Stop Admiring the Problem

  • Published
  • By Maj. Rutt
  • 423rd Security Forces
How many times have you caught yourself continuing to talk about the same problem time after time after time? We've all been there. Unfortunately we have all been in circumstances where something is broken or not working properly. Almost everyone recognizes there is a problem, but how many take action to fix or resolve that problem? All too often we fall victim to continuously admiring the problem. The time to stop that is now!

Over my career, I have observed numerous instances of things being broken or just not operating at peak levels. However, I have also been part of the problem; specifically by not fixing it. Instead, we see it, we comment about it, but too often we shrug our shoulders and say that's just the way it is. We are too smart of a service and organization to allow that to continue to happen. We need to make efforts to rectify any and all problems within our control. And for those problems outside our span of control, identify them and up channel it to appropriate levels. Don't just accept the status quo and move on. Let's fix what needs to be fixed.

As many of the process improvement principles layout, you must truly understand the problem in order to fix it. The most common mistake people make, outside of just admiring the problem, is treating the symptoms rather than tackling the actual problem or root cause. If we don't understand all the components of the problem, we may end up just causing a secondary problem or compound onto the existing problem. The worst thing we can do is to "fix" the surface problem and create a string of additional problems that will occupy our time and take away from the larger, more important matters. Let's identify the root problem and create some feasible solutions.

While it is critical to understand the root cause behind any issue, we cannot afford to continually analyze the problem to the point we don't do anything to fix it. We may not always be afforded the best solution at the time...due to lack of available resources or constraints outside of our control. However, we need to take whatever appropriate actions to address and mitigate the problem. You will see this most commonly occur in contingency environments where resources are scarce, but the threat remains high. Personnel and units in those environments are often forced to mitigate the threat or problem with whatever capability they have available to them. They continue to up channel the issue to higher levels for a better and more permanent solution to the problem; they don't sit and admire the problem. We need to adapt that mentality outside of the contingency environment and apply it where we are today. While the immediate threat may not be as prominent, there are problems that need to be addressed and resolved.

I challenge you to take a step back and think about your environments. Analyze those situations or problems that you've commented on in the past or said "that's just how we do it." Ask yourself what can be done to fix it? Take a deep look into what is actually causing the problem; is it a resource or manpower deficiency? Is it a procedural issue? Or is it something that can be resolved with a little bit of intentional thinking and effort? If you don't have the complete answer or solution to the problem, what can be done to partially resolve the situation or eliminate part of the problem? We may not be able to solve the entire problem today, but we can break the problem into manageable portions or phases that can be addressed systematically.

Do not let the fear of change or challenge deter you from doing what needs to be done. People may say we can't change it, or we are restricted from doing something, or provide some other excuse. Unless it is irresponsible, puts someone's life in danger, or is a gross misuse of funds, resources, or manpower, then it may be a feasible option. We are fortunate to be under leadership that understands the importance of taking calculated risks when appropriate, from the CSW/CC to the Chief of Staff of the Air Force and even the Secretary of Defense. If the risk is above your level of acceptance, up channel to the appropriate level.

It is time to shift from admiring the problems to fixing them.