Tag Archives: root cause

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problem statements

Problem Statements Create More Clarity

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The biggest problem with problems is a lack of clarity. The unknowns cause hesitation, confusion, and weaken commitment. Are you using problem statements?

People often attempt to define problems by reporting a symptom.

I can’t connect to the internet.

I have to lose some weight.

My car won’t start.

All of these sound like problems, yet they are not getting to the root cause. When we aren’t at the root, the next move is unclear, and often the problem doesn’t get solved.

What is worse, is that an assumed solution to a symptom allows the problem to happen again. Over and over.

Symptom statements differ from problem statements. And, yes, we may often use a symptom statement to lead us to the problem.

It’s important to recognize that there are differences.

Problem Statements and Clarity

When you lack clarity with the problem definition, the goal is unlikely to be achieved.

You can’t fix it or achieve it if you don’t appropriately define it.

You probably won’t increase sales by stating that sales numbers are too low. Stating that you want or need a new job won’t make one magically appear.

Many people get stuck, they become stalled and are very frustrated because the change they seek is not happening. It may all be the result of not being clear about the problem.

When you start forward motion with a good problem statement and you are able to identify and label the root cause, you’re on your way.

Are you growing tired of lingering problems?

Perhaps you aren’t clear about what they are.


Dennis E. Gilbert is a business consultant, speaker (CSPTM), and culture expert. He is a five-time author and the founder of Appreciative Strategies, LLC. His business focuses on positive human performance improvement solutions through Appreciative Strategies®. Reach him through his website at Dennis-Gilbert.com or by calling +1 646.546.5553.

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problem solving blame

Problem Solving Blame and the Root Cause

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Knowing the problem and the solution are two different things. Getting to the root cause is often another stumbling block. How are you managing problem solving blame?

This coffee tastes terrible. It must be the brand.

I tried their website. It must be down.

My house plant died. I guess I forgot to water it.

It’s easy to make assumptions. In many cases we label that problem solving.

Many people take great pride in their ability to solve problems in the workplace or in even in their everyday lives.

Problem solving skills are valuable and make a significant difference for quality, productivity, and customer satisfaction.

Problem Assumptions

Are the assumptions ever wrong?

Certainly, they are.

Getting the solution to the problem correct is critical. Getting to the root cause, well, that is also critical.

There are lots of reasons for bad coffee. Too long sitting on the burner, too strong, too weak, or perhaps something that was added. The brand may be perfectly fine.

A down website doesn’t mean it is a bad design, it also doesn’t mean that it is not working for everyone. Could be the connection, your browser, or even your own connectivity.

House plants sometimes die. A lack of water may not be the only reason. Throwing your arms up and suggesting that you aren’t good with plants may be an excuse.

When you problem solve, who or what gets blamed?

Problem Solving Blame

While we recognize that circumstances and situations will vary. We should also recognize that solutions and blame are not always connected or accurate.

If your cell phone didn’t charge overnight, is it the phone, the battery, the charger, the outlet, or was there a power outage? Was the cable appropriately plugged in?

Did someone else unplug it?

Getting to the root cause will matter. It may also take some time, some testing, and having a little more patience.

Before you make your next guess about who or what to blame, consider the importance of resolution. Stop blaming and solve it at the root.

Isn’t that what everyone wants?


Dennis E. Gilbert is a business consultant, speaker (CSPTM), and culture expert. He is a five-time author and the founder of Appreciative Strategies, LLC. His business focuses on positive human performance improvement solutions through Appreciative Strategies®. Reach him through his website at Dennis-Gilbert.com or by calling +1 646.546.5553.

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repetitive workplace problems

Repetitive Workplace Problems and Solving Them

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Problems always exist. In part, that is why we have supervisors and managers. Are you suffering from repetitive workplace problems?

One aspect of leadership is that sometimes supervisors and managers think that they shouldn’t have any problems. The view is that more advanced roles are the luxurious ones. A place to get comfortable, relax, and enjoy.

In you don’t realize it by now, that is a myth in most organizations.

