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Friday, January 18, 2013

Lean Quote: Problem Solving Begets 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.

"All progress is precarious, and the solution of one problem brings us face to face with another problem." — Martin Luther King Jr.

If you are seeking a quick and successful lean implementation, forget it. Quite simply, lean implementations frequently are referred to as lean journeys for good reason: They take time, and they are not always straightforward.

It is not unusual to observe the phenomenon of how solving one problem begets more problems.  BUT, is this a reason to not solve the problem at all?  No, we are all faced with problems to solve in our workday. The problem for most people is that they do not use a process to solve problems or to make decisions. Another problem is that people are not consistent in how they solve problems. They do not find something that works and then do it the same way over and over to be successful.

A simple, pragmatic problem solving methodology is the Plan, Do, Check, Act (PDCA) approach. It begins with a Planning phase in which the problem is clearly identified and understood. Potential solutions are then generated and tested on a small scale in the "Do" phase, and the outcome of this testing is evaluated during the Check phase. "Do" and "Check" phases can be iterated as many times as is necessary before the full, polished solution is implemented in the "Act" phase.

The PDCA cycle model is built as a continuous loop and this loop ensures that processes are frequently revisited. This is very beneficial to organizations because if something changes or isn't working to satisfaction it can be changed. It also reduces the chance of something that isn't quite working to be inadvertently overlooked.

I can’t emphasize enough the importance of checking that your solutions do in fact address the root cause. When you solve problems in your business remember you are not done until the testing is conclusive. The beauty of the PDCA beyond its simplicity is the iterative problem solving cycle which if followed gets to the root of the problem.

Striving for excellence is an ongoing process that requires persistence. I often say that it is the Lean leader who must apply constant gentle pressure if they want Lean to be a success. Dogged persistence will assure that Lean actually happens.

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