The path to solving problems is paved with Cheerios
Updated: Feb 17, 2021
I'm a parent. Out of necessity, that makes me a problem solver. It's not uncommon to navigate the reality of needing to be in two places at once, carrying more things than seems humanly possible (ever traveled on an airplane with kids? yeah, don't), or trying to figure out how to explain to kids that ice cream for breakfast is a bad idea. These little bundles of joy give us the opportunity to solve problems daily. If we pay attention through our sleepless and bloodshot eyes, we can also learn from them what it takes to be a better problem solver.
Kids inherently know the concept of Go and See. When something goes wrong, "You HAVE to come see this" rolls off their tongue like a parent yelling "Go clean your room!". Oddly enough, this little gem of a saying only reaches your ears when you're in the middle of doing something else. But kids know it makes sense for you to come and see first hand the mess they've created. They know you won't fully appreciate the gravity of the situation unless you've laid eyes on their "oopsie". They know you won't come to understand how much work you have ahead of you unless you walk barefoot across a trail of Cheerios, feeling the gritty crunch of them between your sockless toes (and if you're terribly unlucky, the squish of the milk soaked ones).
The same holds true when you're solving problems at work, minus the cereal (unless you work for General Mills, I suppose). When a problem presents itself, the best thing to do is perform a Go and See. This means you need to go to the source of the problem to observe it first hand. This will help you better understand the nature of the problem and provide the needed context to begin the process of solving the problem. If you try to solve the problem without going to the source, you run the risk of:
Making assumptions about the problem that aren't true
Not getting all the necessary information to solve the problem
Delaying solving the problem
Solving the wrong problem
Making the problem worse
This is why good problem solving events always require observation of the process where the problem occurred. This observation may include the following:
Observe the process noting things that could cause the problem, are not to standard, or may require additional follow-up
Interview of people present when the problem occurred
Depending on the nature of the problem, try to recreate it. This isn't possible for some problems like those that are destructive in nature, create an unsafe condition, or are cost prohibitive to recreate
Observe where the problem is NOT occurring
In the context of a global pandemic, bypassing a Go and See opportunity can almost feel like the noble thing to do. Social distancing and mask requirements may be all the reason you need to stay firmly planted in your desk chair, but there are real consequences to not going directly to the scene of the crime. You're better off coming up with creative ways to respect safety protocols while still making it a priority to go to the source.
Another option is to virtually perform a Go and See. It's amazing how well an iPhone can work as the eyes and ears of a problem solving team on a Zoom session. You can do this real time and narrate for the participants what's being shown on the screen or you can record important items in advance to share with the team. Whatever you do, don't assume you know what the root cause of the problem is without putting eyes on the process. You'll be amazed at what you can miss if you skip a Go and See.
Making it a priority to Go and See will reap many benefits including better solutions to problems, faster resolution, and a higher Fitbit step count. It also proves to your team your desk chair doesn't need to surgically removed from your backside.