Friday, May 20, 2011

Lean Quote: Spend Less Time and Energy By Solving Problems

On Fridays I will post a Lean related Quote. Throughout our lifetimes many people touch our lives and leave us with words of wisdom. These can both be a source of new learning and also a point to pause and reflect upon lessons we have learned. Within Lean active learning is an important aspect on this journey because without learning we can not improve.

"Most people spend more time and energy going around problems than trying to solve them." — Henry Ford

When it come to problem solving some like band-aids and temporary solutions rather than to solve the root cause. Root cause analysis is the process of methodically gathering and ordering or ranking data about the causes of counter-quality within an organization, then identifying and assessing prevention options for implementability and effectiveness.

The following definitions are important to understand when finding the root cause.

A PROBLEM is the situation that you are primarily concerned about. Example: copy machine malfunction.
A SYMPTOM is the result or consequence of the problem. Example: blurred copies.
A CAUSE is the reason you have the problem. Example: a worn out part.
A SOLUTION is what you decide to do about the problem. Example: replace the part.

Keep in mind:
Corrective Action - Addresses the PROBLEM at hand
Root Cause Analysis - Addresses the RECURRENCE
Preventive Action - Addresses the OCCURRENCE

Root cause analysis determines the underlying cause(s) that need to be addressed to effectively prevent or to lower the probability of a recurrence of the problem. If we do a poor job of identifying the root causes of our problems, we will waste time and resources putting band-aids on the symptoms of
the problem.

Symptom Approach                     Root Cause
• “Errors are often a result of         • “Errors are the result of
worker carelessness.”                   defects in the system.
                                                       People are only part of the 

• “We need to train and                  • “We don’t have the time or
motivate workers to be                   resources to really get to the
more careful.”                                 bottom of this problem.”

• “We need to find out why this      • “This is critical. We need to 
is happening, and implement         fix it for good, or it will come
mistake proofs so it won’t              back and burn us."
happen again.”

Root cause analysis helps us reduce turnbacks and frustration, maintain customer satisfaction, and reduce costs significantly. Put your time and energy into solving problems by identifying the root causes and preventing them from occurring

Stay connect to A Lean Journey on our Facebook page or LinkedIn group.
Follow me on Twitter or connect with me on Linkedin
You can also subscribe to this feed or email to stay updated on all posts.


  1. Great quote, and I like you went further and talked about root cause.

  2. Nice quote. We also use the language:
    point of recognition: time in the process where you realize you have the problem. (like your blurred copies example).
    Point of cause: The point (time/space/location) where the problem occurred. (The copy machine in Joe's office yesterday).
    You may falsely find the "root cause" if you start problem solving at the point of recognition.

  3. Steven, I like your terminology. Thanks for sharing.

  4. For most people, it is much more fun to fiddle around with the problem and looking for who made what mistake and what action need to be taken on the person. In fact most people just do what they were told to do. And they fail to move forward

  5. Nice detailed analysis of the quote, which i failed to grab initially.
    thanks tim for your help.