Problem Solving

This is closely allied to what I’ve previously written about in presenting some of the key ideas of Deming, Juran, Crosby, et. al. under “Improvement” in that it addresses ways to make changes, and especially Juran with his six-step Breakthrough.  However, solving problems is such an important topic that I want to spend a little more time on it.

As well as the aforementioned Juran Breakthrough, a number of schemes have been developed – some better known than others. The six-sigma DMAIC is one of the better known and plenty has been written about it – easily found with an online search.  Define, Measure, Analyse, Improve and Control is a good start in that it sets out clear steps.  Another scheme is the 8D or Eight Discipline approach (confusingly, with nine steps).  This is commonly attributed to the Ford Motor Company and the confusing ninth step came from a later alignment with PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Act) which, of course, highlights PDCA as another method.  Some are better suited when there are numeric data involved, allowing precise analysis and clear decisions, whilst others are probably better for “softer” issues.

I like 8D because it addresses all the necessary steps but I want to discuss the underlying principles of all approaches.  This is not to present yet another (5-step) approach but, rather, to aid understanding of the others.

Step 1: Planning – deciding there is a problem to fix and establishing the means to address it.

Step 2: Understanding – finding out about the problem – gathering data to understand what is happening (or not happening).

Step 3: Analysisng – looking in depth at the data gathered to understand what is causing the problem.

Step 4: Solving – identifying (and, as necessary) testing solutions – considering all viable options.

Step 5: Fixing – implementing the permanent solution in a way that ensures it stays fixed.

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