A Simple Problem Solving Process

A Simple Problem Solving Process


As manager’s and supervisor’s our days are filled with problem solving, whether people or processes. I have spent a lot of time on this blog discussing the people problems and ways to resolve them, now I would like to turn my attention to solving process issues.

When a process breaks down it can be difficult to find the root cause and often this is because there is no one root cause to a process break down, but rather a multitude of issues surrounding the process failure. And if there is a single root cause to the problem it may be difficult to sort it out due to the other issues that are closely connected to the root cause.

Isolating the issues and coming up with a solution to resolve the problem and get the process working properly again can be a daunting issue. And because of this it often gets us so bogged down in the details that we fail to act.

There are a number of problem solving and process improvement methodologies that can be employed including Lean, Six-Sigma, and 6-S. While I have a grounding in each of these methods I am by no means an expert in any of them and my guess is that most of you aren’t either. And while all these methodologies have something of benefit to offer most of us have neither the time, nor the organizational resources to become experts in these methodologies.

That isn’t to say that we shouldn’t take the time to learn something about them, but if you are looking to solve an immediate issue I would suggest that there is a simpler way that utilizes some of the best that these methods have to offer without having to wait until you have time to learn them.

Over the next 5 post I will lay out a simple five step process for problems solving and resolution that I have developed that does not require you to become an expert in any of the above mentioned methods but utilizes elements of all.

If you follow the five steps as laid out over the next 5 weeks, and implement the plan as laid out, you will be able to identify the causes of the process failure, put a plan together to address those issues, implement that plan, and continue to improve it.

So here are the 5 steps:

  1. Gather data

  2. Evaluate data and choose focus

  3. Implement improvements

  4. Fine-Tune (re-evaluate)

  5. Sustain the improvement

If you have any experience with other lean and continuous improvement methodologies, you will see some commonality with them. I don’t claim any originality to my method, only simplicity.

What I would suggest is that too often we get so caught up in method and root cause that it keeps us from being able to act. We are chasing so many problems that we can’t focus on just one and often we need to address multiple problems at once and it seems so overwhelming that we just fail to act.

As Dale Carnegie once observed, “Our trouble isn’t ignorance, but inaction”. In other words, don’t worry about what you don’t know, do what you can do with what you do know.

By following along on my prescribed course of action it will get you to act, not just get caught in an endless cycle of data collection, evaluation, and frustration. Also, you don’t need to learn a lot of process improvement lingo or systems to begin acting. Begin where you are with what you have. Don’t worry about being perfect, if you wait for that you will never get anywhere.

So, stick with me over the next five weeks, follow the prescribed plan, implement the ideas, and if you need help along the way feel free to reach out to me at any time.

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