What is Problem Mapping?
> How many times have you jumped to quick conclusions?
> Was your gut feel always right?
> How often was it wrong?
If we could identify the real source of the challenges we face, what would the impact be?
When we run a business, we are so immersed in it that we often take things for granted on face value. We see sales dropping and are quick to blame the sales team, cash reserves run low; we immediately blame the finance team.
It is easy to do when we are busy and inside something, but what would happen if we could visualise it?
What would that look like?
We see a problem and immediately draw a conclusion of the cause based on our past knowledge and experiences. We are naturally bias and assume we know what the root cause is.
Unfortunately what we believe to hold true is not often really the case.
We see the outcome (the problem) and immediately identify what we believe is the cause (the source).
Once we believe we have identified the problem we got about ‘fixing’ it. We might push the sales team’s targets, 2 months later we see no change. The sales team are irritated and we are left frustrated.
People may start leaving the business because they feel unfairly treated.
Source and Outcome?
How do we really identify the source?
Lets take a sporting analogy that we can all identify with, I’ve used football as an example but you could use any sport, activity or hobby that you enjoy.
So, consider a football match; if the team’s desired outcome is to win. What can be done to increase the likelihood of that happening?
Win the football match
What are the factors that will dictate how we a team performs in any given situation against another team?
What are the key source inputs? How do we begin to identify them?
Lets draw a simple mind map of things that might impact the performance of a football team. I have kept the example simple but in reality this map can get rather large.
In a business context, I refer to this as problem mapping. We are identifying the real factors that influence the results we are seeing.
When we know what these factors are we can begin to predict and control the performance of a business.
Back to the football team; we have identified a number of factors that influence the teams performance. The next part of the process is about identifying the factors that have the biggest impact.
There are a number of ways to do this and it often requires a bit of skill and experience.
Working with clients we are able to recognise what these factors are and the impact they are having.
We can begin to ring the bit ones.
We can now see what in order to win a football march we could focus on pace, space and possession. There are clearly a number of other factors that we might consider critical, in the context of this team these are the 3 we choose.
Win the football match
Pace, space, possession.
What is the purpose of problem mapping in a business?
We can use the same problem mapping process to visualise what is really going on in a business. For example, if we choose to identify how to increase our profit we can distil it down to a remarkably simple formula:
Profit = volume x margin
Therefore, to increase our company profits we either increase the volume of sales or the margin, or both.
How do we increase volume and margin? Well the same problem mapping process can be used; what factors impact volume, what factors impact margin and so on.
When I use this problem mapping process with clients, they are able to visualise things they just couldn’t see before. Events going on right under their noses that they were blind to because they didn’t have the time to sit back and look.
The beauty of problem mapping is the journey it takes you on and the connections you can make.
Take a look at this example which explores the original question about decreasing sales.
We can visualise all factors that could be impacting sales, The more questions we ask, the more we probe the more factors we begin to see.
Many of the would never have considered simply by talking about what is going on.
Would we have considered a change in the packaging supplier meant that the delivery company was damaging products more, resulting in fewer repeat orders?
This application of root cause analysis along with the techniques that go with it is unique. It enables business owners to see connections that were previously invisible.
Don’t believe me?
I challenge you to try it next time you have a problem you can’t solve?
If you want to experience visual problem solving first and then get in touch and set up your discovery call to learn more.
HOW DOES IT FEEL TO WORK WITH ME?
Every relationship kicks off with a discovery call, this lets you explore how we could work together.
> Where are you currently?
> Where do you want to get to?
> What is holding you back?
Take the next step in building the business you aspire to run by asking yourself these questions:
> What challenges are you facing?
> How are they impacting you and the business?
> What are the real factors at play?
> What can you do about them?
MAKING BUSINESS DECISIONS IS AN ITERATIVE PROCESS
But as the really pivotal moments present themselves, around changes of strategy or your own work-life balance and personal direction, it can be really beneficial to explore and exhaust possibilities with somebody outside of the organisation. Being that ‘somebody’ is what my core business is all about.
Think of us as a personal trainer for your business. By engaging with your vision together we will identify gaps in the business before designing and implementing a strategic plan for growth.
With a hybrid approach of management consultancy, mentoring and business coaching. We develop your capability as a business owner and provide support to you at every stage. We look forward to talking with you.