Especially for SME’s – 52: Problem hierarchy Locating the one problem at the top.

10 August 2022


Mr. Lowe: You said it! We can imagine a task or a problem hierarchy just like an organizational hierarchy. The priority no. 1 task is at the top of this hierarchy, all the remaining tasks are below it. See the diagram below:

Problems 1, 2 and 3 are dependent on problem number 9, 4 and 5 on 10 and 6 and 7 on 12. Problem number 9 and 10 are also dependent on 12 along with another problem 11 which depends only on 12. And so, the problem on the top of the hierarchy namely problem number 12 is controlling all the other problems and is the least dependent and the most powerful problem, so should be assigned priority 1.

SME 1: But how do we build interdependency between tasks or problems?

Mr. Lowe: Good question! We should first understand that no problem or task is stand alone. It is technically or functionally connected with some other problem/task, failing which is definitely connected by our mind i.e., psychologically with some other problem. Have we not felt so relieved when we sort out a “tough” problem as per us, the other problems we have to solve become easier to solve?

SME 3: Yes, it is very true.

Mr. Lowe: We are telling we should solve only problem no.12 and no other problem first or do task no.12 first and no other task. This is because if we solve problem 1 first in the above example, as problem 1 is dependent on problem 9 and controlled by problem 9, the solving of problem1 will give only a short term or temporary relief of solving problem 1. As long as problem 9 exists, problem 9 will sooner than later bring back problem 1. We are all too familiar in industry solving practically the same problem every day – running after the same shortage raw material, same quality problem, production shortage of the same component etc. This daily practice grows into us so much that we start thinking solving these problems daily is our complete and only role. We take a lot of satisfaction in keeping on doing the same thing. What a pity! We have an equivalent in the allopathic system of medicine which often only suppresses the symptom. Once we stop the medication the symptoms return, worse still in more virulent form or in the form of a more virulent disease. Any medication that is prescribed lifelong such as for high blood pressure, diabetes and a whole host of other diseases means that you are not cured of the disease. It is the medicine that keeps you going daily. If you are cured of the disease, the disease should not come back, when you stop the medication! Exactly this is what happens if we do not solve any problem other than number 12 in the above example.

This brings us to another very important fact: If we attack a problem which is not priority 1, we not only do not solve that problem effectively and permanently and the problem that we claim to have solved comes back but we end up creating more problems for others as a side effect of solving a non-priority 1 problem. This is true of tasks as well. …………………….contd.


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