How to understand the practical problems syndrome and find solutions

It is so common to see hundreds of people talking about "practical problems". Right from the Manager on the shop floor to the housewives, maids, etc there is talk about "practical" problems, about which they cannot, seemingly, do anything. This is totally contrary to the truth. This article is an attempt at discussing some aspects of this syndrome and how to solve practical problems of life.


The word "practical" is the delight of practicing managers who always talk about "practical" problems. Absenteeism, inter-personal problems, untrained subordinates, power cuts that cause disruption in the pace of production and so on are indeed "practical" problems. Housewives talk about practical problems of the servant maids who do not come on time or not come at all. They also talk about "practical"problems of husbands who do not do any work at all and of children who do not obey them at all. The list of such "practical" problems is endless.

However, each of these problems can be solved with a little imagination. The key is to first ask the question, "what can be done now?" to solve a problem.

Secondly,at the end of the day we ought to ask another question - "how can I minimize the effects of the problem or totally eliminate it?". Once the answers are found out we would have solved most of the problem.

Thirdly, we should explore if we are the cause of the practical problem in the first place. Feedback can immensely help us in this direction. If the answer is yes, very serious action needs to be taken. Finally, we should always learn from successful people and successful practices. Each of the aforesaid questions is sought to be discussed in some detail in this article.

The two vital questions

The two vital questions of "What can be done now?" and "How can I minimize the effects of the problem or eliminate it?" are really vital. For example, it is quite possible that absenteeism, a "practical" problem, would be caused due to the autocratic attitude of the boss, a really sick wife or children, problems due to debts and so on. A personalized discussion will help a great deal. Mere reprimanding, as many managers do, will only aggravate the situation. Those who are affected by such reprimanding will either take the help of the trade union or try to gang up against the manager himself.

So, if the manager seeks to understand the genesis of the problem and do something about it, he or she would have won the voluntary support of many a subordinate. Similarly, working women have solved the problem of the housewife by buying a good washing machine which washes all clothes within the time they inevitably take to cook. Vacuum cleaners are also becoming very common. Of course, many broad minded husbands who chip in with household chores have solved the practical problems in the metros.

The second question of "How can I minimize the effects of the problem?" is equally vital. For example, production will be a smooth affair if all subordinates are trained and have multitasking capabilities. For example, in a Foundry if a person is rotated in say molding and also in melting, the absenteeism problem can be minimized in terms of effects. It can also be the case that over a period of time, when the team work comes for praise and the Manager always praises his team for the collective excellence, the subordinates will be highly motivated, which will indeed solve so many production problems.

This is also applicable to students, teachers, and even people engaged in business.

Ask Am I the cause of the problem?

By asking "Am I the cause of many practical problems?" most problems can be solved. For example, if the Manager in the aforesaid example has the habit of withholding vital information about any change, the subordinates would not have the skills to manage the change, or even if they have, they would have made a mess of it. Similarly, if the Manager in a production process has some systematic programs of training of subordinates in both conceptual and on-the-job skills, there will be no problem at all.

For instance, the Japanese call these small improvements "Kaizen", which simply means continuous improvement. These continuous improvements can make a huge difference to any shop floor. It always happens that the Japanese have never taken any practical problem with a sense of helplessness. The practice of Kaizen as a way of life is so common in every Japanese factory. The Japanese always challenge the status quo. Indian businesses need to learn too much from them. In fact, every TVS company in India is so powerful in business excellence on the shop floor, only because of continuous learning from the Japanese experts. It should be noted that at least six TVS organizations are Deming Award winners.

Learning from successful people and successful experiences

By learning from successful people and successful experiences, most of the practical problems can be solved.

For example, Cavinkare which was a very small company, had a huge practical problem. It had to capture the same middle class customers. It had to constantly innovate to stay alive. Even after its Chik shampoo sold like hot cakes in the sachet segment, Unilever introduced sachet packets in all its shampoo range. Cavinkare learned a lesson from it s big customer: if you advertise so well, the product will have a good brand image. Chik was as heavily advertised as any of the Unilever products.

Its high decibal advertising, combined with lower overheads helped it to survive and also grow. Similarly, Marico Industries got around the "practical"problem of a new competitor in form of Nihar coconut oil from Unilever. Marico industries got around the problem by strengthening its own brand called "Parachute". Finally, Unilever sold its brand to Marico and got out of the business.

So, every single practical problem can be solved, if we think differently. In the real world, every practical problem indeed throws up new challenges. These challenges can be solved and managed head on through hard work. The key is to ask the two vital questions and also learn from others.

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