Like everyone that saw the scenes coming from Sandy Hook Elementary last December, I was in shock. It is an unimaginable tragedy that we never hope to see again. The sensational headlines are subsiding and now its time to talk with level heads about solving the problem.
Logic takes a back seat
Even among the diametrically-opposed, special interests each having their say after the tragedy, we have agreement that something has to be done. My worry is how we focus on solving the problem. President Obama’s message was clear and his path forward was direct: He’s asked Vice President Biden to head a task force to provide recommendations by the end of January for how we keep this from happening again. But, many times when politics are involved, logic takes a back seat to political positioning and stereotyping.
As I watch this unfold, my process alarm keeps going off. I think there is a great deal politicians can use from the basic process management tool set. Process has a role in both keeping students safe and in getting to the best solution.
Focus on Cause and Effect
Across all of the political banter, everyone asks the same question: “What is the solution?” I even find myself in conversation with others about this singularity. Is it banning assault rifles, arming teachers, reforming mental health policies, constructing schools differently or having more rigorous background checks? Everyone is looking for the single thing we can do to protect students, when, in fact, there isn’t just one. There will be many things that need to change.
Process work always looks to understand cause and effect, and there is very seldom one single cause for a major effect (or outcome). One of the first quality tools developed, the Ishikawa Diagram (or “Fishbone Diagram”), shows this point clearly. By placing the desired outcome (safe students) at the head of the “fish,” you then focus on specific areas; the main rib bones of the fish.
These main areas vary by industry or setting, but include categories like technology, process, materials, people/skills, and measurement. I would assert this is where items like mental health, gun control, school safety, background checks, etc. might fit when focusing on student safety. This is where experts can be consulted and data can be used to understand viable approaches to address these main issues. Those become the minor rib bones of the fish diagram.
All of this information is assimilated and reviewed, dependencies and potential conflicts are identified, and recommendations developed, tested, and implemented. The sheer organization of it is an an enormous benefit.
Don’t Let Politics Determine Recommendations
Vice President Biden, there are many more quality and process-focused tools other than the Fishbone, with some maybe better suited for this issue. There are also many process experts out there. Please engage and use them. We need to use real experts (not special-interests) and real outcome-based data (from peer-reviewed, unbiased sources) and bring this information together into viable solutions before recommendations are made and laws passed.
The sooner we realize that small and enormous problems can have a common approach, the sooner we can make business hum and keep our children safe.