Problem-Solving

Most of the time, waste (muda) is there for a reason; to cover-up for an area in the Value Stream where flow keeps breaking down (e.g.  due to an inconsistent supplier or a poorly maintained piece of equipment). Once we start to train you and your team in how to spot muda in your process there’s usually a tremendous amount of energy and enthusiasm dedicated to taking this muda away. However, if the reason for this muda (the true ‘root cause’) isn’t tackled, the waste will gradually creep back into the business, and any initial gains will be lost. In order for your lean activity to become successful and sustained we need to help develop you and your people into excellent problem solvers.

Of course, some problems are bigger than others, and some are more complex. However, it’s important to apply a discipline to problem-solving irrespective of the size of the issue; not least to demonstrate to everybody else in the organisation that the problem has been understood, and necessary containments to protect the business and customer have been put in place. The tools and techniques we teach are appropriate to both the nature and size of problem, and the time available to put a fix in place.

We train and coach teams to become problem solvers as an integral part of their job. We think this should form part of their daily kaizen activity. Kaizen is about improvement, , practised every day. It forms an integral part of adopting a lean philosophy. Imagine your organisation two years from now if everybody has been trained in simple problem-solving tools, and is spending even a small amount of time every day solving your businesses problems!

PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act) or PDSA (Plan-Do-Study-Adjust) is a simple, easy to visualise, tool that helps teams structure their problem-solving efforts. It’s also referred to as the Deming Cycle after the quality guru, W. Edwards Deming. It encourages teams to think about what needs to be done, and to establish causes for a problem, before diving in with an unstructured attempt at a solution. As it is a visual tool, it’s is especially useful for local improvement activity where progress and feedback can be checked by leaders, as part of their Leader Standard Work.

For larger problems, or where there is likely to be a multi-disciplinary team formed specifically to work on a problem, it can be useful to adopt an A3 or 8-Step Problem Solving approach. Both of these tools provide a more detailed structure than the PDCA cycle (although the phases of problem-solving) are very much the same. An A3 or 8-Step approach promotes a more in-depth analysis of data to help ‘stratify’ a problem, so that potential root causes can be identified. This approach also incorporates use of other problem-solving techniques such as Ishikawa (or Fishbone) diagrams and the 5-Why analysis to help confirm root causes have been found and counter-measures implemented.

Lean FSL Associates have a wealth of experience in training teams in Problem-solving techniques. Contact us today, using the details below, to arrange a visit to your site and learn more about how Lean FSL can help you.