Two heads are better than one!
Paul, maintenance supervisor for a sawmill in Ontario, Canada, told Session 9 of the Leadership Development Lab (LDL):
"For the past few months, our Boreal Compact Sawmill, which is our small log processing line, has had more than the usual number of saw failures. Of course, one breakdown is one too many. We look forward to the day when all repairs are performed as a part of regularly scheduled maintenance. There didnít seem to be any specific patterns to the failures. The breakdowns were occurring at any and every time during the shifts and sometimes even after installing a brand new saw. Under these circumstances, identifying the root cause of the problem is difficult. Isolating the root cause is challenging because it can be related to a variety of symptoms, such as defects in logs, conceptual design problems, operator error, mechanical looseness, automation placement, alignment, and saw metallurgy, to name only a few. Though it was hard for me to admit, and I must say, I took it too personally, our process was out of control.
"It became increasingly apparent that identifying the cause of the problems was the first step to finding the right solutions. Finding the root cause required utilizing more than one person with their limited experience, one mind with a shotgun approach. Being conscious of our time constraints, limited resources, and the need for exercising the leadership skills I had been learning in the LDL, I decided to have a brainstorming session with a senior shift millwright, junior millwright, and a maintenance supervisor from one of our sister mills. Within less than 45 minutes we came up with nine possible causes and we were able to agree on the most likely cause. We developed a long list of possible solutions. In the context of the resources and time we had available to solve the
problem, we ranked all of the possible solutions in order of probable likelihood. As the maintenance supervisor, I took charge of executing these possible solutions until we could isolate the real cause of the failures and find the solution that would put the problems behind us once and for all.
"The lesson I learned from this experience is that we all have our individual biased ideas about causes and possible solutions for a problem. Sometimes we agree on the same solution, which solidifies our beliefs. Having these brainstorming discussions stimulates our brains and multiplies the likelihood of finding the ultimate, best solution which no one could see alone without the stimulus of the other personís input.
"The action I call you to take is to engage your subordinates in problem solving brainstorm sessions rather than trying to solve the problems you face all by yourself. Your subordinates will feel important, acknowledged and included, and you will solve your problems easier, faster and permanently.
"The ultimate benefit you will gain is you will be an empowering leader with an aligned team which has the will to succeed!"