Jamie Flinchbaugh on “People Solve Problems” — His New Book

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My guest for Episode #432 of the Lean Blog Interviews Podcast is Jamie Flinchbaugh, an old friend of mine and a frequent guest (Episodes 5, 6, 10, 64, and 261, plus the two times he's interviewed me, Episodes 50 and 316).

He's also the co-creator and frequent co-host with me on the Lean Whiskey podcast series.

Today, the talk is all Lean, no whiskey. We talk about leadership, problem solving, more today — talking about his new book, People Solve Problems: The Power of Every Person, Every Day, Every Problem. I put Jamie on the spot to coach me through some problem solving I'm doing related to podcast growth, and he makes a lot of great points.

Today, we discuss topics and questions including:

  • So, we don't need to worry about AI problem solving?
  • The role of software, like KaiNexus
  • The story behind the book – after The Hitchhiker's Guide to Lean in '06
  • Why this book? Why now?
  • Behaviors drive action — what are some of the key behaviors that drive problem solving?
  • Testing to learn… testing throughout?
  • Open to the idea you might be WRONG – humility
  • Entrepreneur — book is a product that scales – thinking about it like a startup?
  • Book isn't A3 or PDSA or Kata centered… agnostic about the specific method??
  • A3 — The importance of a good problem statement?
  • How do we better understand cause and effect in problem solving?
  • You can coach without being an expert
  • The role of intuition vs data?

The podcast is sponsored by Stiles Associates, now in their 30th year of business. They are the go-to Lean recruiting firm serving the manufacturing, private equity, and healthcare industries. Learn more.

This podcast is part of the #LeanCommunicators network



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Automated Transcript (Not Guaranteed to be Defect Free)

Announcer (2s):
Welcome to the Lean Blog Podcast. Visit our website at www.leanblog.org. Now here's your host Mark Graban.

Mark Graban (12s):
Hi, it's Mark Graban. Welcome to episode 432 of the podcast. It's November 17th, 2021. We're going to be taking two weeks off for Thanksgiving, but we'll be back in December with a few more episodes before the end of the year today, our guest is our good friend, Jamie Flinchbaugh we're going to be talking about his new book, People Solve Problems. So if you want to learn more about that, get a link to buy the book and more. You can go to lean blog.org/432. Thanks for listening. Well again, welcome to the podcast. Our guest today is Jamie Flinchbaugh.

Mark Graban (54s):
He's no stranger to this podcast or likely not a stranger to you. The listener he's been a guest before. If the Google was accurate episodes 5, 6, 10 64, and then 261. And I don't have a good reason for that, those gaps there, Jamie, but welcome back.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (1m 16s):
No. Well thank you for having me back. The gaps are largely as much that I didn't have anything interesting to say in between there, but I was glad to be a, an early contributor and an ongoing occasional guest.

Mark Graban (1m 33s):
And by contributor, Jamie was writing for Lean Blog, and then he eventually, you know, has his own website today. You can find that jflinch.com twice, Jamie interviewed me episode 50, like wherever that was, that was a milestone.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (1m 53s):
That was a big milestone a long, long time ago.

Mark Graban (1m 57s):
And now we're almost we're w w we'll do episode 500 together. That's still a little ways away, but how's that,

Jamie Flinchbaugh (2m 4s):
That's the way you got plenty of plenty of other interesting folks to interview between now and then.

Mark Graban (2m 9s):
And then Jamie also interviewed me in episode 316, about my book Measures of Success, and then starting in 2019, we, we started a podcast together called Lean Whiskey, and we just released our 30th episode, I think all but maybe five. I think there were five episodes were at somebody else's guest co-host.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (2m 31s):
Yeah, we didn't do all of them together, but, but you know, this wasn't a pandemic project. As, as some podcasts have been, this was an idea that had been cooking for a while and, and we've, we've enjoyed a very open format of lean whiskey. And today I'm just drinking tea because you know, this is a different person, a different podcast.

Mark Graban (2m 55s):
Yeah, I have, I've got a bottle of water and that that's coffee, that's convincingly coffee video, right. It's not Irish-ed up or anything. So you in the lean whiskey podcast areas, Jamie and I do talk about whiskey a little bit, but mostly it's lean talk. And today it's going to be completely around Jamie's new book. Congratulations on getting that written and published. It's called People Solve Problems, the power of every person every day, every problem. So it's available in paperback and Kindle, and it's also an audiobook,

Jamie Flinchbaugh (3m 35s):
Right? Yes. Audiobook is released as well. So you can pretty much get it any format you like.

Mark Graban (3m 44s):
So I hope people will check that out and you know, that's going to be the theme of our discussion here today. So, you know, for the first question, I don't mean this to be like, you know, too flippant, but when you, when you, when you title the book, People Solve Problems, we're not worried about AI replacing people when it comes to problem solving.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (4m 4s):
No, no, I don't think, I don't think we are. I think in fact, AI and machine learning and big, big, big data. These are, these are tools that we use to help analyze or standardized certain decisions, but without getting too far ahead of ourselves, I even write about intuition in the, in the book and how that integrates. And those are, those are things that machine learning can't do. And I, I think the key is if we knew all the solutions to the known problems, then we would, we would just write the software, but we, we don't, we have to stumble and find our way through developing and implementing solutions.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (4m 47s):
And that's why, you know, this, this is such a people-centric activity.

Mark Graban (4m 53s):
And that's one of the downsides of automating people out of a job. The automation, whether it's, you know, physical automation or software automation can't contribute to the organization when it comes to problem solving and bettering the company.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (5m 10s):
No, that's that's right. I think they can help standardize and, and provide leverage in a lot of ways by no means, am I, am I anti software? But you know, the, the key is, you know, somebody still has to understand cause and effect. And whether it's about something that went wrong or it's about something that could go better, whichever type of gap you're talking about, someone has to decide that there's a gap. Someone has to find a way through and understand cause and effect so that you can find a better path through. And, and that includes as we develop software, you know, you can't treat that as a black box. You've got to understand how we get the result that we get.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (5m 50s):
Even if a machine is doing that, do we network for you?

