Tuesday, April 7, 2009

8 Step Problem Solving - Everybody-Everyday...Is this your Culture?

In traditional Cultures only the "six sigma black belts" or "highly skilled" problem solvers are looking at the day to day issues team members may have. There are so many problems and yet not enough of the "specialized people" to go around; often we create a low morale in the workplace because team members have lost faith in management to make a difference in "their" work area.

In Toyota's culture we tend to think "Problem-Solving, Everybody-Everyday", meaning we empower our people to make a difference in their own work areas therefore in some ways they are contributing to their own job security. This is a powerful paradigm shift in how we do business in today's industry.
This can easily be applied by valuing and respecting people as the most important "asset" to the company. If we do not ask our people to think and respect that they are the "professional" on the job then we are missing out on the extraordinary "brainpower" they have to make a difference that could very well lead to improved company business indicators. This is a essential element of Toyota's culture and how they implement so many ideas that leads to improving the "cost" indicator for the company. It's not only a process the team member learns but really an "expectation" of their job to think about improvements and not become complacent in their actions.

The process used to strengthen our problem solving skills is called the 8 step Problem Solving process, some know it as TBP or Toyota Business Practices.

the 8 Steps consist of:

Step 1 - Clarifying the Problem

Step 2 - Breaking Down the Problem

Step 3- Setting a Target

Step 4 - Root Cause Analysis

STep 5 - Develop Countermeasures

Step 6 - Seeing Countermeasures Through

Step 7 - Monitor process and results

Step 8 - Standardizing and Share Successful Practices

The 8 step Problem Solving is basically PDCA, then first 5 steps of the 8 Steps are planning, Step 6, 7 ,and 8 and the D, C and the A of the process. It's a very efficient and effective way to "think", again thinking is what we should value in people.
Stayed tuned to further posts regarding the 8 Steps.
Til next time
Tracey Richardson


  1. Hi Tracey!

    I worked at TMMK as a co-op in 2008, but am no longer with the company due to the termination of the co-op program.

    I did my co-op report as a TBP, and I'd really like to make one for one of my classes in school. There was a handout that had all of the key graphics and other format details that I had at the plant,but I can't find it anywhere on line! Can you put any of these key items on your blog?

    I love the blog, by the way!

  2. Hi Tracey,

    I am a Lean apprentice and I consult at the other side of the world. I like your post here. I follow the same thinking as you - problem solving is the heart of Lean.

    Please check my problem solving blog at coffee-with-dax.blogspot.com and let's connect.

  3. Hi, Tracey!

    I am an educator in Lexington, Kentucky. I found your blog today while I was researching Toyota's 8 step problem-solving process after speaking with the Executive Director of a new organization created to transform education in our state. I was intrigued by how we might apply this process to problems in public education and am hoping to learn more in the coming months. (side note: my younger sister is a lean coordinator for a company near Asheville NC, so when I found your blog I felt like my worlds were colliding.) Thanks for sharing this post about people being the most important asset of a company. I think that is very applicable to education as well.

    1. Can you email me at improve247@gmail.com so I can discuss with you a little easier regarding your email above. I am both a teacher, Lean Six Sigma Black Belt and TBP tutor and ex; Toyota Senior Manager for Training and Development. I am currently adapting the 8 TBP steps for schools

  4. HI Renee, Can you email me at traceyr@gmail.com so I can discuss with you a little easier regarding your email above.