Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Is Too...Is Not...Is Too...Is Not...

Recently, I had a classic example for problem-solving right in my neighborhood. A while ago, I noticed a couple of brown spots in our townhouse associations lawns, and a few mower tracks in curves following the curbs and around utility boxes, etc. That seemed to indicate one cause to the effect of a bad looking lawn. A few weeks later, more areas were affected. In fact, one townhouse had so many 'grass burn' tracks it looked like the pit area for the Indy 500.

We immediately thought the lawn service had a problem with the mowing.

As I walked the whole neighborhood in our association's complex, I noticed a few areas that provided different clues. Some lawns were 100% intact. For some neighbors, they had tracks that ended at the 'property line' and the next door neighbor's lawn was immaculate. In one lawn, there was a 'million' burn tracks except for one V area in the middle. Ah-hah, these are excellent clues.

Many decades ago, there was a popular problem-solving technique promoted by Kepner Tregoe. Its methodology asked you to define the problem in specifics so that you knew what you were working on. It also asked you to collect information in order to determine: when the problem occurs and when it doesn't; where it occurs and where it doesn't; what the problem is and what it isn't. And so on.

It's vitally important to note what "is" and what "is not" happening. Those provide strong clues to the causes. The one cause you pick to solve has to be able to explain not only what is happening, but what is not happening too.

We needed to solve the problem of 'burn' tracks in many lawns. It wasn't in all lawns. And it wasn't that the whole lawn was dying. It also started showing up when we had 90 degree weather for weeks in a row and with a lack of rain.

Turns out, we discovered several sprinkler head issues. Now that those are fixed and the weather has moderated back into the 80's, the lawns are recovering quite nicely.

But it wasn't a mower problem at all. A mower problem didn't explain how tracks didn't show up on every lawn, nor stopped at some property lines, or were lacking in the V area. Sprinkler issues did explain these things.

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