Mark Graban (5m 54s):
And, you know, for those who are watching the video, you might notice you I'm wearing a KaiNexus logo shirt today. And so one other tidbit about Jamie's background, he has been an advisor to the company. He's been an investor in the company and a friend of the company, but, you know, KaiNexus has never pitched or promised or even dreamed that web-based software would be in some way automating problem-solving that, you know, that we're in agreement. There, there is a role for people using software to help track their improvement activities, for example.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (6m 28s):
Yeah. Yeah. And, and just a little, you know, a little backstory to help eliminate that point is that, you know, people need, people need help too, right? They need a good system underneath them, whether it's pen and paper, or it's a software to help, help keep things organized, how track things, how connect them to each other, help reference and, and, and sort, and provide reminders and all those wonderful things. And, you know, I, I saw plenty of organizations over the years that would do a really great job with putting problem solving up on a wall and walking the wall. And, and that's, that's great if that works for you, but I, I've also worked with organizations that are 10,000 people spread out over equally broad number of locations and, and there's no wall to walk.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (7m 22s):
So, so software provides that, that job aid to help make those things a little bit easier. And, and I actually had identified that as a, as a possibility and on my old business, I, I, I put developing such software on my own strategic plan. And after a couple of years of not getting around to it, that's when I discovered KaiNexus and decided, well, you know, why develop? I just wanted the problem improved. I didn't need to do it all myself. So when I found Connexis, I stopped trying to build my own software and just, just got behind connected.

Mark Graban (8m 2s):
Yeah. Well, thank you for doing that and for your support, but, you know, you know, as, as you, as you say, as the book title says, People Solve Problems, you know, I think of KaiNexus in a way there's a parallel in healthcare. You have an electronic medical record system now IBM and Watson has made noise for a decade or longer about AI diagnosis or what have you. I don't know how that's panned out. It still seems like more promise than anything, but having a system of record to keep things organized and to allow for communication and collaboration and tallying up the way people might tally up data within an electronic medical record.

Mark Graban (8m 43s):
You know, I think, you know, there's still use, there's something useful there that interface between people and technology that's supporting them, not replacing or automating their thoughts. Really.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (8m 54s):
Yeah. Yeah. And, and, you know, there's, there's opportunities to use diagnostic tools and AI to help reduce noise and variation and provide some, some job aids to help the judgment along to say, Hey, did you, did you mean to look at this? Or would you consider that, or did you forget this step? And there's a lot of great things you can do to help

Mark Graban (9m 19s):
Reduce that variation and make us less dependent on having a bad day or being tired or just rushing through a task. But again, those critical moments of judgment, insight, intuition, creativity, those are things that, that still humans are absolutely best suited for. And a final point I'll make before moving on back to the book. But I mean, there are certain things that software can more rigorously track and follow up on. For example, if somebody has said, I'm going to complete a certain task or assignment by a certain date that can be automated that reminder or something that flags the human to intervene, and whether that's a manager or an improvement coach to jump in and try to help.

Mark Graban (10m 8s):
But that's, that's pretty minimal when it comes to automating things.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (10m 12s):
Yeah. And, and this is where, you know, our, our brains when we have the, a lot of the things taken care of with routine, with standards, with automation, you know, our brains can be free to do those other things. Like I like to argue if you, if you had to rethink the process for brushing your teeth every day, like, well, then that, that couldn't be your aha moment when you start thinking about a problem at work and let your brain run free with it because your brain is busy just trying to get through the task. So, yeah, we, we, we do want to standardize things, automate them, make them a lot easier so that we can use the human brain for tasks that it's best suited for.

Mark Graban (10m 58s):
Yeah. So a quick, quick aside, I was thinking the other day, I think the biggest time saving technology for me is Google maps or GPS software of thing of how much time you used to invest into researching, getting from point a to point B in advance, and God forbid something goes wrong or changes with your route along the way. I mean, those are hours that can be redeployed to something more enjoyable or more productive.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (11m 25s):
Oh, and I, and I used to go on trips and, you know, have three to four weeks a month and I'd map out, you know, and print the map instructions for, okay. Airport to hotel, hotel, to client, client to dinner, dinner, back to hotels, you know, and every, every little segment I was going to be on was its own little set of maps. And what a, what a wasteful task that, that has proven to now be, but it was necessary at the time.

Mark Graban (11m 55s):
Yeah. I had a 2004 model year car that I got rid of in 2015. And in the back seat pocket, I found a printed out Yahoo map from like 2005 car was a little time machine. Yeah.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (12m 11s):
Yeah. Well, right on top of it is laying an old Garmin that was discarded a few years later. Probably.

Mark Graban (12m 17s):
Yeah. All right. So anyway, so back to the book, People Solve Problems. It had been how many years between the Hitchhiker's Guide to Lean that you co-authored with Andy Carlino and this book, People Solve Problems.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (12m 31s):
I came out December of '05. I keep, keep wanting to shorten that duration, but December of '05, although so late in December, that it's really an '06 book, but yeah, it's, it's, it's been, been a long time. I, in my head, it was 10 years, but, but clearly that was off by a significant factor.

