Fishbone Purgatory (runaway divergence)

We received this question from a recent graduate of our Systematic Problem-Solving (SPS) workshop:

“Our organization is a supplier to the U.S. Military.  We are required to submit a Fishbone Diagram for problems they and others refer back to us for resolution.  We even have whiteboards in our team meeting rooms upon which the Fishbone Diagram is permanently embedded to remind us to always use this approach. What do you suggest?”

Of course, we recognize you must give your customer what they want!  Just don’t let this be the only thing you do.  It is possible to rapidly create a Fishbone that covers all the necessary categories.  Then, be sure to avoid Fishbone Purgatory by completing the BPI SPS Problem-Solving analysis.  The completed Fishbone will assure your customer you considered a wide range of potential causes.  The SPS analysis will enable you to converge and verify the true cause of the problem.

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with why there is a need for our non-Fishbone approach to resolving problems, please read the continuation of this discussion in the article: https://www.critical-thinking.com/sites/default/files/A35.pdf



Critical Thinking GAP. Its been 40 years! Wake-up academia!

TEACHERS! Ask for help when you need it!  (This email was sent to us by a concerned citizen.)

“My reading of the 1999 article by Professor Diane F. Halpern then of CSU San Bernardino, CA. left me wondering when academia will wakeup and admit they have failed to fix a problem that almost everyone else sees as their primary responsibility- teaching students to think clearly about their actions in the world benefiting from the wisdom of others and making their own reasoned evaluation of complex situations with depth and understanding. Professor Halpern writes, “Critical thinking is purposeful, reasoned, and goal directed” extolling the progress colleges have made over the past decade (since 1980’s).  Purposeful and goal directed seem like the same thing to me but that’s not important here.   As we reach 2020 we do see students who shout down others and who blast whistles to drown out speakers with whom they disagree.  This is purposeful and goal directed student behavior – mission accomplished!  These “students” are not engaging in rational dialogue with those “others”.

To me they seem more like objects bewitched by sorcerer apprentices (teachers, professors, activists) from public school through whatever college level they attained.  They have learned their lessons well.  They are as sophisticated as a child who screams “bloody murder” when they can’t get the coveted candy bar they seek at the grocery store.   This newest crop of legal adults appear to resort immediately to bullying, threats, and harassment as tools to get what they want, not listening, discussing, or reasoning. And they surely are not out to learn anything (random chance forbid!)

How does this skill-set toddlers naturally possess translate into helping organizations, public or private, provide a product or service to others or even making the world a kinder, better place?  It doesn’t.  Organizations are noticing the gap between what jobs demand and what skills college graduates have. Rights properly understood enable us to fulfill our responsibilities.  (Thank you Jordan Peterson, Ph.D.)  I remind these students that rights are not a credit card for benefits to the good life the rest of us must pay off.

Some questions for your blog participants to respond to:

* Who is running the colleges and universities now?  What is the dominant emotion?

* What is the purpose of the institutions the students are attending?

* What roll does history, ethics, philosophy and civics play in being educated?

* What role could valuing understanding, the contributions of others, and humility play in making the world a better place – even for those that our child-like adults have learned to shut-down by force?

Make “NEWS” news again. EXTRA! EXTRA! Read all about it!

Do you AGREE or DISAGREE?

Fox, CNN, MSNBC, CBS, ABC, NBC, NPR and other “news” channel outlets who claim that “news matters” should follow these suggestions ASAP:

This is an opinion piece after witnessing the “news stories” in the “newspapers”, magazines and cable news shows for, well my entire adult life. I think reporting organizations need to do a much better job of identifying and reporting the RELEVANT FACTS in the stories you report. As it stands now, there is almost nowhere to go if one wants to get the facts of a story. For example, what the President said vs. what the media says he meant. You skipped a step!

[2] What facts? Specifically please report upfront in the story the TRIGGERING EVENT, comment or action in raw form that the story is commenting on. Don’t start with the reporter’s opinion of what the story means. Allow the reader, viewer, or listener to decide what it might mean. At least separate the reporter’s opinions from the facts. Perhaps putting the opinion in an OPINION BOX at the conclusion of the report? Do this and the world would be a more rational and less hostile place.

[3] Editors should support reporters in this effort with coaching, approval, bonuses and favored status perhaps? In short, align their incentives toward this goal of facts and clarity and away from opinion, bias and judgment.

