Doing Silly Things

“We don’t do things because we want to!  We try to solve problems.  If not, you end up doing silly things and wondering why the heck you don’t get any results.  So, again, what problem are you trying to solve?”The Lean Manager (Balle/Balle) page 220

It is amazing to me how often people want to implement something or suggest how to change a process without ever connecting their thoughts to a problem or desired outcome.  As an internal consultant at a hospital, I frequently get presented with proposed changes where we have to back-track to discover the problem.  Here are some reasons I think this happens:

  • People are addicted to action – Firefighting mentality can make people think everything needs fixing right now despite understanding root causes.
  • No time to think deeply about what the problem is – Staff is overburdened and time is not dedicated for improvement.
  • Command and control environment – If leadership does not develop and support a problem solving culture, it doesn’t matter what the problem is because people are just following orders.
  • Clear desired outcomes not communicated – Understanding what the organization needs will help define problems because gaps become visible.  If nobody knows the desired results, people just guess at what they think it should be.

To make effective improvements, help your organization stop doing silly things.  Prioritize your work to make time available for people to solve problems.  Leadership should begin to communicate desired outcomes and develop a culture for problem solving.  Recognize the silly effects that come from firefighting to help guide your organization into a more effective way of thinking.

What are other causes of people doing silly things?  What other advice do you have for organizations to solve problems instead?

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Filed under Communication

2 responses to “Doing Silly Things

  1. Brian,
    Sometimes the silly thing is not really a silly thing at all–it might just be a hidden or unstated need.
    For example, I’ve had people resist eliminating walking to go to a fax machine, not because of anything to do with efficiency. It was because the short walk was a chance to stretch legs and chat briefly with coworkers.
    Keep the articles coming.

  2. A huge benefit to real improvement is to actual measure the results. Our desire to act and move on – often results in no actually improvement. But we don’t notice because we don’t take the time to measure the impact of the action.

    Control charts are also helpful in getting people to understand common cause and special cause. And thus learn that action on common cause as special cause doesn’t help – it just creates activity.

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