Mark Graban (12m 53s):
Yeah. And, and, and, you know, and, and that's not criticism. I was just curious of 15 years and I'm sure along the way, there are many books you could write next you're thinking of in terms of topics or themes or structure. And so out of all of that, and considering, you know, all the things that you're doing and you're busy, like what, what was the spark then that said, okay, this idea, now I'm going to sit down and move forward with it.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (13m 20s):
Well, I think there's a couple of factors. One is that I had always said really for the longest time, w when lean was commonly referred to as a waste elimination method, I, I, I pushed back pretty hard on the lean community as a whole, as saying, I, a waste is just a type of problem. And, and it's not all about waste elimination. It's more about problem-solving. And so that, that was a position I've held for a long, long time. Not that it's only about problem solving, just more about problem solving. And then, you know, on top of that, as I essentially sort of started a new advisory and coaching from the beginning of 2020, you know, I've wanted to write a book for awhile.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (14m 8s):
Again, the Hitchhiker's Guide had continues to do well still. And so for some reasons, it was like, well, I don't really feel like I need to write another book, but problem solving, you know, I had no tools. I didn't, wasn't particularly focused on teaching people, but leadership, their own tool set their own leaders who design how they're going to do things. And, and so, so, so those things work out quite well, which means that I don't have to tell you what template to use.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (14m 51s):
I don't have to you how to do these things. There's people inside the know how to do it, but they're still struggling. They're still struggling to make problem solving, really come to life, to breathe, to, to flourish in their organization. And so for years, and culminating and writing this book, I've just been paying attention to what, what else is it? Right? Y after tool, after tool, after tool for problem solving, do companies still struggle to make problem solving the flourish in their, in their organization? And that's, that's what got me to start digging up, digging into this topic in a much deeper way.

Mark Graban (15m 32s):
Yeah. And there there's a lot of depth and a lot to dig into with, with the book. So first question comes to mind, let you know, early in the book, you talk about the idea of behaviors driving action. So what are some of the key behaviors that can either drive a more problem-solving activity, or maybe more importantly, better, more effective problem solving? So,

Jamie Flinchbaugh (15m 59s):
So I, I can't remember if I start with this one, but it's perhaps my favorite. And that's, you know, the key of learning deliberately that problem solving is by definition, at least my definition and learning activity. If we already know the answer, then you don't have to problem solve. You just execute. Right. And even most of the time that we think we know the answer, we can just execute, right? If your computer glitchy 19 out of 20 times, people will just restart their computer. And, and at least half the time, the problem solves itself, you don't even, you don't even want to understand why you just, you just accept the gift and move on.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (16m 42s):
But problem solving is about understanding why understanding what's going to work under sitting, why the problem exists, where the gap really is. And so you have to approach it from a, an orientation of learning. And so, as a, as a observable side of this, I'll, I'll go to organizations. And even if they do it digitally, you can still get the sense of did they, did they solve this problem on the template, a, through Z in a linear fashion? You know, every step was filled out sequentially along the way with no backtracking, no, backspacing no deleting, no erasing.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (17m 23s):
And you know, every time I see that, you know, not in one problem, but in all of them, I can tell they're not treating it as a learning activity. They're treating it as a documentation activity because there's no way that we're right about each step linearly that often. So a learning, a learning orientation problem solving means we circle. It's not, it's not steps A through Z. We bounce around the alphabet and we learned something. We go back a few steps, we learn something, we go back a step and it's a much more circular process of discovery.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (18m 4s):
And so that's just, just an observable indicator of when I think people are treating problem solving like a procedure instead of a discovery method. And along with that, I'll just point out another behavior. I think, collaborate. I just, you know, I want to see more about it, but I just used that one word around collaborate is, is an important behavior, because you'll see you'll, you'll convince an organization that they should be working across organizational boundaries and problem solving. But, but then they start doing things like having, pre-meetings like, okay, let's have a, pre-meeting decide what we want to share with that group.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (18m 46s):
And what acceptable answers are we willing to negotiate? And, you know, and that's, that's not collaboration. Collaboration is let's come to the table, join forces and figure out how to, how to close the gap. And so, yeah, setting the meeting and having another group in the, in the media to talk about the problem, is it collaboration, it's how we approach that conversation. That's the behavior that makes it work. So those are just a couple of examples that I, I find are, are, are really challenging for organizations to embrace.

Mark Graban (19m 22s):
And there's, I think sometimes I don't know if it's great area or overlap between mindsets and behaviors that are driven out of the mindset, but late, later in the book, you you've touched on this a little bit, but I wanted to hear more from you. You talk about the idea of testing to learn testing throughout the problem solving process, because the way I would stay a behavior, I think is helpful, is shifting from knowing things, to figuring things out and learning and testing, for example, oh, we know the root cause that begs the follow up question of, do you really, how do you know, or do you just have a suspected root cause those are some of the things that I think you can test.

Mark Graban (20m 7s):
So if you can kind of elaborate a little bit more on kind of building your chops around testing instead of knowing the importance of

Jamie Flinchbaugh (20m 15s):
Yeah. I think that, I mean, you actually use the, my favorite, one of my favorite questions as a coach is, is how do you know? Right. It doesn't, and it doesn't matter. You know, most people think about this as the last step of problem solving, meaning you're going to validate that your solution works right. And, and absolutely do that. Right. I mean, test the solution to see if it produces the result you expect, but there's, there's opportunities along the way where somebody writes a problem statement. Well, how do you know that's the gap? How do you know that standard is sufficient? How do you know that gap is what the customer experiences, here's what the root causes, how do you know that's the root cause, right.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (21m 2s):
And physical environments, these are easier things to test, right? If you're troubleshooting a, a circuit, you know, an electrical system, right? There's a lot of ways to test whether your hypothesis is correct around the root cause, right? Oh, I think this is where the trip is. Well, we can isolate it, we can test it and you can see if it's broken, broken leg or something over overcharged, much easier to do. And a lot of those lot of those physical systems and our processes not so easy, but still important because everything's a theory, right? Our problem statement, well, that's a theory. How do you know our root cause?