[4] PEJORATIVE GLOBAL TERMS should be defined within the story so we, the listeners/viewers/readers can judge for ourselves if the facts support the label being applied (e.g. racist, sexist, homophobic, traitor, white nationalist, alt-right, alt-left, Nazi, Communist, Socialist …) This should always be an independent definition and not a circular argument like “X said this and that means they are a racist.” A dictionary or a history book might be useful here?

[5] NEWS ORGANIZATIONS – it is not about you, your thoughts, your feelings or your anything. So, STOP making the news about you (e.g. by sponsoring your own surveys and the formation of panels of IDENTICALLY-MINDED opinion leaders who present their consensus as unopposed truth which you then report as news.)

[6] SOCIAL MEDIA – I think that the USA government should define what social media companies are under the law (publishers? broadcasters? both? other?) and therefore how they must operate their businesses under existing laws and regulations. Perhaps the social media companies themselves could develop standards of practice and at least some code of ethics regarding deceptive use of information, slander, false reporting, and censorship of viewpoints. That would be worth a try. They can start by defining EVIL and how they will work to avoid creating it. Imagine your political rival doing what you are doing and then ask is that right? If not, stop it.

[7] Government supported UNIVERSITIES and COLLEGES who fail to support open discussions of differing points of view should suffer funding cuts with funds going to institutions that do demonstrate that debate and reasoned discussion are their institutional values. Here too, standards for allowing differing points of view on campus and in classrooms could be developed by inter-institutional panels representing the public, students and the academic institutions themselves. I suggest self-defining the purpose of each institution and why it deserves taxpayer funding followed by a student bill of rights and responsibilities to start. Don’t leave out the responsibilities part. Children do that – naturally. Educated adults should not.

[8] Offer the equivalent to a NOBEL PRIZE IN JOURNALISM or some such thing? Perhaps the creation of a Gates PRIZE FOR JOURNALISM (no not the ICFJ for shaping the world, no points for shaping the world in your image!) Or find some other endowment sources (crowd funding?). The money prizes could be used to recognize and reward reporters and news organizations for their exceptional pursuit of truth and outstanding service to “NEWS” following the above guidelines. I repeat, the award would NOT be given to those who seek to SHAPE public policy or the world but to those who supply raw materials (facts) to those who need them for thinking and judging what actions to take (the news consuming public and voters). It is not your job to shape public opinion.

Your mission should be to observe the highest reporting standards across a broad range of your reporting realm and strive for the ability to organize facts, research trends and context perspectives benefiting the education of all. A transparent representative committee of different ideologies and world views should be maintained to award this prize. This would be an annual prize that might skip years as determined by the availability of qualified candidates.

[9] Context and trend information should cease being manipulated to fit the news reporter’s or more likely editor’s bias. The great reporter would be adept at sniffing out “Gerrymandered” trends, for example the use of self-seving beginning and ending dates.

[10] OPPORTUNITY! Report relevant facts and grow rich? The “news” situation at present offers an excellent business opportunity for someone(s)! Any group of investors who might seek to do a good job instead of the mashup job we have now, and who can tell a fact from a canard (an unfounded rumor or story) please step forward! The time is right. Go for it!

Remember this is an opinion piece. Thank you and good luck!

Problem Solving TIPS Discussion

Tip #1: BIG THING – LITTLE THING

Melinda, a recent graduate of our Systematic Problem Solving one-day workshop asked this question about one of the problems her team was working on:

MELINDA:  Focusing upon what was specifically observed, my team wrote this Statement Core temperature gage is 20% above target operating temperature.We began, being most careful to be specific.  We identified the problem object and problem defect as follows:

OBJECT: Boiling Water Reactor #3’s Core Temperature Gage

DEFECT: Reading Too High

I recalled that our BPI instructor had a discussion with us about how to split the object and defect to allow consideration of proper range of potential causes and to avoid blind spots in thinking.  I wanted a quick check with you about our split.  Any suggestions?

BPI FACILITATOR: The main thing to remember about defining the defect and object is this.  When working on a SYSTEM we recommend you define the object as the system and the defect as any deviation observed.  So with the problem you worked on (above) we’d define the Object and Defect as follows:

OBJECT: Boiling Water Reactor #3

DEFECT: Core Temperature Gage Reading Is Too High

The reason this is a better SPLIT is it facilitates a discussion of anything about the system that might be causing the gage to show a core temperature increase.  In your original split the object was the Gage.  In addition to the “obvious” possibility that the core is too warm, the team’s attention then goes to many other things that might create a false warm reading.  But the point is your first split takes the attention off the system and puts it on the gage – off the big thing and onto the monitoring device.