Repetitive problems probably exist because they are hard to solve.

Hard to Solve

Hard to solve doesn’t mean impossible to solve. It does probably mean that the solutions aren’t obvious, aren’t easy, or require additional risk.

Most problems are quickly addressed through experience or theory. People learn to spot resolutions based on previous similar scenarios. They apply their knowledge and expertise and the problem gets resolved.

We solve lots of problems every day. Sometimes we don’t even realize that we are doing it. Yet, the lingering or repetitive problem nags at us.

Repetitive Workplace Problems

You attend the meeting, intending to solve a problem. The team gets sidetracked, the discussion becomes about obstacles, hurdles, and why things won’t work.

Maybe the problem definition is not clear. Maybe you can’t seem to get to the root cause, or perhaps you need more data or information before applying your expertise.

Don’t procrastinate about the problem. It is likely going to require some risk.

Get to the root cause.

If you don’t solve the problem at the root, it may repeat. When you don’t clearly understand the problem, it may continue.

When you get to the root and are willing to get a little uncomfortable and risky, you may discover a new path to problem resolution.

Otherwise, you may stay stuck.


Dennis E. Gilbert is a business consultant, speaker (CSPTM), and culture expert. He is a five-time author and the founder of Appreciative Strategies, LLC. His business focuses on positive human performance improvement solutions through Appreciative Strategies®. Reach him through his website at Dennis-Gilbert.com or by calling +1 646.546.5553.

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stop fighting fires

How to Stop Fighting Fires

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It might be one of the most common metaphorical expressions in the workplace. The phrase, “fighting fires,” probably implies that many unexpected, urgent, and important to fix immediately issues are popping up in your workday. Have you ever felt like you want to stop fighting fires?

Many organizations that I work with on strategy development express that much of their daily workplace life is spent fighting fires. I’m glad we’ve connected, because it might be time to become more strategic versus tactical in their approach.

Having tactical skills is excellent. Identifying tactics that will help you pursue your strategy is also excellent. Being overwhelmed with having to quickly drop everything and tactically handle workplace emergencies might mean you need more strategy.

Stop Fighting Fires

Here are a few thoughts to help you move away from a fire fighting approach:

  1. Root Cause. Effective problem solving begins by getting to the root cause. When we don’t, the problem will likely occur again. Don’t just provide the patch or quick fix. Take the time to understand the root cause and fix it for the last time.
  2. Delegate. Are you the only person who can address this situation? Are you the best person to address it? The answer might sometimes be yes, and sometimes be no. Sharing the load with a peer or delegating to a direct report might sometimes be a reasonable course of action.
  3. Train. Is everyone appropriately trained? What information, advertising, or promises are leading people to a situation where everything is an emergency? Step back from it all and ask yourself why. Are you solving problems at the root? Provide appropriate training.
  4. FAQ. What are the frequently asked questions? What are the repetitive scenarios? Frequently asked questions might be signaling other underlying problems. Perhaps adding a frequently asked questions page to your website or contained within your product materials would be helpful.
  5. Focus. Sometimes we’re looking for an interruption. It is a strange way of procrastinating. Sure, you can’t stop the telephone from ringing and you definitely don’t want the opposite (never rings) but perhaps not every situation is truly an emergency. Stay appropriately disciplined and focused.

More Productive

The most productive and efficient people are probably also the most strategic. If you want to stop fighting fires and start getting more done you’re going to have to plan appropriately.

Look beyond the problem and develop a strategy.


Dennis E. Gilbert is a business consultant, speaker (CSPTM), and corporate trainer that specializes in helping businesses and individuals accelerate their leadership, their team, and their success. He is a five-time author and some of his work includes, #CustServ The Customer Service Culture, and Forgotten RespectNavigating A Multigenerational Workforce. Reach him through his website at Dennis-Gilbert.com or by calling +1 646.546.5553.

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solving problems

Solving Problems That You Shouldn’t Have

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It seems pretty common for people to complain about problems. One reason is that the easiest problems, those that require few resources and small efforts, are often solved first. Have you ever felt like you are solving problems that you shouldn’t have?

