Wouldn’t it be great if you could solve problems before they happen? While a problem free world may be far from our present reality, I am encouraged to learn that there are steps that we can take to improve our ability to recognize and resolve problems before they happen in real-time. The solution to developing this problem awareness mindset is presented in a book I just finished reading: Michael A. Roberto’s book titled, “Know What You Don’t Know: How Great Leaders Prevent Problems Before They Happen“. Michael provides a refreshing perspective to problem solving strategy that is supported by many proven examples in actual practice today.
As we are all painfully aware, not all problems can be anticipated regardless of the tools that we have at our disposal. This does not mean that we should regard these efforts as futile, but rather we need to develop a different mindset. As leaders in our various industries, we need to maintain an ever-increasing awareness of how our processes and products are performing long after the images have left the computer stations or drafting boards that were used to create them.
We can choose to be the hunter or the hunted – find the problem before it finds you! The basic premise of the title, “Know What You don’t Know”, suggests that the pursuit of knowledge will perpetuate the desire to learn even more. In the spirit of the true lean culture, we are continually learning, striving to acquire new knowledge, and in turn sharing that knowledge throughout the organization.
After reading this book, it becomes even clearer how a company, no matter how strong, can also succumb and fall prey to the pitfalls identified in this book. More importantly, however, and perhaps the greatest take away, is that this book also shows how to recognize and overcome these pitfalls that prevent problems from surfacing before they escalate into a major crisis or catastrophe. Toyota’s recent high profile recalls serve as a present day example of how an organization’s communication and decision making processes can fail to avert a major campaign and the unnecessary and tragic loss of life.
As we are learning through the investigations surrounding Toyota, the information required to act was “known” to the company yet they failed to acknowledge or respond to this information until it was too late. One of the core themes in “Know What You don’t Know” is to create a culture of free flowing communication – the ability to share any news – good or bad. Clearly this is a common frustration experienced by many organizations and one of the leading causes of infrastructure breakdowns and failure.
Well written and thoroughly researched, Michael A. Roberto’s book represents one of the better investments I have made in my personal library. If this book isn’t on your team’s mandatory reading list, it should be.
Until Next Time – STAY lean!