Jamie Flinchbaugh (21m 42s):
That's, that's a, that's a theory. How do you know here's our target state? This is what we think good looks like. Well, how do you know that too? And so you always want to be A/B testing. There's a, there's a phrase from the book called noise. And they actually borrowed from another book. But I, I, I, I'm not gonna recall the backwards references, Daniel Kahneman's book. This is the latest Daniel Kahneman book. He, he kind of says that, you know, Thinking Fast and S;ow was, you know, most of his life, his research, and then everything that didn't make that book, we ended up in noise. So, but they, they used the term perpetual beta.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (22m 24s):
And this is more about forecasting specifically, but they talk about, you know, forecaster best forecasters are in perpetual beta, which means everything is held lightly. Everything's in assumption, everything is subject to change. Everything is subject to challenge. And, and I think it's a great phrase. And a lot of the spirit in which we, we do, we should engage in, in problem solving the, I think the way this culminates really the best indicator of this behavior is not, not what happens when you get an answer or worse than what you expect, but what happens when you get an answer better than what you expect.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (23m 8s):
And are you still curious or do you, you know, move forward? Right? And so if you're, if you're, you know, trying a different idea and you expect to be able to shave 20 minutes off of a task, and it turns out you saved, you know, 50 minutes, like, whoa, oh, that's, that's really interesting. I'd better bank that, right. That's put, put myself down for 50. I am smarter than I thought. And, and so that's a natural reaction, but the learner is like, well, wait a minute. What did I miss? Why, why was it? Yeah, I'm still glad. I'm glad it's 50. I certainly am going to not throw the idea out because it gave me better results than I expected.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (23m 52s):
But I'm a little concerned that I don't understand why things are the way they are. And that's the learner mentality that, that I think is a great place for it to show up and to test whether it's really there, because it's much easier just to bank the bank, the surprise game and walk away, think about it, you know, a sales team and they, they, they start writing off a customer or a prospect and like, yep, they're done. They're not going to buy. And then they turn around and buy. And you're like, oh great. I'm thrilled. But wait a minute, we wrote them off. And then they bought, what did we not understand? And what are the consequences of that, that gap in knowledge?

Jamie Flinchbaugh (24m 34s):
So this is, there's no tool that forces you to do that, right? There's no software to use the earlier point. It forces you to do that. It's ever requires that. I don't say natural curiosity cause it's not natural. Most of the time that that decision to operate in a behavior of curiosity.

Mark Graban (24m 55s):
I think the curiosity is key. I mean, one thing I've reflected on and talked to people about is sort of retraining ourselves to not feel ashamed over not knowing something, being wrong, making a mistake. And instead, trying to be excited about the learning that comes from that. Like I had a guest recently on my favorite mistake, cash Nickerson, who said it really well. He said like, it takes humility to even entertain the idea that your idea could be a bad one. The business that you start might not work out the improvement idea that you have in the workplace, doesn't get to the root cause of the problem.

Mark Graban (25m 40s):
Like to even think of that as a possibility requires humility. That's sometimes been for one reason or another drummed out of us. We're not willing to admit I tried something and it didn't

Jamie Flinchbaugh (25m 53s):
Right. And, and I, you know, I like to read, refer to myself as a recovering engineer. I've got three engineering degrees and, and, and one of the things I'm trying to recover from is the idea that, you know, we should be right all the time. But I, I used to hold that belief before I was an engineer anyway. So it was a more natural thing. But, but this is, this is a behavior that can be learned. So, so I I've been an entrepreneur in the past. I, I don't consider myself one right now because the business I have is I'm not setting up the scale. I'm not building a business. It's just, just me doing, doing what I do, but, but I would still I'd go in and out of this, this practice.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (26m 37s):
But I would, for certain periods of time, I would force myself to come up with a new business idea every single month. And the idea was forced myself a to be creative, right. Cause that takes practice and think strategically and all the things. How do you, how would you put this business together? Does it make sense? What questions do I have? And that was always just good practice. But the other part was to be, to be able to look at my own ideas and say, that's awful. That's not going to work. That's bad and throw it away and be okay with throwing it away. Right? If you, if you own, if you fall in love with every idea, then the cycle of testing, your idea can be very big and cumbersome.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (27m 24s):
And so if you look at more ideas and say no to some of them, or many of them, you, you w you realize that a not only is it okay to have bad ideas or wrong ideas, it's, it's, it's, it's natural. And it actually makes you smarter about what the good ones are. I, I recently just, just in the past couple of days, gave some advice to a client that was, has dramatically ramped up their problem solving. And so I was challenging them on what percentage of the ideas tested work. And so far it's been all of them.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (28m 4s):
And it's like, are you really challenging yourself to stretch and be creative and do breakthroughs? Because that probably suggests to me that you're not stretching yourself very far, because they shouldn't all work. Right. You're not, you're not trying very hard at, at breakthrough performance. If, if every idea is such a slam dunk, but it works in each time.

Mark Graban (28m 29s):
Yeah. Maybe we talk about, you know, learning or unlearning and relearning, you know, these behaviors, you probably know of the exercise on only if you've participated in it where you're given a bunch of materials like uncooked spaghetti and marshmallows and whatever else is in that. And you have to build the tallest structure that you can, that doesn't collapse in a certain period of time. Have you ever, I think I've only read about

Jamie Flinchbaugh (28m 54s):
The marshmallow challenge. It's it's I facilitated it many times. I facilitated it for several hundred people once or, or a few times. And it's, it's a great exercise because, you know, teams come together and, you know, they, they, they want to be right. They have a time limit and, and, and they, they don't experiment. They don't test, they just design with an assumption and then they, and then they try to win. And, and it's interesting that, that, that a lot of, you know, kindergartners do do better than, than a lot of professional adults, because they're more willing just to play, to play right.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (29m 37s):
Ideas, to be wrong, to try it out, because they're not expected, of course, who is expected to have the answer to how to put spaghetti and marshmallows and taped together. Right. It's not that that's not that wasn't, there was no class on that. Right. So even if you were an engineer or an architect, so of course you shouldn't have the answer. So go ahead and play. It's, you're facing new territory. And most of the time we are.