We recently saw a similar thing happen at an automotive assembly plant where the plant people defined the Object as a sensor rather than the Automobile.  And we see this in the media when a reporter makes a negative report about a person, place or thing and the focus becomes almost exclusively the reporter as the problem (deserved or not.)  A focus on the big thing as the object encourages exploration of options beyond a faulty reporting mechanism (i.e. a biased or ignorant reporter).

One final example comes to mind.  When researchers reveal research that supports an unpopular “idea”, attacking them as biased and a tool of the XYZ industry or political correctness has become common.  While researcher bias may always be considered in these situations, other potential causes should also be evaluated.

When you hear attacks solely against a speaker in the absence of any reasoned discussion of his or her ideas, consider this may be an attempt to distract you from the new information the speaker might offer.

Multitasking myth?

The word “Multitasking” seems to communicate being able to do multiple things at once.  Perhaps a better definition would be “Juggling several things at once, taking turns giving attention to one thing after another, and managing transitions.”  Realty sometimes demands this kind of rotation or splitting of awareness, as anyone who is responsible for children can attest.  However, at work, organizations pay a big price when multi-tasking is used and worse if it is common and expected!

Eli Goldratt, in his book Critical Chain, points out the damage multi-tasking does to project durations. Important projects are delayed while less important projects are worked on perhaps because of the need to show progress at the next project review.  Goldratt strongly advocates that organizations set clear priorities with one most important project at a time.  Then that is the project that is always worked upon first, given an opportunity to do so.   Every department knows the priority of each project and works accordingly. The #1 project is NEVER to be delayed while resources are applied to another.  Businesses following Goldratt’s model, which includes not multi-tasking and a special project buffering strategy, routinely cut project durations more than 50%!

We have an article on the Member part of our website entitled Project Management Tip #1. (Become a member of our website with your email to access this article.)  The article demonstrates mathematically that using six identical resources (i.e. people) on one project and avoiding spreading their efforts across six projects, all else being equal, earns an average 42% improvement in project durations for those six projects.

An individual focusing on one project at a time, will avoid time wasted putting down one project and picking up another.  Mental effort is reduced and errors become far less likely.

Here is more information about what other critics of multitasking have to say:

Unlimited Memory by Grandmaster Kevin Horsley:

“Multi-tasking is a myth”; “Stop multitasking”; “Our brain can … only focus on one thing at a time”; “When you (think) you are multi-tasking you are actually switching between tasks”;

“We (humans) cannot do more than one thing at a time.  Sharpen your intellect by returning to the habit of doing one thing at a time.”; “Rediscover the value of sequential tasking, instead of settling for the quality dilution associated with simultaneous tasking.”

“Exceptional work is always associated with periods of deep concentration.”; “Nothing excellent comes from scattered effort.”  “We are training our brains to an attention deficit.”

Marilee Springer – Neuroscience consultant:

“Multitasking is known to slow people down by 50% and add 50% more mistakes.”

Enough said?

Aligning Learning Strategy with the Business

Five key points (of many) from:
State of Learning & Development 2016 report by Brandon Hall:

“1. Less than 8% of companies with an L&D strategy
     would call it very effective.

“2. More than 50% of companies say they are ready .
… to take action on aligning the learning strategy
    with the business.

“3. High performers are 78% more likely to have an
     effective L&D strategy than average or poor
     performing companies. …

“4. There needs to be a set of critical skills and
     competencies the strategy can target.

“5. …(To) really do learning the right way, you need
     a game plan for each learning topic you offer.”

…End of report excerpts…

What skills and competencies should be part of your L&D strategy? Business managers, supervisors and teams universally: Solve problems, make decisions and Implement projects. So your L&D curriculum must help people with practical applications of these business skills.

The following skills form a critical thinking framework, one that can empower employees to think together and succeed in running any business by optimizing use of their experience and judgment: Root Cause Analysis, Decision Making and Project Implementation.

Consider this: how successful can an organization be if their people do not do well in understanding the causes and root causes of problems; find it difficult to make high quality, timely, and balanced decisions; and are weak at implementing projects?  Symptoms of the above include: delays in making decisions, problems that reoccur, and projects that are late, abandoned, or fail to achieve key objectives.

