Fixing versus Solving Problems

Deepavali or Diwali, a very widely celebrated festival in India, represents the symbolic victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, and good over evil. I wish you a happy Deepavali and victory in solving problems over fixing them.

A leaking boat is used to describe the phenomena of fixing and solving. People emptying the water analogically are fixing the problem and those plugging the hole are solving the problem, whereas those doing neither this nor that are totally aloof of the reality.

Sinking Boat

In this blog I will attempt at just focus on the fixers and solvers.

Fixers normally continue till breakdown, even after noticing the symptoms.

Problem

Solvers stop immediately and contain deterioration till finding a solution.

Fixers take a shortcut by taking risks, cutting corners, and going against rules.

Shortcut

Solvers follow the correct path despite urgency, after containing the problem.

Immediately after the quick fix the fixers restart as if it is normal.

Quickfix

Immediately after the containment solvers start finding the solution.

Fixers procrastinate diving deep to solve, while focusing on perfecting the quick fix.

Deep Dive

Solvers deep dive to unearth the causes for occurrence, failing to prevent and predict.

Fixers avoid diving deep and opening closets for the fear of hidden skeletons.

Skeletons

Solvers embrace diving deep to open closets for discovering all skeletons.

Fixers drive teams by controlling and exercising authority by safeguarding behind a mask.

Face Mask

Solvers motivate teams with Freedom and Opportunities to Improve without masks.

In my experience and observation, those organizations with a solver mindset and culture, are more competitive, more profitable and on a sustainable growth mode. Even societies with a solver mindset and culture have a better quality of life.

I recollected a program of Prof Shoji Shiba which I attended. The key to breakthrough management, I understood, is to go to the boundaries and even beyond them to discover the background of the current reality. This sank through in me very deeply, and in my executive roles, I would often go to the edges and corners of our production hangers to look and feel the reality. It was really amazing the wealth of improvement opportunities I used to regularly find there.

It is a very strange that the scarcity in resources, which is the most common perceived barrier for choosing the fixer mindset over solver mindset, in fact further increases by choosing the fixer mindset, while diminishes when the solver mindset is chosen. It took me quite a few years to really experience and learn this wisdom. Even though I consider myself to be more a solver than a fixer, I humbly admit that I am still internalizing this extremely important wisdom.

As usual I will end my blog with this quote by Albert Einstein.

“We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.”

You may want to seek someone with a better level of thinking than yours to first discover your mindset and culture – are you a fixer or a solver. Then use their level of thinking to solve the problem.

Happy reading!

13 thoughts on “Fixing versus Solving Problems”

  1. It is important for us to follow problem solving process to avoid re – occurrence of issues. Thought provoking article, Thank you.

  2. Mushtaq Lokhandwala

    Dinakar: Very simple analogies but very powerful and effective. I am a lead in my company for PSS Problem solving sciences and this fixer issue is so much relevant at high level of management. Recently I just had to ask my Quality leaders to take some time thinking of we are paying millions for customer complaints and recalls but no one is going into the details of our processes and ready to invest in processes which are substandard. They are following every week, every month if the problem was fixed for incapable depreciated processes. Just thought if sharing and kudos to your blog. .. Mushtaq

  3. good blog, leaves a lil question to me to introspect as to who am I? a fixer or a solver?
    thought provoking.
    solver for immediate containment action has to be a fixer and immediately work on solving and the fixer post fixing has to continue to solve.
    both cases ppl have the .ability it’s about using it!

  4. Great article. In reality, most of us are fixers and solvers at proportions that vary given the situation. It is important to look at what is expected out of the managers and the situations. Expectation of quick result and short term performance demonstration need leads to quick-fixers, in my honest opinion. Having said that one has to identify pure fixers and bring the change in them. Having said that, solvers working for strategic change and permanent solution, also need to embrace fixing at times to keep it running until identifying the root cause.A very written, thought provoking article.

  5. Often people ask me why do we need to spend so much of time and efforts in solving the problems, we have been living with them for a long time and are ok to leave with them. This Blog is an answer to that. Strange people do not invest time to calculate the advantage of solving problems than fixing it.

    Very well articulated and made a good comparison between Solver and Fixers
    One point we can include is ROI for both Fixing and also Solving

    1. Thanks Srinivas. In my opinion, the fixers generally look for RoI, whereas the solvers look for sustainable profitable growth. I can relate this to Steven R Covey’s example of the golden goose, which is giving one golden egg a day. Those looking for RoI, the fixers, expect to get more golden eggs and those looking for sustainable profitable growth, the solvers, will take care of the golden goose for reaping 1 egg a day for a long long time. Fixers try to exploit the production output, while solvers work on production capacity, both these concepts again from Steven R Covey. I could also relate Fixers to the Cost world and solvers to the Value world.

      1. Many thanks for your response, sir. I beg to differ here ROI is calculated by Problem solvers, not by fixers. Fixers just fix it, do not worry about ROI, they need a temporary solution and move on, what they don’t realize is the problem keep coming again and again and need to keep investing. Whereas someone solving the problem will make the math of ROI and justify if Problem-solving helps. I am not sure if your example is appropriate as we are talking about problem-solving and fixing it but the example is more of greediness.

        When you say long term sustained results the same need to be converted to business benefits as well.

        Having said above we should not run behind solving all the problems, ROI should is the deciding factor to fix or not to fix. In Six Sigma, the deciding factor for project selection is ROI. If we feel that there is no ROI then we do not even continue the project.

        A simple example, if a non-life-threatening process is performing at 5 Sigma, there may not be a reason to move to Six Sigma if there is no good ROI. As the investment required to move from 5 Sigma to 6 Sigma is more than what the company gain by moving from 5 to 6 Sigma.

        I remember your washing hand example which you use to give in Bosch. Washing hands is good, but how much is a question mark, each second increase in washing hands might kill additional germs but that does not mean we keep washing hands for hours.

  6. Profound message, Excellently explained with simple but striking analogy.
    Keep up the good work, the world needs fixing approach but perhaps due to cost or magnitude of work involved, organization’s do not invest sufficiently in this, though everyone believes in the concept. Everything is boiling down to here and now and not long term impacts

  7. Nice blog. Can we say fixer mind set think of band aid solutions?. Wound will not get solved and they will put one more band aid

  8. Fixing and Solving mindset is much more deeper when we think from the people and the culture they are in now.
    Band Aid or Surgery,
    Give Fish when asked for or helping others to learn Fishing is kind of analogies one can recall.
    The bottom-line is
    Surface level fixing will help people and organisations to survive,albeit temporarily.
    Solving helps to thrive.
    This realisation will hopefully make people’ to change their mindset to be a Solver.

    SrinivasanTS

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