Friday, August 12, 2016

Lean Quote: Address the Root Cause

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.

"When solving problems, dig at the roots instead of just hacking at the leaves.— Anthony J. D’Angelo

One critical factor on which the success of a problem solving rests is whether the analysis of the problem treats the root cause of the issue or the symptoms. Treating the root cause allows for the successful resolution of the problem and a permanent fix, whereas addressing the symptoms means that the root cause remains and will manifest itself later.

A successful root cause analysis must ask the question "WHY" the process or product is defective and proceed from there to try to find answers. Repeatedly stressing the "Why" after each answer allows you to peel away the layers of symptoms, eventually leading to the root cause of a problem. 

Another simple and effective method of defining a problem is a series of questions using the five W’s and one H approach (5W1H: who, what, where, when, why, how).

Who - Who does the problem affect? Specific groups, organizations, customers, etc.
What - What are the boundaries of the problem, e.g. organizational, work flow, geographic, customer, segments, etc. - What is the issue? - What is the impact of the issue? - What impact is the issue causing? - What will happen when it is fixed? - What would happen if we didn’t solve the problem?
When - When does the issue occur? - When does it need to be fixed?
Where - Where is the issue occurring? Only in certain locations, processes, products, etc.
Why - Why is it important that we fix the problem? - What impact does it have on the business or customer? - What impact does it have on all stakeholders, e.g. employees, suppliers, customers, shareholders, etc.
How - How many parts are involved? How are you going to solve the problem? Using what method or techniques?

Each of these answers will help to zero in on the specific issue(s) and define the problem statement. Your problem statement should be solvable. That is, it should take a reasonable amount of time to formulate, try and deploy a potential solution.

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