solving is critical for personal and business success. However, being able to execute solutions in a timely and cost-effective manner is often a challenge. Without a positive Lean problem solving culture, even the best process is less likely to realize results.
Successful Problem Solving Methodology
The key to successful problem resolution is approaching the process with a systematic and logical problem solving methodology. The more efficiently, effectively, and quickly problems are resolved the greater the propensity for improved employee morale, enhanced production capabilities, and realization of fewer dollars lost or wasted.
A structured problem-solving methodology promotes discipline and increases the chance for success. First, problems must be defined. Describing the problem accurately and clearly communicating the problem to organizational stakeholders is critical for successful problem solving.
Problem solving is more than a team exercise. It involves multiple individuals to identify root cause, develop solution alternatives, and finally carry out implementation. Often, people develop solutions and action plans which never get fully implemented. Results from these efforts are frequently mediocre and add more complexity to an already challenging situation. Good solutions will not carry themselves to actual implementation on their own.
Obstacles to Problem Solving
When changes and follow through are not given careful attention, problem-solving efforts fall short of expectations. Major obstacles to solution implementation include:
- Lack of participatory efforts
- Lack of communication
- Resistance to change
- No visible management support
- Time pressures
- The mindset of “We’ve always done it this way”
The Power of Effective Leadership
Overcoming obstacles requires effective leaders who develop well-defined action plans which include clearly defined responsibilities and accountabilities. Steps to successful implementation include:
- Get the facts, find the root cause
- Enlist and get ongoing management support
- Provide backup if things don’t go as planned
- Stimulate motivation by recognizing and rewarding effort
- Audit, monitor and provide feedback to the changes
- Celebrate and share success
In the end, problem solving is meaningless if solutions are not implemented. This requires a collaborative approach to problem-solving which focuses on consensus as the preferred approach to deciding on, and implementing, a solution. If team members do not adopt the changes, then nothing has been accomplished. The challenge of working with cross functional team members to solve problems is time. All stakeholders must be involved in a meaningful way in order to get sustainable results.
Get to Know the DMAIC
An A3 DMAIC problem solving approach helps achieve sustainable results DMAIC can be broken down to:
- Define: Problems must first be defined. Describe the problem accurately and communicate the problem clearly to organizational stakeholders. This is critical for successful problem solving.
- Measure: Quantify the gap. Solutions appear more quickly when you define the gap between the current and desired state of affairs. By defining that gap in measurable terms, you focus your efforts where it counts the most.
- Analyze: Uncover the cause. You can identify an effective solution only when you have accurate information about the cause(s) of the problem. Without relevant data, your efforts may address the symptoms of the problem but not the source.
- Improve: Create options. Generating a range of possible solutions makes it easier to find one that not only closes the gap, but also satisfies all your stakeholders.
- Control: Decide on the solution. The solution you choose affects people beyond your team. Involve the right people in the right way to increase their commitment to the success of the solution they choose. Create standard work, train, coach and follow-up audit all stake holder in the new standard work.
Good ideas don’t implement themselves. They require a comprehensive plan specifying the who, what where, when and why of it all. Once efforts are underway, it’s critical to evaluate how people are doing, make needed adjustments, and celebrate accomplishments. Collaboration is an essential ingredient for creating a supportive, problem-solving environment. How well people work together to solve problems depends largely on the culture of the organization.
- Builds trust. Lack of trust compounds any problem through hidden agendas, poor communication, and widespread suspicion. Where trust prevails, people find it easier to work together and approach problems objectively. As a result, people are more willing to make the collective effort necessary to solve shared problems.
- Encourages innovation and active risk management. True breakthroughs rarely occur in an organization that punishes sincere, but failed, attempts at innovation. When people are encouraged to try new things and when mistakes are treated as opportunities to learn, then creative problem solving becomes the rule and not the exception.
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