The management assessment research conducted in the 1970’s and 80’s proved that there are two categories of effective management skills: human/communication skills and thinking/analysis skills. These two sets of skills can be described various ways but their basic validity is well established.

The good news is that L&D science and technology has progressed so that we now can create a dynamic, business focused game plan to transfer learning directly into the work setting to make needed changes and dramatic improvement.  A blended learning approach.

Contact us to discuss what you want to do to improve the thinking competence of your people.  Visit our website to learn more about our standard workshops, online training and blended learning methods. Thank you.

Needs assessment discussion.

TRIGGER: from ATD (Association for Talent Development):

“… needs assessments are an integral part of developing talent.”

—> In the quote from ATD below any text set apart in these brackets [  X  ] indicates              BPI comments.

“In a recent research report, ATD found:

• Only 56% of surveyed organizations use needs assessments.

• The top challenge with needs assessments is stakeholders believing they already know the needs. [We interpret “stakeholders … already know the needs” to mean the stakeholders think they know the solution already.  A solution and a need are different.  A need exists now, but a solution in this context is only an idea for meeting a need.]

• The primary benefit of training needs assessments is identifying performance gaps.” [We prefer the term needs assessment to “training” needs assessment because training is not always the most effective solution or may only be part of an optimal solution.]

FURTHER COMMENT:
Please read the article: Critical Thinking Interview -Part II in the PUBLIC ARTICLES section of our website www.critical-thinking.com (especially pages 3-4).  The URL for this specific article is: https://www.critical-thinking.com/sites/default/files/A02.

Our experience shows that there is an almost “casual waste of Talent Development resources” perpetrated on the altar of appearing to be cooperative while missing an opportunity to be truly effective. As a result, training is often rightly seen as not having much of an impact on the real day-to-day business of the organization and can be the first to suffer budget cuts when times get tough.  (Witness the purge of budgets and personnel of training departments in 2009!)  We’ve found that both internal stakeholders and internal Talent Development specialists fall victim to the same logical error while the organization suffers two wounds – $’s wasted on resources for the wrong solutions and $’s lost on continuing performance gaps.

What should be done about it? Training and Talent Development Professionals with their internal customers should learn how to accurately analyze the real needs (causes) of performance gaps before considering solutions.  Please read the above mentioned critical thinking article for more insight into this issue – and also see this article HRD, Consulting w/ your customers! 

Critical Thinking Certificates – NOW!

Our new website [https://www.critical-thinking.com] is setup with two sides or parts:

1. The PUBLIC part offers this BLOG, articles (24),
videos (9), descriptions of our standard “on-site” workshops (5),
blended learning ideas, and the CONTACT Form that enables communication back to us.

2. The free MEMBER part adds more videos (2), audios (13),
more articles (9), and access to purchase any of our newly
available e-Learning courses and modules (11). The e-Learning courses
cover all our standard content in self-paced online
training. They enable us to work with individual
learners as coaches and are the core of our two
certificate programs [Troubleshooter I Certificate; and
College Senior Critical-Thinking Certificates (3).]

Visit the website, enroll as a member and access the additional content.  There are three courses of study accessible on the member portal page.  Two concern the certificate programs and the third is an OPEN unstructured course of study members can select from for their own personal development.

We are excited about helping college students transition from their academic environment into the world of organizations. We also look forward to continuing our work with expert problem solvers giving them the tools they need to rapidly solve problems with our logically convergent methods.  These complement the divergent tools most teams are familiar with (e.g. brainstorming, fishbone diagramming) which are missing important critical thinking steps.

Introductory information about the certificate programs is available in the ARTICLES and VIDEOS section of the PUBLIC part of the website.

HR leaders – Do you really care?

After conducting 100’s of critical thinking workshops and facilitating the analysis of thousands of real organizational issues during those workshops, my opinion is that HR does NOT care if the problems brought up within the workshops they sponsor are solved or that the organization is wasting hundreds of thousands, even millions of dollars by not following up on what is discovered within these classes.

I have my own opinion as to why, but I want HR professionals to share their thinking.  Please answer two questions: First: “Are you interested in working on this and making a difference for your organization?”  Second,  “If not, why not, what barriers do you see to taking action?”

There are exceptions to the above which unfortunately has become the rule.  But, exceptions are few. The typical HR and HRD professional whether manager or specialist does nothing that we can detect to make sure the gems discovered in the workshops actually benefit the organization.  Perhaps this is because most training classes are not like ours, they don’t have a direct impact on current realities, they work through improving more general attitudes or capabilities whose effects are difficult to measure (e.g. Emotional IQ or Communication Skills or Seven Habits of Successful People)?

