Green and the Zoom Lens Mind

“If a problem cannot be solved, enlarge it.” — D. D. Eisenhower

If the problem concerns your company’s competitiveness, now and future, you might take Ike’s advice to heart. To “enlarge it”, of course, doesn’t mean to make the problem worse. Rather, it means to increase the field of vision, the context, in which you view the problem. Enlargement in this way presents new points of view and suggests new approaches to the problem, within which a favorable solution may become apparent.

Zoom Lens - DreamstimeI like to compare Ike’s idea to a zoom lens. When the lens is zoomed out to a wider field of vision, the extent of the environment in which the problem exists becomes increasingly apparent (for example: a root cause analysis, perhaps using Ishikawa’s “fish bone” diagram[i]). When the zoom lens is then focused in tightly, an approach to solution may become increasingly clear, better defined and, above all, actionable.

As the matter of concern becomes increasingly complex, getting to an actionable approach becomes less simplistic. As complexity increases, it becomes increasingly necessary to consider contextual interactions and relationships. Increasingly, systems thinking needs overtake process thinking.

A broader awareness of context and contextual relationships fosters what Peter Senge refers to as a shift “from a problem – solving mindset to a creative one” — that is, from the deductive to the inductive. Senge’s book, The Necessary Revolution[ii], devotes an entire 50 page section to this shift. Senge is the master in this area. He is well worth reading.

Putting the Zoom Lens to Work

Ishikawa Diagram>> Begin by using the zoom lens idea when you encounter mechanical problems in the plant. Zoom out, gather context. Use Ishikawa’s fish bone diagrams to organize. Then zoom in on an actionable approach to solution.

>> As experience is gained, move on to more complex matters. The same process applies. However, it soon becomes necessary to construct several fish bone diagrams, from different points-of-view. Take, for example, the matter of how to move you business toward Sustainability. As a starting point, you might zoom out, gather context, construct fish bone diagrams and zoom in on actionable approaches for each of the “Contexts” by which the Jera website is organized: (

All of this takes time and a lot of thought. The reward is an understanding of what you can actually do to increase your company’s chances of ‘thriving in perpetuity”.
Thoughtful comments and experience reports are always appreciated. It may be necessary to click on the title of this post to open the comments section.

…  Chuck Harrington (

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Kume, Hitoshi, Statistical Methods for Quality Improvement, AOTS, Tokyo (1985), pp. 26-32


[ii] Senge, Peter, et al, The Necessary Revolution, Part VI From Problem Solving to Creating, Random House, New York (2010) pp. 285 – 334



Ishikawa Diagram: Wikipedia Commons