Friday, May 14, 2010

Common Mistakes when we are Problem Solving

Hello everyone,
I again apologize for the delay in my blog posts, I have been on the road training quite a bit the past 5 months. I have enjoyed spending time with various companies on their Lean Journey as they learn, I learn. Thank you for the opportunity.

As I spend time at various Companies across the US teaching Problem Solving, I find there common mistakes made as they are learning the process. It's easy when you are learning to quickly develop bad habits, for example:

  • Many individuals in an organization do not understand the "Purpose" or- better put -- How does their actions in solving their problem relate to the Company KPI's (Key Performance Indicators-Quality, Safety, Productivity, and Cost Q,S,P,C) Each individual should ask - Why am I selecting this problem to solve? It should be aligned with the Company Business Plan (Hoshin).
  • Not utilizing the "Power of the GEMBA",--or often referred to as "Go see the work/process".!! I often see teams working together in a room trying to solve the problem by using their experiences, hypothetical guesses, and what their opinion is. I quickly disperse the huddle to "GO-SEE" with their own eyes the current situation. When you can confirm with facts, talk to the worker, you can describe much better the "Current Situation". Then you can utilize that information to see where you are ordering to the Standard. The difference between the 2 would be your GAP. So get out from behind your desk and GO-SEE, set the standard as a leader.
  • Not finding "Root Cause"-- It's crucial when problem solving to keep asking "WHY" until you get to root cause. Often times, because we get focused on results, we only get to the "symptom level" of the problem. It's then a short term fix, and the problem is destined to return. This is not a sustainable practice, when your problem solving....please ask WHY more than once!!!
  • Not measuring in performance terms-- There are 2 questions that should ALWAYS be asked when you begin problem solving. 1. What should be happening? 2. What is actually happening? The next level is to quantify the difference between those 2 questions. If you do not have a measurable GAP, then the A3 or Problem Solving report will be very difficult to measure on the right side of the A3. How will you know your countermeasure is effectively addressing the root cause unless you have a quantifiable GAP on the left side?
  • The last common mistake I will talk about in this post is crucial in my opinion. I often see companies "put on" Kaizen Events or Kaizen Blitzes, these can be called many different things but it can give off the impression that problem solving is only done on "special occasions". If a company's desire is to be successful their motto should be: Problem Solving-Everyday-Everybody. This was a common practice for me during my time at Toyota. It is the biggest difference I see when visiting other organizations/companies--it's deemed more as "special" than the "everyday" culture.
So if you are looking at Problem Solving or Lean Implementation remember these key points, they are crucial for your success and culture change. Until next time,
Tracey Richardson


  1. I really received a nice takeaway from your post. If I am continuously asking myself the 2 questions -
    1. What should be happening?
    2. What is actually happening?

    I would ...
    1. see problems earlier.
    2. see ways to improve.
    3. be more engaged.
    4. be more prepared.

    Nice post Tracey...don't wait so long next time.

  2. Thanks J... your exactly right those are key questions !!! :)....

  3. Dear Ms.Tracey ,
    This is Premchandrahas Sastry from India.
    Iam very much interested in Lean projects.
    I came across your profile on google, as I
    was searching for consultants who were
    working on Toyota quality systems.

    I was a manufacturing team member with G.E
    Plastics Business.

    Iam also higly impressed by the way , you
    are envisaging solutions.
    Can I connect to you on Linked in.My mail id is