Mind the gap! Or can’t you be bothered?


I like to run, and I am fanatic enough to keep track of my distance, pace and heart rate, on every run. It is like a numbersgame, a competition with myself. But there is this gap between me and breaking my personal best, running the 10k within an hour. How come I am not improving? Probably (well certainly) the lack of proper training, coaching and a schedule are what is missing. So to improve – I need to invest and set some priorities.

What about organisations? How do they get better? Do they invest enough to break records and crossing lines for the greater good? Like reached the lowest level of scrap, reduced the number of recurring problems, achieved an amazing uptime due to a minimum number of interruptions, or an all- time low use of unnecessary spare parts? Recently a client said to me: I have managed all the bottlenecks in the system, now I need to go to the next level. And…there is this gap, in problem solving:

Closing the gap in problem solving would have a moderate to extremely high impact on quality.

Wow! This is the outcome of a study conducted by Deloitte and the Automotive Industry Action Group (AIAG). It was looking into the future with OEMs and suppliers in the automotive industry. The report, called Quality 2020 showed a shocking result:

Problem-solving capabilities are inadequate, and the main reason is because we are jumping to solutions

How come an industry with many years of experience, that is normally ahead of the game, is still lacking these key capabilities?

Problem solving is important because it impacts the organization’s ability to manage, monitor, and respond to quality-related events; the ability to implement operational efficiencies as well as brand and customer relations.

It is recognized as a key differentiator, so why not invest in that key capability? Problem solving is not like fixing the same problems over and over again. That is just fire fighting. You think you can manage uptime and reliabiilty with that? When root cause is still lacking and people rush from calamity to catastrophe, from disaster to crisis, I am afraid you have some homework to do.

Like running. If I want to improve, I need to get serious. Get training, make it systematic, get a coach and a training schedule. Unfortunately, a one-size-fits-all approach will not give the biggest improvement. I should get a “current state” test as well, to make sure the training suits best with my current condition and situation.

Likewise with problem solving. Although a lot of people think when more experienced one will be better at problem solving. Well, just a bit, but you will not be able to make the big jump to break your personal best. There is a jump needed to bridge the gap between solving simple and tough problems. And when becoming confident in solving them, you feel empowered to go beyond and become even more proactive in your approach.

But first things first, and step by step. Think about your priorities. Do you want to improve, do you want to breakthrough the magic barriers? Then it is time to invest.