The Value of Problem Solving

Posted on August 15, 2013 by


Problem solving strategies provide a great deal of value in an organization’s efforts to implement lean principles.  Effective problem solving strategies allow the organization to drill down to the root cause and any contributing factors of safety incidents, quality spills, and variations to standardized processes.  These deviations can then be contained, controlled or completely eliminated.  Further, problem solving engages members of the organization in creative and fact based thinking that can lead to innovation.  This can be done using tools such as 5 Why’s, Ishikawa Diagrams, pareto charts, value stream mapping charts, and PDCA.

The focus on getting to the root cause must be done without any biases in order to be effective.  The investigator cannot approach the issue with preconceived notions.  Doing so clouds judgment and obscures the real issues. Remember, a problem is a variation to a standardized process and as such, needs to be clearly defined as best as possible before attempting to implement corrective actions.  This means collecting evidence of the problem (the frequency of occurrence, circumstances that occur when the problem does, etc.) and then using the data to validate the problem.  The problem solving process should be open to creativity and fact based.  While individuals may suggest ideas or solutions, the process is truly a team effort to work towards ideal outcomes that drive continuous improvement.  Those who are closest to the operation, process or problem are able to participate as subject matter experts, sharing their knowledge with the team to help inform decision making. As a result, those involved feel ownership of the corrective actions and a sense of pride in contributing to the kaizen event.

There are countless small and large opportunities within all organizations to apply problem solving strategies that lead to kaizen.  The collective knowledge and experience of workers should be used to help inform decision making and engage the workforce.  By effectively using problem solving strategies, organizations are able to drive continuous incremental improvements, thus adding value to the lean process.

Bicheno, J. (2008).  The Lean Toolbox for Service Systems, Production and Inventory Control, Systems and Industrial Engineering Books, PICSIE Books, Buckingham.

Cloete, B.C. (2012).  A lean six sigma approach to the improvement of the selenium analysis method.  Onderstepoort Journal of Veterinary Research, 79(1).  DOI:10.4102/ojvr.v/79i1.407

Dennis, P. (2007).  Lean Production Simplified, 2nd ed., CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida.