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Updated: May 21

In 2004, during an operation meeting at my new job in a Minnesotan company, I raised a production problem. I was quickly told, “Didier, we have no problems here we only have opportunities.” I thought about it for a moment. Was I facing the Minnesota nice culture? I eventually replied “Well, this is definitely not an opportunity. This one is a problem.”

When a standard degrades, it is not an opportunity to get back to standard. It is a problem. During Apollo 13, Jim Lovell said "Ah, Houston, we've had a problem." He did not talk about opportunities. When I am sick, I do not want to hear from my doctor about opportunities. Instead, I want to hear about solving my health problem.

All problems have one thing in common: they have a root cause. The first step for solving a problem is to identify the exact source of the problem (where/when it occurred) before determining the root cause, and then implementing countermeasures. The fix.

On the other hand, opportunities do not rely on eliminating a specific root cause. There is no root cause. The opportunity lies in identifying options for improving the standard and achieving a better performance level. The methodology is open-ended.

Let’s not confuse problems and opportunities. One relates to returning to the standard, and the second to improve the standard.

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