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Diagnosing Business Problems: Treat the Illness, Not Just the Symptoms

Asyma Solutions Posted by Rob Greeno
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Posted on March 2, 2016 at 10:00 AM

When we look at diagnosing business problems, we must be wary of not just treating the symptoms – that's like treating a broken leg with nothing but Ibuprofen! If we don't know that the leg is broken, our thought process is that the leg hurts, so pain is the problem to fix. If you dig deeper, though, you soon find that there are other – worse – symptoms, such as the inability to walk.

Together, these symptoms lead you to the real problem: a broken leg. It's important, therefore, that you resist trying to treat the first symptom you run into; by looking deeper, you'll find other symptoms that add up to reveal the true issue/problem. It’s like peeling an onion – there are many layers to peel before you reach the middle.

What's a Symptom vs. an Illness?

sick computerWe had a customer who had a major problem – their inventory was always wrong in the key areas of quantity on hand and valuation costs. The owner rightly wanted these issues fixed and asked us for help. As we discussed the problem with the business's employees and dug deeper into company data, we found that they were reliant upon an order entry system to handle project costing functions. As a result, they had modified several processes to make things work, leading to messed up inventory. The problem wasn’t the inventory, the problem was the use of the wrong software and procedures – the inventory was a symptom.

How to Keep Symptoms from Distracting You

As you do business, be aware that as humans we have an inclination to treat symptoms as they come along. Sometimes this leads us away from the real problem; keep searching and collect all of the symptoms to find the real, underlying issue. Try listing the symptoms in a document, noting who noticed each issue and how much that issue affected their job. Then organize the items into groups based on functional areas (inventory, purchase orders, accounting, etc.) Once you've fully evaluated that list – peeled the onion to its core, so to speak – you can begin to diagnose the real illness. As you work through this process, you'll find that many of the items are symptoms caused by a single problem. When you treat and solve the real problem, the symptoms will disappear.

Remember: don’t just treat the pain, fix the broken leg!

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Topics: Productivity

Rob Greeno
Written by Rob Greeno

Rob Greeno graduated with a marketing diploma from Lethbridge Community College and a business management degree from Mayville State University. He has been with Asyma Solutions for over ten years. Rob meets with prospects to help them create the process needed to reach their biggest goals. He has a passion for providing businesses with systems and procedures that work the way they want and need. Rob’s goal is to catch the flaws before they have the potential to cause problems. When not working Rob enjoys the outdoors; hunting, fishing, skiing, camping, and spending lot's of time with his wife Mindy and two sons.

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