Understanding Complexity


When your problem is simple, the solution is usually obvious, and you don't need to follow the four steps we outlined earlier. So it follows that when you're taking this more formal approach, your problem is likely to be complex and difficult to understand because there's a web of interrelated issues.

The good news is that there are numerous tools you can use to make sense of this tangled mess! Many of these help you create a clear visual representation of the situation so that you can better understand what's going on.

Affinity Diagrams are great for organizing many different pieces of information into common themes, and for discovering relationships between these.

Another popular tool is the Cause-and-Effect Diagram. To generate viable solutions, you must have a solid understanding of what's causing the problem. Using our example of substandard work, Cause-and-Effect diagrams would highlight that a lack of training could contribute to the problem, and they could also highlight possible causes such as work overload and problems with technology.

When your problem occurs within a business process, creating a Flow Chart, Swim Lane Diagram or a Systems Diagram will help you see how various activities and inputs fit together. This will often help you identify a missing element or bottleneck that's causing your problem.

Quite often, what may seem to be a single problem turns out to be a whole series of problems. Going back to our example, substandard work could be caused by insufficient skills, but excessive workloads could also be contributing, as could excessively short lead times and poor motivation. The Drill Down technique will help you split your problem into smaller parts, each of which can then be solved appropriately.

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