How many times have you solved a problem using a quick fix, like virtual duct tape or a small spreadsheet fire extinguisher? How well did that solve the problem — for a few days, until it happens next time, or permanently?
I say forget the half-measures and lazy patchwork solutions. When you have a problem, find the root cause, and solve it permanently. And I don’t mean to just tell people, “Don’t do that again,” or “I’m not going to do that again.” Remove whatever obstacles, tools, or procedures that allowed you (or someone/something else) to make the mistake or produce the error.
I work as a software developer and have been coding for nearly twenty years. Over those years, I’ve seen a lot of what I call duct tape and fire extinguishers. When there is an error, patch it in the quickest and dirtiest way possible (duct tape) to get the process moving again. When there are multiple issues, run around with a fire extinguisher and put out the most dangerous fire first, just enough, and then move on to the next.
While sometimes necessary, these reactionary methodologies present what I’d call a very obvious problem — you’ll face the same thing again. Do you ever stop to figure out what is causing the little fires all over the place? As a developer, one of my pet peeves is being asked to fix the same thing over and over again but not given the time to eradicate the problem permanently.
Enough of my rambling…check out this video that has inspired me to always take the time to figure out the root cause of a problem and fix it so I don’t have to face it again. You should note that you may have to fight with your managers about this. They have a different job than you and sometimes are more concerned with getting things done or processes flowing than doing things the right way.
Check out what one of the most awesome companies in the universe does.
“Root cause analysis (RCA) is a method of problem solving used for identifying the root causes of faults or problems.” That’s from wikipedia.
This is what I want you to start doing in your day to day work, your job, your entrepreneur adventures, etc. When faced with a problem, error, or failure, don’t just focus on fixing that problem. Dig deep — and I mean really deep — into the process and determine the actual point of failure. It might be buried a few steps back in the process, and may not be obvious at all. Pay attention to how Netflix does it (in the video above…you watched it ALL, right?).
Simply put, approaching errors or process failures from the mindset of a quick fix is bad. If you do that, you’re not doing a good job. If you think there’s not enough time in the day to permanently fix problems you face, then you also have another problem — lack of prioritizing skills.
Tim Ferriss said, “If you don’t prioritize, everything seems urgent and important. If you define the single most important task for each day, almost nothing seems urgent or important.”
So pick a recurring problem, determine the root cause, and prioritize the fix. Done.