Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Don't Blame the Tools

At the Northeast Shingo Prize Conference last week my friend Jamie Flinchbaugh gave the closing keynote presentation. Jamie's talk was about the role of the manager in problem solving.
The role of the manager is not to solve all the problems but to build the systems capable of solving problems at every level.
One of Jamie's early points in his address was that he has never seen an organization fail from the problem solving tool, they fail because the don't know how to use them. He said its not PDCA, DMAIC, 5 Why's, 8D, fish bone, affinity diagrams, shainin, etc. that is important but rather the thinking and understanding of the problem.

My friend Stuart Ritchie from 1.00 FTE had a comic illustrating this point quite well on Friday.

Jamie explains that all problem solving methodologies are essentially comprised of 4 elements:

  1. How we define the problem, which establishes how we will solve it.
  2. Establishing what the current reality is from asking the right questions.
  3. Define the problem solving process (which must be defined by management):
    1. Define when we have a problem (i.e. threshold).
    2. Define how to surface problems.
    3. Define who to surface problems to.
    4. Define how we respond to problems.
  4. The behaviors that support problem solving.

For more details on these points here is a copy of Jamie's presentation from the conference:

As Mark Graban said to me last week "do the necessary work." Don't just use the tool. The point of problem solving is to learn to think and adapt to the every day challenges that prevent you from adding value. Therefore you must solve your problems and not copy someone else's solutions. It is through discovery that we truly learn.

It's not the tool that is holding you back it is how you use it.

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