Take your problems one step at a time
Marty, foreman for the planer department of a northern California sawmill, told session 7B of the Leadership Development Lab:
"A few months ago, we installed a rebuilt strap and wrap bander at the end of the planer line over a four-day weekend. The end of the line had been a bottleneck for years. We had prepared for months, made progress in stages, and then made the big move. Everyone had high hopes. We had employed an outside contracting crew to do most of the installation. When we started up the bander and ran through our first lumber package, we discovered lots of problems. It turned out to be a very disappointing start-up. Chains were breaking, bearings sliding, welds failing, and lumber falling all over the place. It was a mess.
It was quite obvious that the machine which was originally designed to wrap plywood was going to be a real problem. Our plant engineer's redesign from all indication was poorly conceived, and no one in production or on the floor was asked for their input in the design phase. There were a lot of questions about the competency of the contracting firm that installed the strap and wrap bander. Morale was low in the entire plant. The strap and wrap was the big bottleneck in our plant. Regardless of how well the sawmill, kiln or planer ran, if the bander at the end of the line didn't work properly, everything would pile up and nothing would be shipped. Our labor on the
work station was driving up our production costs and eating up any profits we could hope to make with the operation.
About a month had passed since the rebuilt bander had been installed, and we were still having problems with it. I was very frustrated. So, when our plant manager asked how I was doing, I told him how frustrated I was. He replied that it's only machinery, adding, 'We can, and will, fix it!' The plant manager then asked me to identify the biggest problem, what Turbo calls the 'critical factor', so I did. Together we then attacked this problem, and the next day the bander was running a lot better.
The lesson I learned from this experience is to attack the biggest part of the problem first, the 'critical factor', then move on to the next biggest, one step at a time, remaining determined and staying with it.
The action I call you to take is to start where you are when you have a problem. Find the critical factor, the component that must change for things to return to normal or ideal. Fix it first. Do not give up! Determined people can achieve amazing things!
Solving a difficult problem is the path to genuine growth in your self-esteem. When you fix the problem, you will gain self trust and be better equipped to take on your next problem with courage and self confidence."