Mark Graban (30m 5s):
So going back to, when you say, you know, you're, you're an entrepreneur. I mean, I think that's probably in your nature. You, you, you, you don't lose that. You might not have an active startup at the time, but I mean, I, I do think though, to be fair to you, I think bringing a book to market is an entrepreneurial venture. It's not forming a company, but thinking of the book as a product, the book helps ideas scale in a way that might scale better than relying on just going and giving talks or speeches. Did you, did you think about the book as a startup in any way,

Jamie Flinchbaugh (30m 39s):
A bit, a bit, I was less concerned about, I'll say the profitability of the venture in part, because I wasn't trying to employ people through it. Right. That's always my, as an entrepreneur, that's always, my, my big focus is on not, it's not how much money I make as the, as the founder or owner, but on all the people that depend on the business, having a livelihood and that's stressful, but also rewarding. So I, you know, to me, it was less about the profitability of the venture, but it is, it is about testing the ideas. It is about providing access to ideas at a lower price point than engaging with me directly.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (31m 26s):
And this is what I, you know, with my old business, I always wanted to, I wanted to keep lowering the, the lowest entry point, right. So, oh, instead of a consulting engagement, could you just attend a class and how, how cheap can that be? And then it's like, well, write a book. Now you can test the ideas, even, even cheaper, at least access them. And, and so, you know, there's a lot of people that will never call me that will never engage me as a, as a coach or an advisor, whether they can't afford to, or never think to, or whatever, right. Just don't, you don't know how to find me, but if they can find some ideas in the book that are useful at a much lower price point than working with me directly then.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (32m 12s):
Fantastic. And I think what's interesting is, you know, is the book its own business model, right? Or is it simply a product line under, under the current one? And it may not matter. It, it may not matter because in a lot of regards, it's also, you know, what do I gain from the project beyond, you know, I'll say the financial reward selling a book. And I really feel like I have always sharpened my own thinking by writing. It's one of the reasons I wrote a column for many years, why I, I started guest blogging for you long before I had my own blog and just writing, I think makes me smarter.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (32m 59s):
And, and so that was it, you know, going back to your earlier question, that's one of the reasons I wrote this book is that I had a lot to say, but I didn't, I didn't have a lot to say well, and so writing the book kind of forces me to learn how to say these things. Well, at least better, maybe not well, but at least say them better. And, and so while I'm certainly glad to publish, if I decided not to publish, just had all this writing, it still would have been, it would have been a big exercise for just for myself, but it still would have been a worthwhile one.

Mark Graban (33m 37s):
Yeah. So the book, and again, the title is People Solve Problems. It's not a book about, let's say, quote unquote, A3 problem solving. It's not a book about PDSA or Toyota Kata. And the book you early on, especially you make this point of, I don't know if agnostic was the exact word you use, but, but not really caring so much about what the exact framework is. Is that a fair way of kind of recapping that?

Jamie Flinchbaugh (34m 3s):
Yeah, absolutely. I do say it's a tool agnostic book and the first version of it was not. Cause I, I, you know, I like a three problem solving. I've got art Smalley and Underwood's Sobeck. So understanding a three thinky right over my shoulder. It was my favorite of the, of the many good problem-solving books. So that's my favorite. Some of the best problem solvers I've ever met, use different tools. And so that that's an acknowledgement, the, the best problem solvers. I see use some of the same tools that some of the worst problem-solvers use.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (34m 43s):
And so, you know, I really felt like tools matter without a doubt, but that's not, it's not the distinguishing factor in success. And so I wanted to make this not about lean, not just an extension on a three, but to highlight the challenges that are faced, whether somebody is doing six Sigma or Dematic or shaman, or a three or eight staff or whatever, the, the, the barriers to success, I think are pretty common across all of those tools. At least the ones I, at least the barriers that I observed organizations having.

Mark Graban (35m 23s):
Yeah. And, you know, you talk about eighty-three problem solving, which is a framework I really find helpful and I've tried to practice and share it and teach it with others. And one of the key steps in a three problem is defining a good problem statement. So in the book you do talk about the importance of this. So can it, can you talk about that, you know, kind of outside of any of the frameworks when it comes back to behaviors and, and such.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (35m 51s):
Yeah. Well, so as a core capability, you know, first of all, every tool pretty much has some, some step where you form the problem statement, right? So that's, that's a pretty universal thing as it's, as it stands alone, but there's also a lot of problem solving that happens without anybody ever picking up a tool. And what's, what's not, I want to say amusing, but curious is that when, when people decide to pick up a tool, they're like, okay, now let's, let's craft a good problem statement. What's the criteria for good problem statement. And then when they're not, when they're just in a meeting talking about a problem, they just, they just brush over that.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (36m 32s):
Like, it doesn't matter. And it's like, look, if you just spent 15 seconds, 30 seconds, five minutes, whatever you don't have to, like without a problem solving tool, if you just said, let's frame the problem, right. Let's let's understand what problem we're actually solving in conversation mode, right? You would still have a much more productive conversation. And so, you know, seeing it as a gap, whether it's just cheat, strategic gap, it's a gap to standard. It's a gap to desired. It's a gap to what the customer wants, you know, seeing it as a gap, seeing it as, without bias towards solution or cause seeing it as essentially others would agree and see it the same way and see it also as, as malleable, right?