In most workplaces the higher your pay grade the more responsibility you have. With more responsibility come more problems. Many supervisors and managers dislike problems. They might feel like problems are something that they shouldn’t have.

The reality is that they are solving the problems that remain. The problems that are tough, require extra resources, and take a while.

Solving the biggest problems often requires making changes and taking bigger risks. They also require courage and persistence. If they weren’t challenging, they would already be solved.

Solving Problems

While there are many technical issues behind solving large scale problems here are some reminders of the basics:

  • Get data. Gather input and discover as much background as possible. Don’t procrastinate and be cautious of anchoring to the information available.
  • Discover root cause. You must always get to the root cause. Yes you can use cause and effect diagrams, fishbone diagrams, or even just the five why’s technique. Get to the root.
  • Make choices. Procrastination about taking action is often problematic. Avoid analysis paralysis. Data and discovery are important, but refuse to allow this quest to avoid taking action.
  • Be patient. Jumping in and getting started is important, but the big problems wouldn’t be around if they were easily solved. Effective change or resolution might take a little time.

Why You?

Consider that problems are your problem and that solving them might not be easy.

Step up, be brave, understand the root cause and make some moves.

What you try might not always work. It’s probably a tough one to solve.

That’s why it came to you.


Dennis E. Gilbert is a business consultant, speaker (CSPTM), and corporate trainer that specializes in helping businesses and individuals accelerate their leadership, their team, and their success. He is a four-time author and some of his work includes, Forgotten Respect, Navigating A Multigenerational Workforce and Pivot and Accelerate, The Next Move Is Yours! Reach him through his website at Dennis-Gilbert.com or by calling +1 646.546.5553.

Dennis Gilbert on Google+

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change resistors

Change Resisters–Boomers or Millennials?

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Many boomers believe millennials resist change. Many millennials believe boomers resist change. Who is correct? Could it be neither?

Consider the following three ideas:

Pace of Technology – Millennials and Generation 9/11 will likely experience more technology advancements and change during their lifetime as compared to boomers. The pace of technology driving change appears to be accelerating.

To-date Reality – At any given moment in time, earlier generations have experienced the most change. After all, they have more years of experience and have lived what everyone from recent generations has lived, plus everything before those generations. (A 55 year old has 25 more years of experience as compared to a 30 year old, but both have experienced the most recent 30 years.)

Saturation – Consider that everyone has a tolerance for the volume or quantity of change, and as many may suggest, differing levels of interest for change. If this is true, it only makes sense that earlier generations have experienced more and may not be as tolerant of, or interested in, change.

Popular wisdom among change experts is that change resistance has little or nothing to do with generations. During a change event nearly everyone, or anyone, may feel a loss of control and a push (or shove) from their comfort zone. It is this uneasy, nervous, and fearful feeling that often causes resistance, couple that with those who have an opposing view and you have the perfect storm for change resistance.

While generational differences may be inclusive of some change resistance, they are typically not the root cause.


Dennis E. Gilbert is a business consultant, speaker, and coach that specializes in helping businesses and individuals accelerate their leadership, their team, and their success. He is the author of the newly released book, Forgotten Respect, Navigating A Multigenerational Workforce. Reach him through his website at DennisEGilbert.com or by calling +1 646.546.5553.

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Ask Why

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Young children often ask, “why?” Again and again they plead for an answer. Curiosity? Perhaps, but what they discover is the beginning. The root cause is at the beginning and it is found by repetitively asking why, not how much, when, or where.

ask why appreciative strategies


Fixing problems never starts with the most recent action, it starts at the beginning. The difference for people who are engaged in positive change starts the moment they discover why.

You may not be at the beginning, but you must find the right path. Most people are willing to spend their energy on something they care about; most problems are solved by those who are willing to put in the effort, find the resources, and ask, “why?”

They don’t ask because they are told, they ask because they care.

You already know when, now you have to care. Ask why.


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