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Time framing

smartangle newsletter · Jul 2021

Have you ever asked yourself since how long your problem is there? Did you ever try to analyse when it started and till when it could last if you do not do anything? This is the second step to understand your problem with our 8 steps approach to problem framing.

In our last blog post, on framing the size of a problem, we touched upon how to size your problem in a way that you are clearer till where it extends, in terms of colleagues and managers, as well as other departments or functions.

Today we would like to introduce you how to analyse the time frame.

By our experience, every time we have been told about a problem in a company, employees, as well as entrepreneurs and managers, do mainly focus on describing what the problem is and why they need to solve it as soon as possible.

When the situation, and the interlocutors, make it possible, we use to ask since when they have the problem. Well, most of the times, it is very hard to say for them.

The reason why most of employees do not pay attention to when the problems could have really started, is because they mainly focus on the present situation, or when the problem manifests as such, with an important impact on the business.

For instance, let’s consider a production line. There is a problem of very slight scrap along the line (say on March), the impact is negligible and usually the operators (or the production manager) do not even realise there is. But when the scraps are growing and the impact on production is becoming bigger, then the problem is “formally detected” (say a few months later).

This means that, whatever the real start of the issue, the problem seems to have started on the time the scraps have gown higher. But, as you can see, it could not be true.

Time framing: past, present and future

This type of framing is addressing time, and is trying to let the team think thoroughly and deeply on when the problem really started.

Indeed, you set a time zero (T0), when the team has detected the first “weak signals” of an issue. Once you have been able to set the real first time, it is a matter of understanding since how long, and what happened in the next days, months or years.

Therefore, starting from T0 you have to walk the way the problem developed, grew and impacted more heavily the business.

Once you arrived at T1, the present time, you should not stop there, because you need to understand what will happen if the problem is not tackled and solved promptly.

Therefore, it is a good practice to think about the potential future events that could impact the business, and give a time dimension to the future “evolution” as well.

This is an approach we use to time frame the problem, and push the team of problem solvers in understanding also this dimension. The reason behind it, is that only by understanding how to detect, and monitor, the weak signals of upcoming issues, could really help you in avoiding issues to happen again in the future.

Does it make sense?

Well, now you are ready for the final touch. If you have figured out when the problem started, where it is right now, and how it will evolve in future, you drawn a proper timeline for framing the problem over time.


Remember, this is just the second step to better understand your problem, therefore, you shall not stop here, but keep reading our blog to know more about the next steps.

Stay tuned for more insights!