the engineering department of a mid-sized manufacturing company. Various certifications from international quality monitoring organizations required that our Quality Manual, the document which governed our every function, not only be followed to the letter, but that we vigilantly and vigoursly worked to solve and prevent future occurrences of problems we encountered.

The ultimate goal was not to prevent defective product from entering the supply chain, but to prevent defective product from being created. A subtle but significant difference that  for me, is analgous our current political situation.  One of my functions was riding shotgun on the Technical Review Group.  Our problem solving team.

Problem solving has 5 distinct components. Each critical to the success of the endeavor. They are;

? Containment; Don’t let it get any worse.
? Short Term Corrective Action; Fix what has happened.
? Root Cause Analysis; Why/how did this happen.
? Long Term Corrective Action; Insure it doesn’t happen again.
? Review; Did our fix work.

From this you can see that problem solving at its core requires passionless root cause analysis. It is not, and must not be, an exercise in blame laying. It is discovery pure and simple. Why did this happen. Ask why five (5) times and you arrive at the root cause of any problem. Only when the true cause of a failure is discovered can an effective corrective/preventive measure be designed and implemented to prevent further occurrences of the same failure.

The cold hard reality of life is that it can be, often, that we rarely actually get to the root cause analysis step of problem solving because the front end of the exercise, the ‘don’t let it get any worse’ part of the equation is at times so all encompassing and overwhelming that we fail to see the problem solving exercise through to the end.

The lesson learned from front-line participation in a hair-on-fire, no-holds-bared, take-no-prisoners, fix-it-now-godanmit problem solving group is that it was inevitably management’s failure. We, management, had failed to provide our workers with powerful/adequate enough tools/incentives to prevent unwanted outcomes.

All of this is a convoluted way of saying that We The People are the management group of the United Stated of America. We The People have failed to provide our workers, those we elect to represent our interests, with powerful/adequate enough tools/incentives to prevent unwanted outcomes. Yes, that includes our President and those he appointed, Members of Congress, Governors, State Reps, even school boards.

Our management obligation is oversight.  We as citizens execute this oversight with our vote.  It is up to us to rid ourselves of those elected officials that do not perform as desired.  Low turnout, apathy, misinformation, the corrupting influence of vast sums of money and a main stream media owned and operated by that same corrupting money work together to undermine effective and desireable electoral results.

It is up to us to now fix what We have allowed to fester into an enormous problem. That being the fact that our interests are no longer being represented. Whether it be the excecution of American citizens without trial, banks before people, new nuclear power permits, private prisons, wars endless, or myriad issues to numerous to list it is We The People that have dropped the ball and allowed the naked highjacking of Our Government.

I have no ready-made, sure-to-fix-it, pat answers. I do know this however, the very first step is to deny all those fixated on laying blame a seat at the table. As you may have noticed above there is no part of problem solving that includes ‘who’s fault is it’. There are no solutions in laying blame, only further diversion and division. Those capable of the intellectual heavy lifting required to solve Our problems already know We are responsible.

It is, at the very least, time to dismiss the R and D divide and gather together those willing and able to look at what We are faced with and begin to collectively work toward true Corrective Action.  How We go about this should be the conversation We start now.

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