Solving a True DAM Problem


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It’s one thing to be a consultant where you don’t have to really do anything, but quite another to be accountable to solve a truly difficult DAM problem. Anybody who has been on the firing line of a tough problem knows the feeling of vulnerability that results. Will I fail? And if I do fail, will I survive or be crushed? When I feel that way, I reach for the quotation that my cross-country coach posted on my dorm room door at St. Olaf College.

The man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

                                                             —Theodore Roosevelt

There is something called DMAIC: Design, measure, analyze, improve, and control. It doesn’t really work on solving truly difficult DAM problems. Now many of you may criticize me on this point, but I offer a counterpoint. There are only a few shops in the United States today that have figured out how to thrive with the onslaught of foreign competition and the resultant relentless price pressure. If DMAIC worked, then I submit most of us would have solved this problem. DMAIC may work for a certain class of problems, but for truly complex problems, where an answer has to be creatively generated out of the thin rarified air of true human ingenuity and innovation, DMAIC isn’t enough.

Solving a truly difficult DAM problem requires, believe it or not, understanding humanity, and the quote by Theodore Roosevelt contains exactly the humanity required to solve any complex problem. You could write a book about it, and in fact a book has been written: Daring Greatly, by Brené Brown. In the book, Brené states, in essence, it is only when we can allow ourselves to be vulnerable that we discover innovative solutions.

Read the full column here.


Editor's Note: This column originally appeared in the November 2014 issue of The PCB Magazine.

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