Friday, January 22, 2010

Are you asking the right questions?

The more I teach problem solving "thinking" at various companies these days, the more I realize that its not just about following the specific steps to problem solve, or filling out an A3 to tell your story...but more so asking yourself or others the right questions. I will borrow a quote from my friend, colleague, and mentor John Shook; he said it perfectly in his column at www.lean.org.

"Lean management is very much about asking questions and trying things, or encouraging others to try things. Lean management itself is not much about providing the right answer but it is very much about asking the right question."
As I have discussed in past blogs, Genchi Genbutsu is a essential element to get the facts. In American terms it means to Go and See at the GEMBA. In Today's environment we tend to rely on our past experiences, tenure, or what we feel is the best countermeasure based on the time we give ourselves to really get to "root cause", rather than invest in Go and See. Not only is that important but as you Go and See as a leader and a problem solver its essential to ask yourself or others the right questions.

For every problem the questions could change, but there are simple ways to inquire what the current situation may be. For Instance, using a the 5 W's as a stratification tool, or even the 4 M's, P's or S's . See below:

WHAT
WHO
WHEN
WHERE
WHY

MAN
METHOD
MATERIAL
MACHINE

PROCESS
PRODUCTIVITY
PLACE
PRICE
PEOPLE
PRODUCT

SYSTEM
SUPPLIER
SKILLS

These questions below may help initiate your inquiry for yourself or others solving problems.

What is the real problem?
What should be happening?
Is there data to support?
Who is it affecting?
Does it happen on all shifts, time frames?
Does this happen certain times of the year?
Where is it happening? which area?
How many times has this occurred?
Is it on a specific machine, part?
What is the standard or expectation for this problem?
Is there a process? Have you gone and seen the process?
Does this involve a supplier?
Does this happen in all work processes?
Does this affect productivity, safety or quality?
Does this involve a team member's safety?
What have you investigated so far? and How do you know?
What are the causes, or why is this happening?
Are there similarities or differences?

There are many other types of questions when you are dealing with specific topics in your work environment but these should "spark" your thoughts when your at the GEMBA ---Asking the right questions.
Til Next time,
@tracey_san
Tracey Richardson

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