Wednesday, October 21, 2020

DIVE Deep to Understand Root Causes and Solve Problems

In lean manufacturing, root cause countermeasure tools are often used to help perform the necessary discovery and analysis, and to provide the insight needed to develop an effective and permanent solution.

Good problem solving is an iterative effort that requires strong leadership, good teamwork and relentless follow-through. If it were easy, you wouldn’t need to spend time diving deep in an effort to understand the root causes and solutions. You’d simply solve the problem.

The DIVE acronym (Define, Investigate, Verify, and Ensure) outlines the key elements of root cause analysis problem solving.


Root cause analysis requires taking the necessary time to both analyze and affect change deeply so that we achieve a permanent positive outcome.  Here is a high-level outline of the DIVE process:

D – Define the Problem consists of narrowing and then accurately articulating a problem statement based on real data trends, determining if the performance gap is a “caused” or a “self-created” problem, and understanding clearly why the problem needs solving.  The mnemonic image used here is a tree, where the branches represent symptoms and the roots represent the problem’s true source.  A team approach is critical at this stage – all interested parties need to gather and agree or affecting change may be difficult later.

I – Investigate Root Causes includes going to the actual location of the problem to focus further our attention.  We then use the “5 Whys” questioning framework (creating a casual chain) to dive deeply and thereby form a hypothesis about possible root causes.  Next, we gather data at the problem source and compare this data with our initial hypothesis.  Put simply, it’s the scientific method; and the mnemonic image used here is a funnel, aka deductive reasoning that drives our thinking ever downward to the fundamental causes of our problem.  What’s fun about this stage is that we get to use math and draw histograms!  Specifically, we deploy the Pareto method, i.e. 80% of an issue typically results from only 20% of its root causes.  Pareto analysis allows us to make the biggest (and quickest) impact to our problem with the least amount of energy.   Remember to spend most of your time in the Define and Investigate phases, so you don’t waste resources later “fixing” a mere symptom instead of a root cause.

V – Verify and Implement. This stage is where we evaluate possible (realistic) countermeasures.  Verification includes testing these countermeasures and validating their effectiveness.  Once we’re satisfied that our get-well plan might work, we implement our countermeasures and then watch.  We need to confirm through monitoring that the previously identified problem or gap is closing.

E – Ensure Sustainment.  A few of our countermeasures will be more effective than others.  Let’s keep the effective countermeasures in play because they had the greatest impact.  We’ll also need to rebuild any standard work processes that relied on the older (less effective) process and deploy additional resources to sustain the change we’ve just implemented.  Long term, we’ll return to the source of the problem to ensure results consistently improve over time.

The goal of the DIVE method is to provide a reliable and robust way for people to analyze problems in a structured and consistent manner, identify causes, and develop and implement preventative actions that can be sustained over time to keep the problem for recurring.


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