I Stand Corrected


Are We Creating Problems By Design?: Beyond Blinking Lights and Acronyms

Mike Schaffner's “Beyond Blinking Lights and Acronyms” blog linked to my complaining about the lack of root cause problem solving during a tech support call. I proposed that the tech support department didn't care about fixing the root causes because that ensured some job security.

That probably wasn't the response that would have ranked highest on the “respect for people” scale.

Mike insightfully writes:

I don't agree with Graban's assumption. All the Tech Support people that I've ever met at many different companies have all been very dedicated and truly interested in helping their callers. I have yet to see any Tech Support people that wanted to perpetuate the need for calls just to protect their jobs. If there was ever reluctance on the part of the Tech Support folks to get a problem resolved I believe that it was due to a sense of futility.

Early on they've no doubt tried to get a situation, such as the one Graban encountered, truly fixed only to be stymied by lack of resources, prioritization processes and a cumbersome bureaucracy. After trying that a few times they learned that it was futile to try to fix the problem so they do the best they can to repeatedly help users as the problem occurs again and again.

Mike is right. I didn't mean to blame the individual tech support worker for “not caring.” I'm sure it was frustrating for her to keep getting calls about the exact same systemic problem. I can understand her frustration in maybe trying to get it fixed, for real, the first time and then being “beaten down” into giving up.

I empathize with call center employees who are typically measured on strict quotas for call length or calls per hour metrics, metrics that don't allow them to do quality work the way they might otherwise want to.

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


  1. Phil Cosby said it years ago “All quality problems are management problems.”

    Indeed, the poor person who picks up the phone probably DOES want to help, yet if management does not provide tools/time for root cause analysis, it will never get done.

    Root cause of non-root cause is managmement.

  2. Hello Mike,
    hello Mark,

    thanks for the interesting posting. From my personal experience as being close to IT I must admit that it is mostly like Mark is telling. Support people often make the numbers and neither look for the root causes (just close the ticket in the shortest possible time – and it will come back for sure generating MONEY:-(() nor for a standardized way to get hold of the problem in the future (perhaps even giving the customer to search for the information in a database for him – this would in support members eyes again be against the business growth).

    A better way is described in LEAN SOLUTION by Jim Womack/Dan Jones where the support team much more knowledgable and is looking for the root cause. The customer will be happy and at the next encountered problem will come back on that very support team.

    Best regards from Leipzig



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