The 5 problem buckets
I have the distinct pleasure of sitting on the advisory board of Cal Poly’s Masters of Professional Studies in Dairy Science. Last week, I traveled down to San Luis Obispo, to meet with this year’s incoming cohorts. They were all very impressive and I find it so rewarding to sit and talk with the individuals who will be the future thought leaders of the industry.
As I sat with them, they questioned what is it that I do for a living. I explained that I help family owned food, beverage and agribusinesses grow. They then asked, “well, what is it that prevents them from growing?” I thought about this for a moment. There is a lot of pressure sitting in a room full of the industry’s future best and brightest. My answer; that in my experience what limits growth stems from one or more of these five areas; people, process, product, time and money. All of the challenges that an organization will face fall into one of these five problem buckets. To take it one step further, within these five buckets, there are only two actions taking place, an attempt to improve or an effort to mitigate risk.
The key to implementing any solution is to understand its root cause. A simple exercise to help identify the root cause of a problem, is to spend five minutes writing a list of as many of the current problems that you face. Once you have that list, assign them to their appropriate bucket. Focus on the root cause, as on the surface many can bleed into numerous buckets, but there is only one root cause. Two things happen in doing this exercise. First, you will often find that your issues stem primarily from one or two buckets. Second, understanding the root cause leads to better clarity and therefore more decisive and immediate action.