Tuning out the Noise

Chris Eckert, President

November 29, 2016

Its 2:10pm on a Wednesday.  

  • The quality exception report is due by the end of the day, but you still have 4 more hours of work.
  • Your need to pick up your daughter at 5pm, feed her dinner and then have her to practice by 6pm.
  • You haven’t finalized travel plans for next week’s visit to your key supplier who has been having problems--the reason for the quality exception report.
  • 72 new emails haven’t been opened and 3 people need to schedule mandatory meetings with you, but your schedule is already booked.
  • Your company is reorganizing. You’re not sure where you will land.
  • A new information system is being installed. You are responsible for training your team on the new system, which is going live in a month, but you aren’t up to speed yourself

Unfortunately, this is a typical day that has to be managed on top of your core job responsibilities. It’s a never-ending treadmill of reactivity with no end in sight. This is the new normal.

RCA helps tune out the noise

Given that your day is usually toast before you sit down at your desk, there is simply no time for dealing with another problem, yet they still keep coming. You know that your RCA skills should be applied to the latest supplier problem, yet you have 4 more supplier exception reports to complete by the end of the week. What to do?

You know Gandhi was right: “Be the change you wish to see in the world” (But Gandhi didn’t have an iPhone blowing up with texts/emails/posts every two minutes, either…..). So, start small and work your way up. Allocate 2-3 hours/month to performing an RCA—pull the time from things like exception reports. While you need to complete the exception reports, the time spent on them typically doesn’t provide commensurate benefits to the organization. Your time is better spent understanding and eliminating the causes for why the problem developed in the first place. This is value-added work. In today’s environment, permanent elimination of just one problem will save multiple people countless hours of reactivity, and it usually saves tens and/or hundreds of thousands of dollars.  

Try it on the next big problem that lands in your lap. Grab a couple of the people who have been trying to get your time, and schedule 2 hours of their time to do an RCA. By turning off the cell phone and blocking out other distractions, you can focus on the causes of the problem. I think you (and your colleagues) will be pleasantly surprised. You will enable the discovery of effective solutions that will prevent recurrence.   

The time invested in the RCA will rebate itself to you and others, down the road. Wouldn’t it be doubly nice if some of your colleagues did the same so that you wouldn’t get pulled into their problems? Most major problems that are responsible for keeping people in the reactive tail-spin are/were preventable, and most all of these problems exhibit ample warning signs for weeks/months or even years. The problems for Takata and Samsung didn’t spring up over night…….

You aren’t going to completely stop the cycle of reactivity with one RCA, but you will begin to slow it down. That’s a start. Build on it. Things will get better. Who knows, it may even leave you with enough time to actually watch your daughters game as opposed to just being there physically and spending most of your time on your phone responding to emails from people who want to know when the latest problem will be resolved.