The problem finding process is often informed and intuitive. Four situations usually alert managers to possible problems.
1. A deviation from past experience means that a pervious pattern of performance in the organization has been broken. This year’s sales are falling behind last year’s expenses have suddenly increased; employee turnover has risen. Events such as these are signals to the manager that a problem has developed.
2. A deviation from a set plan means, the manager’s projections or expectations are not being met. Profit levels are lower than anticipated; a department is exceeding its budget; a project is off schedule. Such events tell the manager that something must be done to get the plan back on course.
3. Other people often bring problems to the manager. Customers complain about late deliveries; higher level managers set new performance standards for the manager’s department employees resign. Many decisions that managers make daily involve problems presented by others.
4. The performance of competitors can also create a problem solving situations. When other companies develop new processes or improvement in operating procedures the managers may have to reevaluate processes or procedures in his or her own organization.
Identifying a problem at Coca cola:
Coca Cola USA managers in Atlanta identified a training problem in 1992. They had launched massive quality training program in 1989 in which all 1,500 workers learned techniques such as problems solving, statistical-process controls, and process management. But three year later, most employees had completely forgotten the tools they had learned. The problem, they had never had a chance to use those tools in the workplace. In 1993, Coca Cola managers modified the training programs to address this problem. Employees were provided with training as they needed it instead of all at once.
Rather than training all associates in the beginning of a TQM initiatives to understand a myriad of tools they may never use, it’s useful to train teams as they form. Using just in time approach real problems can be used to illustrate tools and techniques. This will accelerates the ability of teams to begin to solve problems ad improve processes.
Cocoa Cola learned the hard way that the maxim if you don’t use it, you lose it is painfully accurate. In this case the problem was found through a deviation from a set plan (that is, employees were not using the TQM tools).
Alert managers often sense problems early. Data from case histories from upper level managers of major organizations. Eighty percent of these managers said they had become aware of the existence of a major problem before it showed up on financial statements or in other formal indicators and even before it was presented to them by others. Informal communication and intuition were described as the sources of their information
Problems finding is not always straight forwards. Some of the most common errors managers make in sensing problems. They describe three main categories of pitfalls that managers often encounter: false association of events false expectation of events, and false self perceptions and social image. For example, during the 1960s and early 1970s managers at mainframe computer manufacturers had false expectations: They believed that significant demand for personal computer did not and probably never would exist. Their expectations were at odds with the reality that developed. Here is a case where these mangers’ past experience were not a reliable guide to future events. The past can play an important part in decision making but that does not mean that what happened in the past will automatically continue to happen in the future.