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5 Questions that Will Solve your Problem Solving Issues

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Business Advice

All Landscape businesses are overwhelmed with problems. Employee problems, production problems, client problems, all businesses have them. However, some companies are able to resolve problems much more efficiently than others. So what’s their secret?

The 5 Why’s Method to Problem Solving

All Landscape businesses are overwhelmed with problems. Employee problems, production problems, client problems, all businesses have them. However, some companies are able to resolve problems much more efficiently than others. So what’s their secret?

Like every business owner, you are always the one trying to fix these problems. You try to fix them as fast as you can but you just keep going in circles, fixing one problem and moving onto the next. Realistically, you can’t fix all problems because you don’t have the time.  And you don’t have time, because you’re constantly being called on to fix problems.  Every small business owner has been there.  But with that being said, some lucky owners discover that there is a better way.

The Pareto Principle

Let’s go back in time to 1906 to an Italian economist named Vilfredo Pareto as he may have found the answer to solving your chaos. He observed that 80% of the wealth was owned by only 20% of the population. This 80/20 rule has been observed for many effects.

Some common examples include:

  • Microsoft notes that 80% of their crashes come from 20% of the bugs
  • Most people spend 80% of their social time with 20% of their friends
  • 20% of your employees are responsible for 80% of your productivity

There are thousands of examples of the Pareto Principle, but when you’re thinking about solving problems, you must never forget this rule. If you can save 80% of your time solving problems by fixing only 20% of the causes, you can see what a positive effect this principle will have on your productivity, your profit, and your work-life balance.

How do I know which problems are the 20% I should fix?

So if 80% of your problems are from 20% of the causes – how do you know which problems are the ones to fix?  That’s why you and every one of your employees need to know the 5 Why’s method to problem solving. Companies that employ the 5 Why’s method go beyond solving just problems – they seek out and solve the causes of the problems. And when you and your people are solving causes… you know you are finding the 20% of the problems that matter.

So you ask – What is the 5 Why’s method? The 5 Why’s method involves going under the surface and finding and fixing the root causes of problems. When you can find root causes of problems, you not only solve the surface problem that caused your particular issue… chances are that the root causes of the problem actually causes hundreds of problems.  Instead of solving one problem… you solve hundreds.

The 5 Why’s method was developed by Toyota and the Toyota Production System (Lean Manufacturing).  When you encountered a problem, you asked yourself why that problem occurred.  Then, again, you ask yourself the reason that problem occurred…. and you repeat this process until you reach the root cause of the problem.  Let’s look at a common example in landscaping:

Situation: The production goal of 80 sqft of stone laid was not met. Only 50 sqft was installed. The supervisor/owner asks what happened.

  • Why #1: Why did we fail to meet the production target today? Answer: Well, the saw we brought to site to cut the stone wouldn’t start. We had to send Dan off the site and back to the shop to go pickup a new saw and drop the other one off the repair place. 
  • Why #2: Why did a broken saw end up getting taken to a jobsite? Answer: Dave’s crew put their broken saw back on the shelf with the other saws… and didn’t tell anyone.
  • Why #3: Why did Dave’s crew put a broken saw on a shelf where working saws are kept? Answer: The new guy put it there at the end of the day.  He didn’t know what to do with the saw that wouldn’t start.
  • Why #4: Why didn’t the new guy know where to put the broken saw? Answer: We probably didn’t train him right. And there’s no good place for broken equipment anyway.  It gets left in various places, depending on what it is.  We’re often looking for stuff we need, only to find it sitting on a bench, where it’s been for weeks, waiting to be fixed.
  • Why #5: Why don’t we have a designated area where we put ALL broken equipment? Answer:  I don’t know.  We’ve never taken the time to make an area, I guess.

Solving the Root Cause

In a matter of seconds, we’ve identified a solution that will not only save production problems but it will solve hundreds of other problems as well. A clearly marked area in the shop/yard for ‘equipment needing repair’ won’t take more than 1-man hour to create. You could paint a box on the floor, or simply hang a sign over a specific place.  You could take it a step further and put tags, wire, and a marker there too, so that everyone has the tools they need to write what needs to be fixed and attach it to the broken tool/equipment.  Look at the problems that are solved using this solution:

  • Broken tools/equipment are not mixed in with working tools and accidentally taken to site
  • Production rates are improved, with less downtime to broken tools/equipment onsite
  • Tools/equipment in need of repair are immediately visible to anyone – repairs can be dealt with more quickly, and the tool/equipment can be returned to the field faster
  • The reason for the repair is obvious to anyone – it’s written on the tag fastened to the tool/equipment
  • Safety is improved – broken tools/equipment are identified/tagged and stored separately from working tools and equipment
  • The shop/yard is kept tidier by having a permanent, consistent location for broken tools/equipment
  • Marked locations mean anyone can easily find and place broken/tools equipment upon returning to shop
  • The owner can keep a better eye on what needs to be fixed, and how fast repairs are being dealt with

… and many more. Most owners ignore, or don’t solve the production problem any further. Some owners ask enough questions to find out that Dave’s crew made a mistake, then go and blame Dave’s incompetence for the problem. Very few owners have the patience and dedication to ask 5 whys – to find the root cause of the problem and solve it. Permanently.

Get everyone on board

5 Why’s is one of the easiest, most effective problem solving tools you can teach your people.  Imagine the power of EVERYONE in your company applying the same techniques to eliminate daily problems from affecting your company’s productivity.  Not only does the company become more productive and more profitable – but the people in the company enjoy their work more as everyone enjoys far less problems in their daily work.


DOWNLOAD – 5 Why’s Analysis Overview (.doc)
DOWNLOAD – 5 Why’s Analysis (.doc)

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