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  • Travis Cunningham

When to Dig for Questions, Not Answers

A few weeks ago, I noticed the telltale sign of a sprinkler pipe leak in my backyard. I knew I was in for muddy Saturday morning.

I cut out the grass so it could be used later, and I started carefully digging. I quickly uncovered the offending pipe and spotted the leak. It was on a joint connecting two pieces of pipe. The fix would have been fairly routine, but I wondered if I should dig a little deeper.

I continued excavating the area and found the routing of the pipe made an unnecessary U-turn. I'm not sure why it was built this way. After seeing the bigger picture, not only could I fix the immediate problem, but I could also create a more efficient system. Looking at more of the piping helped me eliminate possible points of failure. Also, the fix was easier and used less materials because I could use some of the existing pipe.

Isn’t this similar to how we manage problems in our businesses?

When a problem or a point of failure arises, sometimes it is tempting to do a quick fix. It feels good to discover an issue and quickly resolve it. Depending on the circumstances, that might be the best decision. However, I would argue that most times it is worth the extra effort to dig a little deeper. Take the time to look at the connected processes and handoffs up and down the larger business process, while asking yourself these three questions:

  1. Could the larger process become more efficient?

  2. Could possible points of failure be eliminated?

  3. Could the solution be simplified by eliminating unnecessary work?

The next time you have a problem you need to fix, take a moment to ask yourself, "Should I dig a little deeper?"


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