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In residential remodeling, as in life, we often set out to accomplish a task and discover that our plan needs altering. We have to adapt in order to keep going in the right direction. This pattern repeats itself. Getting stuck is not an option.
I share my philosophy loud and proud. There is always a solution, you just have to be smart enough to identify it, then figure it out.
I recently watched a Ted Talk where a fellow was faced with a debilitating medical condition. Rather than succumb to the disease, he discovered his own diagnosis and had to invent a surgery to save himself. It took 14 years. This is my kind of hero.
I try to use every bit of talent around me, and my past experiences, wits, and guts. I revel in the thrill of being faced with a problem, then discovering the solution. Resources abound all around me; I just need to discover them. Here is a recent example of a situation whose resolution makes me especially proud.
Discovery and Root Cause
A situation is a defined problem waiting for a solution. In remodeling older homes, this can be a daily event and a source of great stress or joy. Once you figure out how to solve the puzzle, you start to look forward to the next one.
We once changed the direction of our floor joists on the fly to address a HVAC desire to run duct work through the joist spaces. It made sense at the time.
Not enough thought was given to the possible repercussions. The extra few feet of the span was within tolerance. Sadly, this change made for a springy floor once we sheeted it. A springy or bouncy floor is unacceptable for several reasons, the primary one being that we are known for solid floors. Besides, floor tile requires a rigid substrate to last. This ripple effect of fixing one problem while causing another is just part of the remodeling game.
Solution Options and Fix:
The team got together and shared what we knew, and as a group we decided to involve an expert. We consulted our Engineers to figure out a solution, which turned out to be what we expected: a mid-span support.
Sure enough, the only question was how big the steel beam would be, and how it would be attached to do the job. The springy floor was about to go away. Engineering provided several solutions that made sense.
Fortunately for me, one of my employees, Shane, was a metal fabricator in a past career. He did not hesitate to take the bull by the horns. After locating the perfect beam from a locomotive salvage yard, he went about fabricating the parts. He made a steel plate into supports and a cut the beam from stock.
Then he installed the components to solve our problem with gusto. That we consistently achieve wonderful results is by design, not a mystery or crap shoot.
Problem Solving Matrix Revealed
Defining the problem is the hard part. The tendency is to skip this step or rush to conclusions before determining what’s wrong. Here is my problem-solving matrix.
- Define and Understand. Examine what is wrong. Dig deep to figure it out, then explain it in a way that everyone understands. Use other perspectives.
- Root Cause. “What was the process that caused the problem?” Lots of questions like the “5 whys” work well here.
- Solution Options. Lay them out. Everyone has ideas. It is your job to get them out of the team. This is also a big part of the fun for me.
- Once Fixed. Admire our fine work and celebrate. Trust but verify.
- Reflection. Could this problem have been prevented? Systematize the solution and share it in the company lore.
Reflections and Aftermath
Problem identification exercises like this one and solution implementation have been a big win for us. The company culture is one that looks forward these experiences as team building events. Ultimately, our client did not pay for this change.
What makes me most proud is that I have a system and that I have successfully surrounded myself with likeminded, talented people who also love remodeling and problem solving for a living.
Your comments are welcome. To ask questions or get more information about remodeling, click here to email me directly, or call 208-947-7261
If you or someone you know is considering remodeling or just wants to speak to a trustworthy remodeling contractor, please contact me. You’ll be glad you did.