Association of the Wall and Ceiling Industry Logo

Not a Big Problem! Problem Solving, Part 1

There are no big problems; there are just a lot of little problems.—Henry Ford (American industrialist and pioneer of the assembly line production method, 1863–1947)

Problem solving is a common and at times overwhelming need that everyone faces. We have business problems as well as personal problems. Problems at work can lead to problems at home and vice versa, which may cause even more problems. A vast assortment of problems invades our lives and businesses from every direction both day and night. Consequently, solutions are eagerly sought after by most and much needed by everyone. Like it or not, we all struggle with our own set of problems and the responsibility to solve them.

Though we may feel that Henry Ford’s quote is wrong and that we have “big” problems, we don’t. I believe I understand exactly what Ford meant over a half century ago when he said that there were no “big problems.” The truth is, we tend to fail to recognize the little problems, and consequently they accumulate and create what we perceive to be “big” problems. When faced with what appears to be a “big” problem, which is sometimes necessary to get our attention, we mistakenly search for a big solution.

However, if we don’t actually have “big” problems, then we don’t need big solutions either. That’s good news. Why? Because when we mistakenly confuse solving our “big problems”—problems like budget overruns—with the goal, we can easily find ourselves discouraged and overwhelmed as we attempt to find a solution. We search in vain for the solution to our seemingly “big problem” and fail to consider the real solution(s) to what is actually a collection of little problems. It is in the solving of the little problems that contributes to what appears to be the “big” problem that our problems are reduced or, in some cases, completely solved.

This may seem confusing and complicated but it isn’t. It’s quite simple. However, it will require you to slow down and think before you act. Solving your problems starts by understanding them. Once you understand them, you’ll understand how to solve them. However, for many this is counterintuitive. They feel the demand to do something about problems takes precedence over actually understanding them. Consequently, they fail to make significant progress in problem solving.

Lazy Brain? Use Your Head!

In general, people tend to fall into two categories. There are those who over-think and those who under-think. That’s equally true in problem solving. The challenge and priority is to put the proper amount of thought into the problem. In my opinion, the tendency is to under-think our problems.

On the other hand, you have thinkers and doers, and both are necessary. Somebody better do the thinking and somebody better do the doing, in that order, and all of us better do some of both. You’ve probably heard the admonition, “Work smarter, not harder.” That’s precisely what you want to do, especially when it comes to problem
solving. When you’re lost it doesn’t do any good to hurry (in fact, it can exacerbate the situation). You must slow down, focus, get your bearings and once you have clarity and direction, by all means, get moving—but not a moment sooner.

Weary of Theory

No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness [kind of thinking] that created it.—Albert Einstein

Some are quick to dismiss approaches like the one described in this article. It feels too theoretical. Some even have an aversion to the level of deep thinking and synergistic brainstorming necessary to understand a problem and apply solutions to it. They want to get to work and fail to realize that thoroughly understanding a problem is the first step in solving it. This is exactly the kind of work necessary for and worthy of management. When it comes to problem solving, you can’t accomplish much unless you thoroughly understand your problem.

Next month we’ll delve into the problem of budget overruns. We’ll use what I call “problem dissection” to discover the little problems that contribute to it. We’ll take a step-by-step approach to determine corresponding solutions to the little problems and in doing so, learn how to reduce or eliminate the seemingly “big problem” of budget overruns.

Doug Bellamy is president of Innovative Drywall Systems Inc. dba Alta Drywall, Escondido, Calif., where he is known for his proactive, innovative approach to our changing industry, and use of modern technology and cutting edge products and services.

Browse Similar Articles

You May Also Like

Three Life Altering Phone Calls … I will finish this portion of my writings in the here and now and on this very page, and I will leave you with

Let me be as clear as new glass, polished to a sparkle. Rob turned out to be an incredible friend. We were extremely close by his untimely and unfortunate demise. At