Wednesday, May 9, 2018

My New Book Part 5

In my last post, I presented three different types of problems that exist as follows:

  1.       Problems that have resulted from a change or adjustment from existing conditions or change related problems.
  2.       Problems that are persistent and have seemingly been around forever and are therefore chronic problems.
  3.         Problems that are both chronic and change related, or what I call hybrid problems.

I also described the make-up of change-related problems and listed three requirements that must be satisfied in order for a problem to fit into this category of problems.

The DNA of Problems (con’t) 

Chronic Problems
There is another type of problem that is not necessarily the result of a change, but rather a problem that has been around seemingly forever.  Many times, when you ask someone how long this problem has existed, you get a response like “We’ve always had this defect!” or “This machine has never produced what the others have.”  I have named this kind of problem a Chronic Problem, and for those of you that have ever been involved with the Ford’s or GM’s or Chrysler’s of the world, you will recognize it immediately. [1] Kepner and Tregoe refer to this kind of problem as Day-One Problems. 

As the name implies, it’s the kind of problem that has been with us since day one.  Maybe it’s the launch of a new machine that is supposed to be identical to one or more already in place. But, since the start-up, it has never performed quite like the others.  Or maybe the supplier of a raw material has two factories and product received from one factory, has out-performed the other factory from the first delivery of the product.

In this type of problem there is still the expected level of performance (Machine Target) of the new machine, compared with the actual performance of the other machines making the same or similar product.  The deviation is the output between the lower performing machine, and the other two, supposedly identical machines.  The same rules for deciding, whether or not a problem is a problem apply here, as well as the problem-solving tools and techniques.

The major difference between change-related problems and chronic problems is where we focus our efforts.  In change-related problems, we focus most of our efforts on determining what changed to create the new level of performance, and when the change occurred.  But, when we have a situation where the performance of one item has never been what it “should” be, compared to one that performs to expectations, we can assume that one of the conditions necessary to attain the expected level of performance, does not exist and never has.

In this case, we must focus most of our efforts in the area of distinctions, or differences between where or when we have the performance problem compared to where or when we don’t.  That is, there is something distinct or different when comparing the supposedly identical units, processes or materials.  If we are to successfully solve chronic type problems, then we must find the critical differences or distinctions between the two objects, and take actions that are specifically aimed at eliminating or reducing the differences!

In my next post, we will complete our discussion on the DNA of problems by presenting the third type of problem, the hybrid problem.  As you go through my postings, if you have any questions for me, send me an email to

Bob Sproull

[1] Charles Kepner and Benjamin Tregoe, The Rational Manager – A Systematic Approach to Problem Solving and Decision Making, 1965

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