Jamie Flinchbaugh (37m 21s):
That, that we can change how we define the problem based on our socialization or engagement or testing it, right. Or our testing and stress testing the idea of the problem statement that we can then change how we've defined the problem statement. You know, for example, I, I, I had a problem statement written around my weight and I've taken a lot of weight off, but you know, in the end it was really much more about health than it was about weight. Weight was a good symptom, but it wasn't really the actual problem statement I was after. And so now that I'm like, okay, I've hit a certain weight.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (38m 1s):
Do I just keep losing weight or do I work on other things? What's the real gap. I don't need to write it down. I mean, I can, I probably will. But it's, it's, it's the thought process of understanding the gap and as a gap being malleable with it and being curious about, you know, is that the right gap and what do we, what do we understand or not understand about it? And again, regardless of your problem solving tool, or even if you're having a conversation without a problem solving tool, that question matters.

Mark Graban (38m 38s):
So we've got a question for you. I'm going to put you on the spot, ask her a little coaching or feedback. So one, one pro and one problem, or it's more of an improvement. Well, I could frame it as a problem. This won't be the most precise problem statement articulation, but I've been trying to grow the audience for the, my favorite mistake podcasts. Yes. And you talked, you mentioned earlier about cause and effect. So on the kind of explore this a little bit, I've been in you, you you'll probably pick right up on what I would expect. You might want to coach me on here. I'm trying all sorts of different countermeasures. I've engaged a PR firm to help create some opportunities to be on some radio shows, to try to talk about the podcast and the themes of the podcast.

Mark Graban (39m 25s):
I've been a guest on other podcasts. I recently went and tweaked the formal name of the podcast to include, you know, phrases like that, to help try to return better. If somebody were to search for business mistakes, my podcast didn't come up in the results, but I've kind of, it's now my favorite mistake, Colin. And there's sort of some words there and it's coming up better in some of the searches. So I'm trying all these different things trying to help solve this problem. I mean, what are some questions that you would ask or guidance that you might give me about trying

Jamie Flinchbaugh (40m 3s):
Well, and so, yeah, without, without being an expert in the domain, which I'm on anything, but you know, I, I pretty much stop it recording podcasts rather than knowing what, what makes them successful. But, you know, I, I would start to ask questions around what good looks like and what variables matter for, for growth from a tracking standpoint. Right? So, so while you have a lot of episodes of my favorite mistake, you don't have the same duration as other podcasts. What matters more? The, the, the longevity of it from the first date to the most recent date or how many episodes there are, I don't know, but how might we compare that against other data points that you have?

Jamie Flinchbaugh (40m 53s):
Yes.

Mark Graban (40m 53s):
So there's a variable, maybe not considering there is the podcast too long. Is the podcast too short?

Jamie Flinchbaugh (40m 60s):
Is it, you know, so if you start to look at your own body of knowledge, you also have to ask yourself, well, is there other bodies of knowledge out there? Do I compare this to the lean blog podcast? Or I compare this to other podcasts that are similar in domain and style. You know, the existing knowledge you have is mostly about your own podcasts. And of course you've listened to others. You've, you've listened to advice. You've talked with that many other podcasters, but quite frankly, most of the people know in podcasts, you have less experience than you. So you're usually more in the advice Giphy domain than the advice receiving domain.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (41m 43s):
So how do you get curious about what others have done in that space and then the other, the other thing I, I think I'd start to poke at is, well, you're, you're trying a bunch of things. You're trying them all at once. How do you know that five of them actually helped and four of them hurt. And, and so you ended up a little bit better off, but you could have been a lot better off if you had only done the five things that help. Now, we might have enough base knowledge of how things were to go, well, will this actually hurt? Maybe it won't hurt. Maybe it's maybe it just won't help when done at the same time as something else.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (42m 27s):
Right. And so is it, is it throwing spaghetti against the wall seeing what sticks is it simply trying to prime the pump and then see what happens or is it trying to develop a recipe of what is actually gonna make a difference? And one of the key questions I I'd ask, which, which isn't the heart of, what you're after is, are you trying to build knowledge for the next three new podcasts that you start? Or are you just trying to, you know, build knowledge to support this one podcast? Because the knowledge that you gained from learning has a different return on investment, depending on, you know, how you see that knowledge in relation to the rest of your work, you know, is this is a scalable knowledge that you're building, or is this acute specifically applied knowledge?

Mark Graban (43m 20s):
Well, so there's a number of things you touched on there. Like, you know, for one, I, I figured as, as you did, you would pick up on the, I'm probably trying too many things all at once, which then muddies completely Mondays the cause and effect of which of those countermeasures do I put more time and or money into versus not. So I'm kind of muddying the water there. I'm probably being more. My other reflection is I'm probably being more of an experimentalists than a problem solver. I don't think this is a case where I can say, well, there's a root cause for why I'm trying to grow. It's not even so much solving a problem.

Mark Graban (43m 60s):
I could define anyone. Who's not listening as a problem. That's not the right way to say it, but I'm trying things, but I'm falling into a trap. I think trying too many things at once as you pointed out.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (44m 11s):
Yeah. Without, without, yeah, I think absolutely. At least if you want to understand why you got the result that you wanted, so you could double down or not double down, but even, even around the problem statement, like I said, it's, they're all gaps. So maybe the gap isn't every person in the world should to this podcast, but what is the target number? And by when, right? There's, there's a lot of there's a lot of times I'll see problem statements written as this should be faster. This should be bigger. There should be better. Well, even if it's faster, it's like, well, how, how much faster? Well, we don't know. We just know it's too slow.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (44m 52s):
All right. Well then, then write, write your problem statement with a, with a blank space that says it currently takes X and it shouldn't take Y. And one of the things we have to do and be curious about and explore is what should Y be? Right? What is the target? And if we haven't defined it yet, you know, theoretically, most problem solving tools would say, well, define it first before you go on problem solving. But in a lot of cases, people, they just don't know. There's nobody that can just draw a line in the sand and define it. So it takes their exploration of getting into the problem to do the learning that tells you what the answer maybe should be.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (45m 36s):
And it's okay, as long as you again. And that's why I say, you know, write Y or write in and write, put an under, under, put a space there a blank and say, just remind yourself that that's, I, it's not faster. It's, it's X amount faster. And I got to figure out what X is. And that's something that should be curious about as well.

