Maret 30, 2011

How Do You Define Your Problem?

Last week I was involved in an interested conversation with one of my business partners (yes, that's what I called my clients).

The conversation goes like this:

Me: "So, Mr. A, during this operational strategic meeting, we need to come up with our goals for the rest of 2011. Can we first start by identifying areas of pain?"

Mr. A: "Our material cost is too high. We need to drive it down by, I don't know... 10%"

Me: "Allright, that might be a good top level goal. Let's break it down. Mr. B, what are the contributing factors of cost?"

Mr. B: "Price".

Me: "Anything else?"

Mr. B: "No. Price."

Me: (Really?) "So, you are saying that there is no other way to reduce material cost?"

Mr. B: "No"

Me: (Deep breath, relax, inhale, exhale) "What if we maintain the price, but we reduce the amount of purchase?"

Mr. B: "That's impossible".

Me: "Should we go through last year's purchase and stock level?"

Mr. B: "It takes too long. I know what's going on."

I would spare the detail on what actually happened. It is just an interesting example how a human mind, when closed, is really really really impossible to be opened externally, and how it could totally lead an organization to solve a totally different problem, which might totally be the wrong problem to solve.

A problem well-defined is a problem half solved. A problem hastily defined is a recipe for disaster. If we choose to be a learning organization, we will strive to master this skill.

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