Solving a problem is not as simple as putting a band-aid…
and that is what most business owners do, when buying the new software or when hiring more people to “solve their problem.”
The Problem Solving Steps
- Clarify what is the problem
- Break down the problem
- Set improvement targets
- Determine the problem root cause
- Develop countermeasures
- See countermeasures through
- Confirm Results and Process
- Standardize successful results
Clarify and Validate the Problem
The first step is to clearly know what’s going on by identifying WHAT is happening, WHERE is happening, WHEN is happening, WHAT is the frequency of “the problem”, and WHO is affecting.
Once you have the What, Where, When, and What, you can determine if you should invest time in solving that “problem”. Answering the following four questions can help you determine if you should commit resources to solve your problem.
- Solving this problem will improve my business plan?
- Solving this problem satisfy my customer needs?
- Solving this problem address an issue identified during a SWOT analysis?
- Has this problem been identified during a walk through?
Break Down the Problem
Using tools that give you a visual representation of what’s going on can help you break down your problem and identify performance gaps.
Here are 4 tools you can use:
- Key performance indicators (KPI) or some type of metrics
- Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats analysis (SWOT)
- Performance Gap Analysis
- Bottleneck Analysis
If you are not gathering data, here is an opportunity to start doing it.
Most of your website traffic problems can be analyzed using Google Analytics. You can also find similar metrics in online help desk solutions and CRM’s.
Anything worth doing is worth tracking
Once you have the data…
What does the data indicate are the potential causes? And Does the data review indicate a bottleneck or constraint?
Set Improvement Targets
For improvement targets to work, they need to be specific, measurable, attainable, results focused, and time-bound.
They should be “things to achieve” not “things to do”.
- Do what?
- By how much?
- By when?
If you don’t have your “ideal state”, you should map it out.
Determine the Root Cause
Errors in any task perform by people are inevitable.
What you can do is to wait for the next error to occur, stop the process and determine the root cause of the error. Once the root cause is discovered and countermeasures are in place then and only then the process should be resumed.
Tip: Checks for factors that cause errors, not the resulting defect.
Tools to help you identify the root cause of the problem are:
- 5 Whys
- Control Charts
Using lean to develop practical and efficient countermeasures you can prioritized based practicality, effectiveness, quality and or acceptance. You can also prioritize based on logically address the root cause of your problem, and when implemented, will result in a positive progression toward your target goal.
Here is where you should develop your future state mapping.
See Countermeasures Through
By now all countermeasures have been implemented or on schedule or have been deemed unnecessary as target state has been met.
The most practical countermeasures tools are:
- 6S & Visual Management
- Standard Work
- Cell Design
- Variation Reduction
- Error Proofing
- Quick Changeover
- Rapid Improvement Events (RIE)
Confirm Results and Process
Confirm if the data captured confirm improvements when compare with the data identified during the “Brake Down the Problem” step. If you did not hit your growth target, create a detailed analysis and a plan to achieve your goal.
Tools you can use:
- Performance Management
- Standard Work
Standardize Successful Processes
The question here is…
What is needed to standardize (replicate) your improved process?
If other opportunities or problems were identified during any of the problem-solving steps…restart the process.