Making the Problem Go Away Requires Understanding the Current Situation

Posted by on Oct 3, 2012 in Problem Solving | 0 comments

“Just make the problem go away!”
How often have you heard someone say that in your organization?  What ends up happening is that we take some action and throw several solutions at a problem before we understand the current situation.  People are rewarded for firefighting and sometimes the problem does go away only to recur later because it was not sufficiently understood.
Part of the problem is that many managers equate action with making improvement.  The more action items we have, the more improvements are happening.  The causes have not been discovered and eliminated, but because of the extra attention the problem gets better.  Future problem solving capability suffers because this type of action supports opinions, hear-say, and “We tried that before and it didn’t work!” mentality.
Understanding the current situation takes some work, but doesn’t have to be too complicated.  Using simple tools and techniques can give you great insight into the root causes of problems.  Start by mapping the process using a process map, a deployment flow chart, or a value stream map.  Identify a key process indicator (KPI) and measure to determine whether the process is in “statistical control.”  Is the variation due to common cause variation or is there some special or assignable cause that needs eliminated?  Plot your KPI to determine whether a “shift strategy,” “squeeze strategy” or both are needed to eliminate the variation.  Analyze the process to determine which of the 6M’s (Man, Machine, Material, Method, Measurement, or Mother Nature) are contributing to the variation.  At the same time you can identify any of the 7-Waste forms that exist and eliminate them.

Using the above approach leads to solutions that are simple, effective, and less costly.  In addition, this approach improves an organizations capability to solve future problems and causes them to rely on data-driven decisions and not hear-say or opinion.

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