How do we know that action is not being taken on high impact problems?  After all it could be that fantastic things are happening when the participants return to their work duties and report to their manager – how would we know?  We are confident that is not happening spontaneously because when we return to conduct the next class, the new participants identify the SAME problems that were already analyzed in previous classes!  The new analysis confirms the old. And this pattern continues for months and even years within some organizations and typically on the bigger, higher impact issues, ones that require management involvement to address.  We have many workable solutions to address this problem, but first HR needs to care and be willing to collaborate with us. We can’t do it alone.  HR is typically our point of entry into the organization.  However, we often find ourselves all dressed up with no where to go.  We are not granted permission to follow-up with stakeholders or problem owners.

Would somebody PLEASE help us to understand what is going on?  It is not unusual for one single problem to be worth more than the whole training budget for the year and participants analyze 3-4 of these problems in every workshop.  Yet, our appeals to our HR contact stir nothing detectable, crickets?

Companies in any country must run better, smoother and effectively in today’s competitive world. They can’t afford to leave “money on the table” while turnover, layoffs, disappearing research funds and rapid change affect every industry.  Step one is caring enough to look into this, communicating the newly discovered root causes of issues that are delaying production or draining organizational resources.  We want an internal champion for this most worthwhile cause.  No matter who we contact with our value proposition at a prospective organization, we get directed to HR or HRD (often called the Talent Development department.) – stuck with someone who has no bottom line incentive to do something, to risk being an advocate.

“Thinking clearly” is a competitive advantage one that can show immediate results.  Let’s work together to leverage what participants are discovering, like clockwork, workshop after workshop!.  Training can have a very large, visible and powerful impact on eliminating some of the most troublesome issues your organization is facing.

Guarantee!  Our training will return every training dollar x10 or our training is free.  Now it is your turn to step up to the plate.  I am asking not to waste the discoveries individuals are making in our workshop!  Together we can do this.

ADDENDUM: Here’s a theory that helps make some sense of this phenomenon of no action!  At www.infed.org/thinkers/argyris.htm the article: Chris Argyris: Theories of Action, Double-Loop Learning and Organizational Learning (key aspects of his thinking) seems to apply directly.  Argyris also has a book: Overcoming Organizational Defenses.

In brief:  Most organizations, especially unexceptional and poor performing ones, are Model I learners.  These are characterized by defensiveness, self-fueling processes, and escalating error.  Feedback loops inhibit detection and correction of errors.  The model one learning organization itself can begin to function in ways that act against its long-term interests.

[As I understand, Model I is based upon single-loop learning where the governing Values (objectives) are used to limit action to safely protect self and others unilaterally against change, to control the environment and the task unilaterally.  This so the organization can carry on its present policies and procedures.  Learning that threatens any of this is kept in individual memory and not organizational memory.]

Double-Loop learning occurs when error is detected and corrected in ways that modify an organization’s underlying norms, policies and objectives (culture?).  Model II learning organizations use double-loop learning.

[It appears to me that the leaders of such organizations have Theories-In-Use updated to be compatible with the evolving current reality as revealed by the experience of people solving problem, defining root causes, taking corrective actions and observing consequences.  Organizational memory is complete and accurate as reflected in the organization’s policies and procedures.]

I hope this helps!

 

 

Tip For Project Creators

There is a need for project creators to learn how to better delegate projects to project teams. Part of the current difficulty is that what are being called projects are actually problems to analyze or decisions to be made. Problem Solving and Decision Making are not amenable to the standard project management tools. Projects, to put it simply, are decisions that have been approved and now must be implemented. Tools for defining action steps, scheduling, tracking and managing projects are what Project Management Professionals (PMPs) learn.

Another issue plaguing project teams is shifting or conflicting priorities or worse the “everything is top priority” disaster. Multi-tasking kills timeliness.  At any given time there can be only one top priority project, although that honor can change to adapt to evolving contingencies.  But, there should be no confusion on what the priority is now.

In SUM: Organizational leaders – don’t send people to get their PMP certificate unless you are able and intend to define projects for them to do.  Application of critical thinking skills to make high quality decisions and uncover root causes of problems is a prerequisite to launching any project.  Don’t abdicate that role and launch a series of vague initiatives requiring other skills.  The tool sets are distinct having different purposes.