When you’re a business owner, you’re guaranteed to encounter problems on a daily basis. You must deal with customer complaints, supplier issues, breakdowns, employee issues, and so on.
Often though, problems are symptomatic of, well, deeper problems. To find out what they are, you’ll need to dig a little, and one way to do that is by employing the “Why” technique. It’s not about dealing with the symptoms of the problem but identifying the root cause.
It’s not about dealing with the symptoms of the problem but to identify the root cause.
How to Turn Problems into Better Systems
You start the process by asking what are the symptoms of a problem and then asking, “why”? Keep asking “why” until you hit the nail on the head. It may take some time to conclude the root cause but at least the right problem gets fixed.
Let’s analyse a business scenario. In the following example, a retail store experiences an increase in customers complaining because they are unhappy with the products they were receiving.
Why are customers unhappy with the products?
Because the product manufacturer is not making the products as agreed upon in the initial contract.
Why is the manufacturer sending out inferior quality products incompatible with our agreement?
Because there was a miscommunication between our orders and what the manufacturer sent.
Why was there a miscommunication?
Because the order was phoned through, we are unsure whether our person or their person misheard the information.
Why are we not sure where the miscommunication occurred?
Because our ordering system needs to be updated to avoid communication errors.
Bingo! The root cause is an outdated ordering system, filled with flaws. In just four simple steps, the root cause is identified.
But what now? The company will need to develop a new, more efficient business system for placing orders with manufacturers so that miscommunication is avoided.
Can you see how problems can enhance your business? By using customer complaints to your advantage, your business will benefit from continual improvements.
By using complaints to your advantage, your business will benefit from continual improvements.
Related: How to systemise your business.
The result? A dramatic reduction in customer complaints means their customers are happier and will keep ordering from the company.
Now, it won’t always take four questions – it may be quicker or longer. Don’t jump to a conclusion before you’ve worked it all out on paper, asking the “why’s”.
To be effective, it’s important that the person answering the “why’s” understands the processes, as the answers can’t be guessed.
Depending on the experiences of the person answering the “why” questions, the causes may vary, so it’s a good idea to get multiple people who understand the processes to answer.
It may not work for all problems but works for many, even non-business related ones.
So you got to the cause of the problem. What now?
Next, you need to implement the change and check that it solves the problem and doesn’t create new ones.
Verifying the new business system has other benefits:
- Learning what works and doesn’t work in your business systems.
- Improving your problem-solving abilities.
The mark of a successful organisation isn’t whether or not it has problems; it’s whether it has the same problems it had last year.
– John Foster Dulles
From now on, look at problems and complaints with a systems mindset. You don’t have to wait for a complaint or mistake to improve your business systems and processes.