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Article: Problem-Solving Success Tip: Avoid Bug Mentality Related Resources

Problem-Solving Success Tip: Avoid Bug Mentality
by Jeanne Sawyer

Fixing bugs fixes symptoms: like taking aspirin for a headache, it may provide temporary relief but does nothing to prevent the next headache. It’s ok, and often necessary, to relieve the symptoms but you have to dig deeper if you’re going to prevent problems from recurring.

The reasons and benefits for getting past the symptoms to the root causes are well-known, but many companies still tend to confine their root cause analysis efforts to well-defined technical problems such as physical component failures. We need to apply the same philosophy to general business problems, especially if they are chronic.

The first difficulty in getting to root causes of business problems is in identifying that a problem is chronic in the first place. To continue the headache analogy: taking aspirin and forgetting about it is appropriate behavior for the occasional headache that most of us get. However, if the headaches are chronic, it’s time to find out why they’re happening. In the business world, we tend to treat customer trouble calls as isolated incidents—the occasional headache. We treat the symptoms, get the customer back in business, and move on to the next one. To get past the bug mentality, we need to look actively for the patterns that will tell us if a chronic problem is developing.

The second key difficulty is maintaining focus (and resource commitments) long enough to finish identifying and eliminating the root causes of a problem. When a crisis situation occurs, we correctly focus on treating the symptoms and getting things operational again. That’s when the root cause analysis effort should begin to determine why the crisis occurred and take the appropriate steps to eliminate those causes. What usually happens, though, is everyone involved heaves a huge sigh of relief at having survived and moves on to the next crisis. To get past the bug mentality in this situation, we need to change the business model so we don’t consider a crisis over until the root causes are identified and fixed.

Copyright 2005. Jeanne Sawyer. All Rights Reserved.

Jeanne Sawyer may be contacted at

Jeanne Sawyer is an author, consultant, trainer and coach who helps her clients solve expensive, chronic problems, such as those that cause operational disruptions and cause customers to take their business elsewhere. These tips are excerpted from her book, When Stuff Happens: A Practical Guide to Solving Problems Permanently . Find out about it, and get more free information on problem solving at her web site:


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