Mark Graban (45m 58s):
But I think, you know, going through that sort of impromptu exercise and, you know, thank you for humoring me with that. I mean, you, you kind of apologized a little bit about, well, I'm not an expert in this domain, but I think the discussion kind of proved what you don't have to be a domain because I wasn't asking you for the answers, Hey, Jamie, what are the three things I should do to grow my podcast? That might be something born out of expertise, but coaching around thought process, I think is pretty transferable.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (46m 28s):
Yeah. Right. And, and that's where, you know, I think coaching in problem solving is one of the most underutilized investments there that there is because for one, you know, we're more focused on the answer than we are the process, right? Once we're, once we're in the problem, we are, why are we doing problem solving well to come up with an answer, right? So we are naturally going to be more focused on the answer. The coach can help us focus on the process. And when the process has gone awry, they can call it out. They can call attention to it. So I think that's one reason.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (47m 8s):
Second is that as a coach, even if I'm not that good, I am putting all of my energy on the process, which means that my learning as a coach around process accelerates faster than it would by doing the problem. Because again, when you're, when you're in the problem, you're, you're two parts focused on the solution. One part focused on the process, no matter how hard you try, but if you're the coach, you're, you're a hundred percent focused on the process, you can learn about process better, faster. And then the third thing I'll say is, and this, this is reinforced in the book noise, although it's not a, not where I get it from is, you know, there is wisdom in crowds.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (47m 53s):
There is catching blind spots. There is I thinking out loud in, in, in things like that. And, and I believe in a good organization, the minimum number of people involved in any problem is two. Whereas in most organizations, one individual can conceive of a problem, investigate it, come up with a solution and even implemented without interacting with anybody if they so choose. And I believe that makes us not just worse at problem solving, but, but makes us less effective in the solution space as well.

Mark Graban (48m 35s):
One of the things I wanted to follow up on and, oh, there's two things that might be interconnected, or maybe you might wanna address them one at a time when you were kind of going through coaching me kind of brought up the idea of when do you rely on your own experiments versus looking to others for experience knowledge information. And then the second question coming back to something you mentioned earlier, and I know you write about is the role of intuition versus data.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (49m 3s):
Yeah. So, you know, I, I think the, the idea of our, you know, what is, what is our own domain and where's my knowledge versus somebody else's is we have to treat at some level, we have to treat every instance, every step and repeat as its own, you know, as its own experiment. It's like, Hey, I, this recipe works great. Well, okay. It doesn't work as well for me. Well, what's different. Isn't the kitchen. Is it the oven? Is it the ingredients? Is it the person? Like what? There's always something different. Even just today. I was listening to someone talk about a solution they had put in place, and they're now going to apply it to this next step in the process that they are responsible for.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (49m 50s):
So they're responsible for this process. It worked in the front half. Now they're going to try it again in the backpacks, but okay. So are you going to try it or are you going to test it or are you going to just implement, right. It's like, just because it worked once it doesn't guarantee it's going to work in that in the second stage of the same process. So it's still should be treated as a test. And this is one of those places where intuition starts to come into play. It's like, well, how, how similar is that? Right? How similar our situation, how similar our podcasts, how similar is the front half of process of the back-half for process? What might matter if you go look at, if you don't look at research, right.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (50m 36s):
Academic research and academic research tries, most cases tries to draw correlation, whether it's through, you know, actual physical modeling, whether it's through data sets, whether it's, you know, they, they basically try to do some type of study or experiment and draw correlations between key variables. But before they start, they decide what variables to include and which ones to exclude. Well, did they model the whole world to draw that conclusion? Or did they use their experience based intuition to say, this is where I think I can draw the line.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (51m 16s):
And, but without question, they sometimes draw it way too narrow and intuition does not always serve as well, but a, we utilize it whether we think we are, or are we not right. Which I attended by 15 problems I could go solve, which one do I want to go solve? Well, why do I, do I really have a rigorous analytical process? Or did I, did I have a gut feeling? Do I need to test everything I write down or do I just need to test these three things? There there's some intuition and in all of that, and I think problem solving is much better when we acknowledge it when we embrace it.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (52m 1s):
And essentially when we create the room in our processes to allow the intuition to seep in, to breathe, to be tapped. And so whether that's a facilitated exercise that, you know, allows people to tap into their creativity and their thought process or sleeping on it, right. Which is a common technique. Or w what I love to do now is, you know, when I have not so much my own problems, but the people I coach when they're wrestling with difficult problems, and I'm coaching them over a period of time where the challenges they're facing, like, ah, I've got a call coming up on Tuesday, I'm going for a hike on Sunday.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (52m 48s):
Let me just let that question linger in my head and be more curious about it and see what comes out. I'm going to try to solve it while I'm on my hike. Otherwise I'd bring a notebook with me and just allowing my intuition to perhaps interact with that question or that problem for a period of time. And so, you know, a, you know, intuition is always there. We just pretend we're analytical all the time. And so we're much better off when we embrace and allow for the intuition to be used effectively, along the way,

Mark Graban (53m 25s):
The way you talk about intuition makes me think of a word, a concept that's used a lot in the training within industry approach, this word, this word neck. Sometimes you have a knack for it, for like, for example, like kind of spilling on a different recipe or a different approach. An example of recipes, let's say, Jamie, you said, Hey, mark, I know you make pizzas in the backyard, send me your dough recipe. Well, I can send you the recipe, which is written out of mathematical measurements of flour, water, east, and salt. And then you may report back to me and were like, man, that dough was really dry. It didn't even really form into a ball and I'd be like, oh, well, I forgot to pass along the knack of like, there's the formula.

