In my work I do something called root cause analysis to solve problems. The idea behind it is simple but powerful:
Solve the problem, not treat the symptoms.
Too often in business and in life we use band-aids for problems. We take reactionary measures instead of proactive ones, trying to correct results of the problem instead of the problem itself. That’s why this is so important.
Root cause analysis helps you drill down to the actual problem using a variety of tools. My favorite, and the most practical for real-life application, is the 5 Whys. It’s exactly what you might think – ask yourself why 5 times. This exercise helps you keep pulling back the layers of the problem without stopping after you answer the first why.
Let me give a practical example.
Say you’re a worker, named Tom, on an automobile assembly line. Your job is to put on 13 bolts on the chassis before sending it to the next station. You have 5 minutes and 40 seconds to do so, but you keep going over. Now your boss gets involved and wants to know what’s holding you up. At this point, most of us make the common mistake of assuming it’s a people problem. We assume they’re incompetent and unable to do the task. But luckily your boss understands root cause analysis so he starts to look into it further.
First he states the problem: Tom is not getting all 13 bolts on the chassis in the allotted time.
- Why? He still has 3 bolts left.
- Why? He has trouble getting bolt #6 in.
- Why? Bolt #6 is on top of the chassis, causing Tom to use a step-ladder to reach it.
- Why? The bolt is on top of the chassis because it was on the last model.
- Why? It was necessary to hold on a piece of the frame later on in the assembly process.
So Tom is not able to get on all the bolts because one of them is located in a tough-to-reach spot on the chassis. If Tom’s boss stopped short of understanding the problem he would have most likely replaced Tom on the line. But Tom’s replacement would have had the same problem. It wasn’t a people problem; it was a process problem.
There are many things wrong in this world.
Human trafficking, the drug trade, poverty, AIDS, homelessness, and on-and-on. Then there are the “first world problems” we have in America. Too much violence and sex in entertainment, sexual corruption in politics, lack of ambition, and crimes like theft and murder.
We have to ask ourselves why. While helping people in these situations is important and a biblical calling, we must also ask ourselves how we got there.
I’m convinced, after asking myself the 5 Whys and thinking about it for a considerable amount of time, that the answer is this:
Most of the bad things in the world happen because we don’t stop to reflect.
Many of the bad things in the world are a result of poor decisions being made. Many of them by people who would know they’re poor decisions if they stopped to think about them.There’s no way any of us would engage in some of the behaviors we do if we stopped and thought about it.
No one would watch porn if they thought about the very real damage it does to their mind. No one would watch guilty pleasure shows if they could see they were leading them down the path to sin.
It’s as if we’ve lost all the mirrors in the world today. No one is taking the time to honestly look at their decisions and ask if they’re what they should be doing. I’m willing to bet Tiger Woods wishes he had taken 5 minutes before having his first extramarital affair to ask himself if it was worth it. But he, just like most of us, was caught up in the moment.
The most effective strategy for satan to use has to be asking us not to think about something. Don’t tell them it’s wrong, just tell them not to think about it. It’s what everyone else is doing.
I truly believe we can make the world conform more to the image of Christ by reflecting. Join me in reflecting on life and our decisions so we can make the right ones.
Where do you need to start reflecting more?
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