Problem solved? Or just moved somewhere else?

When you're solving a problem, it's all too easy to obsess on the issue at hand and ignore the overall context.

The answer's simple - keep in mind the distinction between fixing a problem and simply moving it some place else. In the long run, out of sight is rarely out of mind.

We're all familiar with the Value Chain concept, the notion that customers receive the value that results from a series of steps completed by your organization (production), their organization (on-boarding), and perhaps your suppliers' (raw materials and supporting systems).

Once you've identified a problem in your value chain, there are three things you can do about it — you can live with it, fix it, or move it. If you choose to fix the problem, your solution must consider the downstream consequences of the change you make for customers, and the upstream demands that change may impose on suppliers. Absent this, you could:

  • Add a component that reduces manufacturability and reduces margins.

  • Create a complex solution that dramatically increases customer on-boarding costs, has your support centre phones ringing off the hooks, and brings customer adoption to a standstill.

  • Places unreasonable demands on your suppliers and damages your business partnership.

... and so forth.

To be clear, the overall health of your value chain can be improved by moving a problem to a less costly part of the chain. What matters is that you anticipate this move and bolster the impacted area.


Consider a solution that you have implemented in the last year, but which failed to meet your goals first time around. Who was unhappy with the outcome, and why were they unhappy? Who had more work, not less, as a result of the fix? What did you do about it?

How can you apply these lessons to your next problem fixing exercise?

If this article was of interest, take another look at these for related ideas:

Production Lines and the Bottleneck Effect 

Have you really solved the problem?