YKK Stories

Fundamental Behavior 17 – Practice Blameless Problem Solving

October 15, 2021
Author: YKK
No tags

Practice blameless problem solving


At Erie Architectural Products, one of the things I love about the “project” side of our business, which also makes it challenging, is the fact that we get to work on a lot of exciting, unique projects.  Every project comes with a new set of challenges and obstacles that need to be overcome.  I have been fortunate to be in this business for over 30 years and problem-solving has always been a big part of what is required to be successful. Often, we need to come up with a quick solution to solve a problem and keep the project on track. Mistakes in our business can be very costly with lots of manpower waiting on an answer. We typically take an all-hands-on-deck approach to problem-solving in these cases. Get the right people in the room or out in the plant floor and work through the problem.  Pointing fingers or placing blame won’t get the problem fixed.

Everyone makes mistakes, so identifying an issue as soon as it comes up is always the right thing to do. Early on in my career, I thought that I had to be the one to fix a mistake or come up with a solution that would make the problem go away. I spent many sleepless nights trying to solve issues only to find out that someone with different experiences had a better solution.  On several occasions, I can remember talking with an experienced Ironworker in the field who had seen a similar problem before and came up with a special tool or jig to help solve the problem.  Getting others involved, is also a great opportunity for Teams to be creative and bounce ideas off each other.  Often, it is a concept from one person that gets refined or tweaked by the rest of the Team to come up with the best solution.

Once the problem has been resolved, then we can reflect on the issue and update a standard procedure or corrective action to prevent the problem from happening again.   If we are honest with ourselves, we all may have some responsibility for when things go wrong.   Did we have the right procedure in place, did we provide training for our teams, were the proper check done, etc. We are fortunate to have a lot of talented people on our teams and I know they want to do the right thing. Sure, simple mistakes can be made trying to rush to meet a schedule but the first question we should always ask is what we could have done differently. Did we set our teams up for success or failure? Keep the mindset that there is always room for improvement and every experience is a chance to review and improve the process.

Tim Thomas
Senior Vice President of Sales Operations
Erie Architectural Products