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Problem Solving Beyond ROI

Posted by admin on October 30, 2014

About this time last year we wrote a series of blog posts about the cost of problems.  The thinking was that by measuring the cost of problems you could quantify the return on investment in problem prevention and problem solving.  The topic created a lot of debate on LinkedIn groups, both pro and con.  One of the key issues was that while you can measure some aspects of a problem, such as lost production time, scrap product and customer complaints, it is very difficult to measure all of them and nearly impossible to measure the cost of a problem avoided.

The debate was very thought provoking, and got us thinking about other benefits of problem solving and prevention, beyond return on investment (ROI) measures. Here are some of the “softer” benefits we’ve seen at clients that have taken a comprehensive approach to building employees’ skills in these critical areas and implementing systems to support the relevant processes:

An engaged workforce – Something happens when you tell employees you want to invest in their skills and you want them to use their brains, not just their brawn.  They feel engaged because they are thinking about what could go wrong, how it can be avoided, and what to do if it happens.  Or if a problem does occur, what really caused it, how can we effectively and efficiently fix it, and how can we prevent it from happening in other areas.  In short, their minds are engaged.  And when this happens good things occur. 

Greater passion for their jobs – One of the goods things that occurs is greater passion for their jobs.  There is often greater ownership, not out of fear, but out of a desire for doing the best they can.  They start to think they can have an impact on the business and look for ways to improve production in their area.   

Better teamwork – The benefits are amplified when a team learns these skills.  Nothing builds teamwork better than speaking the same language and using the same process.  While we love the notion of the Lone Ranger, the truth is that teamwork is the name of the game in most manufacturers, and that’s as it should be. If you ask star athletes how it felt to achieve an individual record, they will undoubtedly say they would have preferred that their team had won the game or that it is meaningless unless their team wins the championship. 

More fun – One of the lingering effects of the Great Recession is the emphasis it has put on doing more with less.  This has left just about everyone stressed out and stretched thin.  If you ask employees their biggest gripe about work, it is likely to be that work isn’t fun anymore.  We’re not saying work could be or should be a laugh a minute, but we have to admit that it is a lot more fun when you’re not fire fighting all the time or “fixing” the same problem over and over again.

While we title these “softer” benefits, few would argue that these don’t have some impact on the bottom line.  Hard to measure, for sure, but that doesn’t mean the benefits aren’t real.