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Sunday, November 28, 2010

Problems are Just Mile Markers and Turning Adversity into Opportunity Mindsets

(First in a series of weekly perspectives on Structured Problem Solving)

As Lean Six Sigma Practitioner Professionals, these ARE the mindsets we need to live by and a core practitioner skill we need to have honed and some may call it our weapon: Structured Problem Solving.  Mindsets we also, need to ingrain into the culture of the organization we live in or support.   

You may be wondering why there are two titles.  For me, each of them were epiphanies, and although they are essentially the same, they truly are different “states” along a continuum of a CPI Structured Problem Solving mindset.     

“Problems are Just Mile Markers” is the mindset of incremental and continuous process improvement.  As you tackle each problem, additional challenges arise because you never stop growing and learning about your processes.  Although it can feel stressful and confusing, it is also very powerful as continual engagement of people (both between the employees themselves and also your engagement with teams) create such awesome effects.  

The only thing constant in life is change.  Good change framed in a virtuous cycle of process improvement (Plan-Do-Check-Act or Define-Measure-Analyze-Improve-Check or Observe-Orient-Decide-Act) looks at problems as opportunities, so problems become mile markers. Each one we pass, means we’ve gotten better.  I cannot stress enough:  A journey of a 365 days/steps starts with a single step.  

“Turning Adversity into Opportunity,” on the other hand, assumes we already understand that problems are indeed opportunities; however the mindset here takes it a giant leap forward.  The mindset is about Failing Forward or Falling Up.  What does that mean?  It will take a little bit more time (and space!) to fully illustrate Falling up and it will be the topic of Part II of this series, but as a primer think about this phrase:  Lasting success is more than about simple resilience, it is about using that downward momentum to propel ourselves in the opposite direction -- you can create a third opportunity when adversity happens.  

Here is a visual depiction:
About the Author: Ernie Shishido is a Master Black Belt with the US Air Force’s Business Transformation Office with 29+ years of uniformed military service.  Ernie can be found on LinkedIn @ http://www.linkedin.com/in/ernieshishido or by email at er.shishido@gmail.com / ernest.shishido@pentagon.af.mil (until 10 Dec 2010). 


  1. Great Stuff Ernie! Once again, your mentoring is showing up in your writing. Very impressive!

  2. You are absolutely right! I continuously find how one problem-solving event can lead into multiple more. It takes the "Lean Leader" to show the team and the leaders sponsoring this change that taking these continuous steps towards improvement is not scary as long as we keep putting one foot forward at a time. Some might say, "Taking one bite of that elephant at a time."

  3. Amen! Thanks for posting the comment Mark. Good to hear from you and thanks for sharing your experiences. Please feel free to contribute when the epiphanies happen or just feel like sharing a thought.