COVID-19 and Problem-Solving Skills

Posted by Shankar Anant on Apr 9, 2020 8:46:00 AM

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COVID-19 has brought the world to its knees! For most people in the world, daily life has been disrupted in an unprecedented way. Besides the awful toll on human life, job losses, business failures, etc. are now becoming more prevalent. The impact on the global economy has barely begun to be measured.

Let’s reflect on the problem for a moment.

Face masks, proper hand washing, social distancing etc. are all counter measures to keep us from catching the virus or spreading it. These are necessary indeed, as country after country is proving the importance of these counter measures. We are seeing the “flattening of the infection curve” as a result. Yet, at this point, we are left with treating the symptoms of the pandemic. The root cause is a virulent, microscopic virus which can invade the healthy human body cells and cause much damage. Scientists are already working at a furious pace to understand how this virus works and in due course will surely find the cure, quite possibly a vaccine to immunize people from the virus. Over the past 100 years, Scientists have developed vaccines for Smallpox, Polio, Tuberculosis etc. If history has taught us anything, it is that the cost of prevention, a vaccine, is likely to be a small fraction of the cost borne by society otherwise. Because it addresses the problem at the root cause level.

How about problems we have faced in business life even before this crisis? Supply shortages, quality failures, and design shortcomings to name a few. How much do they cost your business? Do we stop and ask ourselves if we are working on the symptoms or the causes of those problems? What would be the cost avoided if we had addressed the root cause? What do we need to learn in order to find the root cause?  What experiments do we plan to run? What data are we going to collect?  Just like with the COVID-19 crisis, the costs of containment are always disproportionately high relative to avoiding the problem altogether.

Unfortunately, many companies are lacking when it comes to the skills in problem solving. The COVID-19 crisis should be treated as a wake-up call for us! The importance of root cause problem solving has been underscored.

How do you rate your team’s abilities when it comes to this skill? How well does your team solve problems at the root cause level? What approach do you take? What training has been provided?

Problem solving is an essential skill. IMEC can assist you in enhancing your team’s problem-solving capabilities. Please reach out to us. We’re ready to help.

More on Problem Solving

Shankar Anant

Written by Shankar Anant

Topics: operations, continuous improvement, problem solving, risk mitigation, risk management, COVID-19

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