SBK021 Problem Solving for a Better Business

Problem Solving is the essence of any Continuous Improvement effort.  In this episode, I go back to the fundamentals of Kaizen and focus on the art of problem solving as a basic business improvement tool.

I discuss 10 common problem solving tools and techniques that will bring sustainable solutions and show how all of these methods hinge on 3 vital principles of

a)      Measuring the Impact of the Problem

b)      Taking Action

c)      Reviewing and Measuring the Impact of the Action

My Top 10 Problem Solving Tools

  1. Is/Is Not Tool
  2. Pareto’s 80:20 Rule
  3. The 5 Why’s
  4. Brainstorming
  5. Checklists
  6. Poka Yoke
  7. Process Imagineering
  8. Value Stream Mapping
  9. Fishbone / Ishikawa / Cause and Effect
  10. DMAIC

Image: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Why Six Sigma DMAIC Problem Solving Always Works

basic_dmaic_problem _solving stepsSix Sigma DMAIC is one my most successful Problem Solving Methods that I use in a business or project context . Basic DMAIC is a problem solving process involving 5 steps summarised as: Define, Measure, Analyse, Improve and Control.

Though there are hundreds of other methods available,  DMAIC is one I highly recommend because it remains true to the fundamental principles of Continuous Improvement. It is Simple in Approach,  follows 5 Logical steps  and ensures the decisions you make are based on hard core measured data which helps you deduce the root cause , implement solutions to eliminate the root cause then track to see what results you get. There’s no rocket science here, just  pure common business sense.

DMAIC is ideally suited in situations where your business is constantly faced with reoccurring/repetitive problems that prevent you from forging ahead. Problems that don’t seem to have a known root cause and therefore cannot be solved, typically lend themselves to DMAIC. Let’s explore what each stage is about.

DEFINE:

Problem definition is the first stage of any problem solving. Not only are you recognising your business has a problem, but defining the problem will give you the real purpose and scope of the problem. Always write it down.

The define phase also involves the making up of the wider “Project Team”, people you believe ought to be involved in solving this problem. Together, you all establish and agree to a detailed project plan with key milestones, deliverables and responsibilities.

MEASURE:

In the Measure step, the Project Team goes about collecting data on the problem and start to analyse, root cause style, what could be the potential causes.

ANALYSE:

Analysis phase of the project is typified by maximum participation of everyone in the team to brainstorming the possible causes and confirm the root causes using several different techniques.

The whole DMAIC approach is fact based and therefore no room at all for assumptions. All decisions need to be supported with measured data or indicators, the hard core evidence.

IMPROVE:

Improve stage is all about finding a solution that will nullify or at least significantly reduce the root cause of the problem. Hard core evidence is required to confirm the impact of the solution has had on the problem identified. Success criteria should be clearly measurable.

Depending on the outcome, further actions, responsibilities, timing and a revised plan may need to be agreed by the Project Team to verify the effectiveness of implemented solution.

CONTROL:

Control is there to ensure, the business, process, systems or people do not slip back to old habits. The newly established solution(s) should be embedded and Standardised as a new way of working.

This could involve issuing out new work policies, procedures or instructions or defining training needs as a result of the new way of working. Finally, Control has to do with the sharing and celebrating of successes.

That’s Six Sigma DMAIC Problem Solving – in a nutshell

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