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

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19 How to Get Free Business Intelligence

Running any business without the use of Intelligence or Insight is foolhardy. It’s akin to driving a car in pitch darkness, with the headlights turned off ! Although you might start the car, move a few metres, will you reach your destination? I doubt it.

Business Intelligence is what informs the best of business decisions, serving as the headlights for your business by showing where to turn, slow down and avoid obstacles on the journey to achieving your business objectives.

There are many ways to collect business intelligence and fortunately, today the internet provides a vast array of  free methods and tools to gather business intelligence and empower your decisions.

In this episode, I provide practical methods, mostly free and web based, to source for a balanced view of your overall business insight.

In particular, I cover details on how you can collect business insight around the 4 key areas of your business:

Customer Insight – listening to the “Voice of the Customer”
Organisational Insight – a powerful SWOT analysis tool
Competitive Analysis – spark Innovation by analysing your competition
Market Trends – strategies to stay ahead of the game

Enjoy !

References made in the podcast:




The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman

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Action Plan Download Link

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The A-Z of Kaizen Continuous Improvement.

A is for Action Plan, without this, everything you say in those meetings is just hot air.

B is for Best Practice, a technique, process or activity in your business known to bring the most effective solution or outcome than any other applied in a similar situation.

C is for Coaching, being a mentor to someone and taking them on a personal journey in self-fulfilment and discovery

D is for DMAIC a well-documented problem solving technique based on six-sigma principles and 5 specific: Define, Measure, Analyse, Improve and control.

E is for Efficiency is a doing things in the most economical way, and if those things are the right things to be done then this becomes a measure of effectiveness.

F is for FMEA, Failure Mode & Effects Analysis, a fancy term for a tool, typically used in new product development, to identify potential failure modes based on past experience with similar products or processes.

G is for Gantt Chart, the project scheduling tool of choice for managing improvement projects, milestones and responsibilities.

H is for Histogram, also known as skyscraper diagram, or bar chart. It’s a series of data plotted on a bar chart representing frequency or quantity against different intervals.

I is for the Inspiration to Improve – the heart and soul of Continuous Improvement

J is for the Japanese pioneers in Continuous Improvement, Sakichi Toyoda and Ishikawa amongst them, who at the heart of the Japanese industrial revolution were instrumental in embracing the principles of continuous improvement.

K is for Kaizen, the Japanese word that simply means “Change for the Better”. So now you know where we get our name SmallBizKaizen from!

L is for Learning, a continuous need to “sharpen the saw” to ensure your knowledge thirst is never quenched.

M is for Motivation necessary to support improvement efforts. Top Management plays a vital role in motivating everyone in Kaizen.

N is for Novel Ideas, typically the birth of most Continuous Improvement successes.

O is for Opportunity, any gap between a customer expectation and what your business currently delivers. This is the very source of Continuous Improvement

P is for Problem Solving, a discipline and approach to remove obstacles and barriers preventing your organisation from fulfilling customer obligations and expectations.

Q is for Quality as defined in the eyes of the customers. Are your products and services fit for purpose?

R is for Reward and Recognition an essential part of the CI loop. Recognise the stars and the players in your team and always celebrate successes.

S is for Sustainability – The art of ensuring your hard earned improvements don’t slip back to old habits.

T is for Tracking the impact of Actions to check whether the CI has been delivered.

U is for Upper Control Limit, the upper most control limit set in a Statistical Process Control chart to trigger corrective and preventive action.

V is for Value Addition – Efforts put into any product and/or service to improve attributes and is appreciated by your customers is deemed to have added value.

W is for Waste Elimination, basically any non-value adding activities along the value chain are considered to be Waste and ought to be eliminated.

X is a difficult letter to find a word beginning with it so we’ll settle for eXcellence in eXecution wich is the art of ruthless and flawless delivery of agreed objectives.

Y is for Yoke, part of Poka Yoke the Japanese word meaning “fool proofing”, designing a product in such a way it’s virtually impossible to make a mistake using the product.

Z is for Zero Defect, the quest for perfection in everything you and your organisation does.

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How to Write Power Action Plans

young indian boy writingAction Plans are central to every Continuous Improvement effort as they provide clarity, visibility and a level of commitment and responsibility necessary to get things done. However, if not enough care and effort is put into compiling an Action Plan, this can seriously affect the quality of the output and dent any chances of your improvement idea ever taking off. Done correctly, the Action Plan can be an effective weapon of mass improvements.

It is entirely discretional when to use an Action Plan although typical uses include: management, project or team meetings, brain storming sessions, problem deep dive sessions, review sessions, idea generation sessions and so forth.

We have compiled a few Top Tips for crafting what we like to call a Power Action Plan. We also put together a blank template, and partially completed example to download and invite you to give the Power Action Plan a test drive.

  1. Use the header fields as per our template but feel free to modify to what works well with your business. Delete any column headings you don’t use. Only use and keep the fields that are essential for you.
  2. Where applicable, split your Action Plan into 2 sections, one for “Short Term” (to be done within the week in question) and another for “Long term” (more than a week required to complete the action). This will make it clear what needs to happen immediately.
  3. Always address your intended audience as if they were not present when the action was assigned. This will ensure the correct context of the action is provided and help avoid the “What was this all about?” type of question further down the road.
  4. Endeavour to send out the Action Plan as soon as possible, preferably on the day the Actions were assigned.
  5. Start with the most important Actions, by using the pain vs. gain prioritisation technique. Actions with bigger impact and requiring lesser effort being the highest ranked.
  6. Group related actions together and create different Action categories where you have a lot of actions.
  7. If you use a meeting room, consider using a whiteboard demarcated as per the template. At the end of the meeting, simply take a digital photo of the completed whiteboard and email it to all assigned action owners. No double handling, no typing, no waste – typical Continuous Improvement!
  8. Always start the actual action statement with a verb. A verb is called an “action word” for a reason! This makes it clear from the onset exactly what needs to be done.
  9. Assign a unique number for each Action. This will make it so much easier during discussions. If you refer to Action X12, everyone immediately knows which one you’re talking about as opposed to explaining the action or reading it out – saves you a bit of time.

For a blank  template click here to  Download  the file

To see a mocked up example your Download  is here

We’d love to hear your comments and feedback on an this or other equally effective Action Plan formats.

If you’d like to find out more about Power Templates such as This Action Plan, please check out my Continuous Improvement Toolkit that is guaranteed to bring you great Business Improvement Results.

For even more detailed approaches to Continuous Improvement, you can check out my eBook “Continuous Improvement Manifesto – The Ultimate Guide To Business Value Creation” 

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