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A real life example why it is better to focus on the problem first

Let me share an experience from real life where I realized why it is important to focus on the problem and not the solution..

We bought a house recently, but this story is from the time right before we bought it. Probably most of you've already gone through the process of applying to a bank loan in your lives. There is a point at which bank comes and check your house and estimate its value. The amount you can get from the bank depends on this estimated value. 

But let me just start at the beginning…

We were in a DIY shop looking around for the latest things our builder had asked us to buy. Anyways. Steve told me that we also needed to buy a house number. I was like ok let's look at the house numbers in the proper aisle of the store. 
We went there and after a while we managed to pick the numbers and we realized we needed a slash sign as well. So, only three numbers and a slash; however as you probably know you can never find more than three things that match 😊 The challenge here was to harmonize the house numbers with the slash. This is probably the hardest part, believe me. 
So, we put these into the basket and moved on to the next thing we needed. 

Problem #1

The next day Steve told me that we couldn't put the numbers on the fence right away because it hadn't been painted yet (please note, we couldn't make any changes because we didn't own the house yet). 
Ok, we are not able to put the house numbers onto the wall yet. But the house was not even ours so I didn’t feel this as a problem at that time - we can put them up later, I thought. I moved on very quickly. But Steve didn't. He kept wondering, what if we buy a mailbox and paint the house number on it. Well I was thinking, ok, if this is so important to him then let's just buy it and paint the number on it. I like painting anyways and if the house won't be ours after all we can probably reuse the mailbox later (somehow removing the paint…or finding another house with exactly the same house number 😊). 
We bought the mailbox. 

Problem #2

But guess what. Same problem came up. We cannot put it on the fence’s wall as it was not painted yet and the house still wasn't ours believe it or not 😊 
Steve suggested to lean the mailbox against the wall until we can put it on it.. I had the concern though that this whole thing could be stolen if that’s not fixed there.

Then came the first "Why"

Only that time I asked the first "why" regarding this problem area. Shame on me as being a Product Owner this would've been my first question! 😊
So I asked this first why. And Steve replied: 
"The bank requires the house to have a number on it". 
Ok, this is serious I thought because we were still before the credit assessment, so we had to do everything to show the best picture to the bank. I was wondering further, how we could solve this soon before they show up at our future house. 

My second "why" came the next morning: "Why would this guy even need the house number in this early stage?". 
Steve replied: 
"Well, because he needs to take a photo of the house from outside the building and one of the requirements against it is that there should be a house number visible." 
Oh ok! Let me put it this way then: the goal is to have a visible house number that remains on the house somehow for at least 10 seconds. 
I figured it could be just cut out from paper and sticked on the wall for that very short period of time and that's it. 
This is what happened actually. Problem solved and the house number was perfectly visible on the wall! (and actually for two more months)
This time the mailbox and the numbers weren’t really waste as we could use those later on (however I would choose other kinds if we wouldn’t have been in a rush when picking those in the DIY store) but this is a lesson to learn anyway as if we focus on the problem first and why we need to solve that, then the unnecessary loops would've been avoided.


  1. "Ask 'why' five times about every matter."
    -- Taiichi Ohno

    1. Yeah, this is what I've missed in this case, and actually in general if I'm not at work :) But this shouldn't be the case, right? ;)


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