When a problem happens at work, does it enter a queue with everything else that needs to get done or does it get addressed right away? There are books of evidence indicating the best course in most cases is to get to problems quickly, before they grow and before memories erode and evidence disappears. But what about truly trivial problems? Or is there such a thing?
I once toured a Toyota production facility that made thousands of cars each day. It was an impressive operation: Robots mashing sheets of metal into car parts, other robots whizzing up and down aisles carrying errant parts, and the occasional stopping of the production line if a worker or system noticed something suspicious, followed by a rush of managers to that area to help. But what happens to little problems, or those that happen away from the assembly line?
A manager gave us the following example: Every day the production line stops for employee breaks. Some play games, some walk outside, others snack. One employee gets a candy bar every day. He loves the candy and looks forward to it. But the vending machine’s broken so he does not get his candy and reports the issue. The next day and the day after he tries again, but still no candy and no response from his report. This might seem like the most trivial thing a factory could have to deal with but now you have an employee returning to the line in a disappointed mood, potentially distracted and hungry. To this person it’s not a trivial problem. And so, it should not be a trivial problem to the company either.
Should you respond to more problems immediately? Are some problems less trivial than you think?