Mark Graban (54m 12s):
But some days you have to add more water based on humidity and other factors. And you say, well, how do I know how, what the dough is? I'm like, well, you just know,

Jamie Flinchbaugh (54m 23s):
Yeah, you just, you just know after. And, and, and so the thing is, our brains are incredibly capable, right? And there's a lot of rice research behind, you know, what percentage of our brainpower we're actually tapping into. And if it's small, whatever the number is, doesn't really matter. And, and here's, here's a good example of how our, our neural system is far more effective than our deliberate thought process. Stand on one leg and try to think your way through, you know, lean to the left, lean to the right, rotate your hip, rotate your ankle, try to analytically, have balance.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (55m 6s):
You're going to fall over now, just allow your body to make all those neural connections and all those adjustments and it's, Hey, amazing balance works. And so that's the thing is that our brain is capable of learning that we don't have the numbers, the words, the frameworks, the lines, the pictures to articulate. And, and so the smarter we get, the better we are at converting what we do internalize to a recipe, to a process, to a procedure. I always like to say that art is science that we haven't yet fully articulated.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (55m 46s):
Right? It's it's not that there isn't science behind good DOE, there, there is science behind. Right. But how do you find it? Well, we just, we just don't have articulated yet. Right. We just, we just don't have the words or the math or the, you know, the way to put it into a recipe yet. And so we still rely on the neck, on the art, on the intuition to figure that out. And so it's just science. We haven't figured out yet.

Mark Graban (56m 13s):
I like the way you put that, because again, when it comes back to the DOE, you know, I, I know how wet and sticky the dose should feel like almost too sticky to handle, but not too sticky. Right? But that some of this we don't know yet how to quantify where I could give you a formula. I'm like, well, you should use, you know, 70% water by weight to the flour. But like, there, there could be a formula that involves the temperature, humidity, the age of the flour, there are these different variables that we just, like you said, we don't know how to make formula.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (56m 48s):
Right. And I, and I'm, I'm much like you with pizza. I'm, I'm playing with the art of making espresso and, and there's, you know, you watch videos and they contradict each other left and right. You know, don't do this, oh, this doesn't matter. Oh, this is the most important step. And you listen to these and, and it's really hard to conclude what the science is. There, there are things that can, that, that are scientific studies, but even that is, you know, their metric is what's the solubility of the coffee in the, in the water.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (57m 30s):
I, okay. Well, that's a measure. Is, is that the measure? And then, then there's people that I'm just really good at tasting coffee. Okay. I, I, maybe I'm not as good. And so I am trying to develop my own science, but more importantly, in the pathway of developing my own science, I'm I I'm developing my own intuition. And I don't think I'll ever, ever going to get to science cause nobody seems to have in this domain, but I can at least in pursuing it as a science, get my intuition sharper when it comes to this cause the age of the beans and the, the ambient temperature and you know, all of these things do in fact matter.

Mark Graban (58m 16s):
So in a way, I think everything we're talking about there with dough and espresso on some other level, maybe a conversation about lean and problem solving and formulas and experience and conflicting advice from different sources. I think Jamie is a good source and a lot of good stuff in the book here. People Solve Problems, the power of every person every day, every problem. Last thing before we have to wrap up, there's a section that's titled Call a Band-Aid a Band-Aid. Now I just have to tell you real quick. When I worked for Johnson & Johnson, at some point, there was, I, I do believe there was actually a memo that told those of us in the consulting group to not use the term.

Mark Graban (59m 0s):
Band-Aiding a process because that was a registered trademark of Johnson and Johnson and “band-aiding the process” has a negative connotation.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (59m 11s):
It does. And, and it's okay. It's not a permanent fix. It's okay. But let's not pretend we were we've don't, let's pretend we've solved the problem. Right. And, and so, yeah, certainly if you're part of J & J you probably shouldn't use it in that way, but since I'm not, it's okay. It's a common term it's out there. But, but again, let's just not pretend that was problem solving. That was, that was just covering up the symptoms. So it doesn't get worse.

Mark Graban (59m 45s):
So let's say if you're constantly cutting yourself when shaving, and sometimes the bandaid might be necessary, but if you're constantly cutting yourself all the time, you need to step back and say, Hey, how can I, what do I need to change about my, my tools or my process, or what have you to avoid needing to use all those adhesive bandages? We can adhesive bandage that process.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (1h 0m 7s):
Yes, it doesn't, it doesn't make for good chapter title, but, but yes, it is a, it's a necessary thing. And we have way too many things wrong to not use some bandaids. That's okay. This Band-Aid is very helpful. They make the prevent small problems from becoming big problems. That's great, tremendously valuable, but we didn't solve the problem. And we just shouldn't pretend that we did

Mark Graban (1h 0m 35s):
So well said, do I have to wrap up here? But again, our guest has been Jamie Flinchbaugh . The book is People Solve Problems, the power of every person every day. Every problem, please do get that. Now it's available paperback, Kindle, audiobook, and you can learn more also jflinch.com. Jamie Flinchbaugh, we call them J Flinch for short.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (1h 0m 57s):
That's right. Thank you, mark. Appreciate you having me on. Thanks for

Mark Graban (1h 1m 2s):
Being here. Thanks again to Jamie flinch ball for being our guests today. Again, for show notes, links, and more, you can go to lean blog.org/ 4, 3 2, you can find Jamie's new book on Amazon. And again, his website is Jay flinch.com.

Announcer (1h 1m 18s):
Thanks for listening. This has been the lean blog podcast for lean news and commentary updated daily. Is it www.cleanblog.org. If you have any questions or comments about this podcast, email mark@leanpodcastatgmail.com.


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