For every problem there is a solution. Sometimes the solutions are easy; sometimes not. However you decide to solve a problem make sure that you only have to solve it once. There is nothing worse than a problem that repeats itself every week. The key is to understand the underlying cause(s) of the problem and deal with them. To be clear – causes and symptoms are totally different. If you only treat the symptoms then the problem may disappear for a while but it will eventually come back. Deal with the causes first. If changes to the business are required to overcome the causes then focus on these. This may involve process and personnel changes. Recurring problems sap the energy and vitality of a business and waste a lot of time.

Here is a (slightly humorous) example of a recurring problem and how it was creatively solved:

The headmistress of a school became aware of a persistent problem in the girls lavatories. Some of the girl students were leaving lipstick kisses on the mirrors. Despite various attempts by school personnel to stop the practice, every day more lipstick kisses would appear on the mirrors. The students had considered it a bit of a game and were having a lot of fun doing it. The headmistress decided that the standard approach of asking the students to stop doing it wasn’t working and determined that she needed a more creative approach to solve the problem.

The next day she asked representatives from each class to meet with her in the lavatory. She thanked them all for coming. She pointed out all the new lipstick kisses on the mirrors. The students smiled at each other. The headmistress pointed out the correct use of lipstick and advised that it is not easy to clean it off the mirrors. Bearing this in mind she announced that a new special cleaning regime would begin immediately. She asked the students to take special note and spread the word around the school about the new cleaning approach.

At this point the school cleaner stepped forward with a sponge, which he took into one of the toilet cubicles, dipped it into a toilet and then used it to clean the mirrors. From that day on there were no lipstick kisses on the mirrors.

Here is a perfect example of how to creatively solve a difficult problem while avoiding confrontation. The cause of the problem was identified as the girls, in anonymity, doing something that was fun and rebellious but at the same time difficult for the school to stop. The solution chosen removed the fun from the problem. End of problem.

Business operates in much the same way. Find the root causes of the problems and then work on ways to overcome them.

Enjoy and have a great week! Feel free to provide any comments about any of my posts.