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How to tackle deep-rooted problems on the farmHow to tackle deep-rooted problems on the farm

Analyzing up-front saves time, energy in the long run.

Darren Frye

June 8, 2020

3 Min Read
Woman using tablet and studying the development of rice varieties in rice field
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As the farm’s leader, there are days when the number of problems or issues within the operation that are brought to your attention seem endless. These might be relatively small challenges that are easily fixed with a couple words of instruction to an employee.

On the other hand, some issues are more deeply rooted and seem to continually require our attention, even when we’ve already taken action to solve them.

This second type of problem is the kind that can take up a lot of time and attention, often leading to stress, anxiety, and losing sleep at night. Sometimes we feel we’ve made progress toward a solution, only to later find out we’re back at square one. It can feel very defeating when we’re dealing with these types of large, complex problems.

Where to start

When we’re working to come up with solutions to complex problems, we might find that what we initially think will solve the issue doesn’t actually solve it. Without spending time up-front to analyze the problem and its root cause, many people will try the first solution that comes to mind.

Often, that first solution only addresses symptoms of the problem, rather than the root cause itself, so it ultimately doesn’t work. The problem is still in full force, maybe even worse than before because more time has passed. This puts you right back where you were originally, with a problem that may have grown even larger and more deeply-rooted.

The key is to spend time on the front end – when a complex problem is first identified in the operation – to analyze it enough to determine a possible root cause or root causes. Then, you can spend time and energy creating solutions that will actually eliminate the problem.

Work through it

First, spend some time to fully define the problem. Getting a clear handle on the problem is crucial and very helpful when considering the root cause later. Sometimes a problem isn’t exactly what it appears to be at first glance or on the surface. Consider who you will need to talk to in your operation to investigate the problem more deeply. Try to talk with multiple people, if possible, to get a broader perspective. Write down a definition of the problem – that could require anything from one sentence to a full paragraph.

Once you have defined the problem, it’s time to take it apart as much as possible. Consider all the different components and factors that contribute to the problem or increase it in some way. Look at the problem from different angles of your role as the farm’s leader such as through a business lens, production lens or HR manager lens. Involve other leaders on the farm or other trusted people in this process as needed.

Finally, work to determine a possible root cause or causes of the problem. This means going beyond any obvious solutions to look more deeply for the cause. If you find you have identified another symptom, keep asking questions. When you think you’ve found the root cause, it’s time to put together a plan to address it at that root level.

Often, farm leaders can use a partner in this process, especially when it comes to any problems in the operation around marketing or creating marketing plans. Get in touch with our market advisors to talk about any problems or root causes you suspect are at play in your operation – and get a plan to help move forward.

The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Farm Progress. 

About the Author(s)

Darren Frye

CEO, Water Street Solutions

Darren Frye grew up on an innovative, integrated Illinois farm. He began trading commodities in 1982 and started his first business in 1987, specializing in fertilizer distribution and crop consulting. In 1994 he started a consulting business, Water Street Solutions to help Midwest farmers become more successful through financial analysis, crop insurance, marketing consulting and legacy planning. The mission of Finance First is to get you to look at spreadsheets and see opportunity, to see your business for what it can be, and to help you build your agricultural legacy.

Visit Water Street Solutions

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