I recently spent time with a client who had quite a few problems! Most businesses have problems, but these were costing a lot of money. Just to help these problems seemed to occur in a random manner.
Many attempts to solve them had appeared to succeed (until they recurred), and some of them had disappeared before on their own.
So how could these be tackled?
As Einstein stated…
“Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”
This meant the client needed to change their behaviour towards these problems in order to fix them.
Enter stage right – “Systematic Problem Solving” – da da da daaah!
OK so what’s the difference, I hear you ask? Let me try and explain.
Systematic problem solving comes in many guises. Many consultancies have developed their own approach or have tweaked an existing approach. The most comprehensive approaches encompass three methods:
- Lean thinking – takes the approach manufacturers understand as Lean and uses the concepts to help solve problems.
- Theory of Constraints – developed by Eliyahu M. Goldratt, looks to break down problems into conflicting constraints and finding ways to break those constraints.
- Six Sigma – breaks down a problem into its root causes and puts improvements in place to eliminate or control these root causes.
Systematic problem solving can be tailored to any level of the organisation. In its simplest form ground floor staff can solve problems they experience. A trained team leader or facilitator often facilitates this.
The primary steps to systematically solving a problem are:
- Define – the problem is clarified and articulated so that the solving team and managers agree on what the problem is and what success in solving the problem looks like.
- Measure – capture the current situation in the form of data, video, photos, mapping etc; ensure that the information is sufficiently representative and accurate.
- Analyse – understand the primary constraint in the system / root cause of the problem. A root cause or primary constraint focuses where the next stage of the process takes place.
- Improve – focused on the root cause or primary constraint problem solving ideas are generated and prioritised so the most appropriate solution is put in place. The section also ensures changes are implemented in the best possible way.
- Control – this is the most forgotten but important stage of the process. The aim here is to make sure the solution is embedded in the organisation so the problem never recurs again.
This may seem complicated but leave any stage out and the risk is that the problem is not solved in the best and most sustainable way. As a result of handling the problem in this way, the results for the problem filled company were £3 million per year.