For many years now Toyota has used one of the most effective practical problem solving approaches ever developed. There phenomenal development and use has created opportunities for many others to innovate and develop problem solving approaches specific to ones own need. Though many approaches vary in nature the simple concept of an organization using formal methods such as DMAIC, A3 thinking and many other approaches continues to provide stability and positive results for organizations around the world.
Solutions is a 9 step approach that can help individuals and teams completely transform business process.
The format of the Solutions methodology is as follows:
Borrowing from the PDCA cycle Solutions accomplishes its planning in steps 1 through 5 and then moves on to number 6 for the doing. Once doing is complete number 7, observe full-fills the "check" phase of PDCA before coming full circle in steps 8 and 9.
Step 1 - Simplify - Sticking with the common idea that a problem can be classified as either a deviation from a standard, a gap or an unfulfilled customer need or want stage 1 focuses on simplifying the issue through direct observation. While there are many ways to "observe" an issue experiencing it first hand can help make seemingly difficult issues much simpler.
Step 2 - Organize - When a problem is broken down or simplified for a team to solve it often times comes by way of making one "huge" issue into many contributing causes. As the problem you are dealing with becomes simpler there will be a need to analyze various elements of the issue and keep the issues organized.
Step 3 - Lock-In - Now that the initial problem has been simplified and the various causes have been organized and broken down to a manageable level we are ready to lock in our targets and objectives. Here we need to clarify the resources needed and estimated amount of time required to complete the project. After a target has gained consensus with the team and any committees involved it's time to go to "work."
Step 4 - Understand - Root cause is the important idea at this point of the project. Of course one of the best practices when seeking out a root cause is to go to the cause itself and see what is happening. At this point in the problem solving journey be aware that our one issue has most likely multiplied and each of those issues will need root cause analysis performed. There usually is not just one "root cause," but many break offs.
Step 5 - Transform - Having now discovered the root cause of your problems we are ready to transform our problems by creating solutions. It goes without saying but the biggest impact solutions should be top priority.
Step 6 - Implement - Here we begin implementation of the solutions. This is the "do" of our plan, do, check act. As you may understand already pdca is cyclical by nature and with every pass approaches the target. Given that you may not hit your locked in target on the first "go around" be sure that you are aware new problems may show up that were not discovered before. Implementation of solutions like most processes is much more effective and efficient if it is performed in a single piece fashion. Try one solution at a time this will give you a better opportunity to control your solutions and adjust as needed.
Step 7 - Observe - Often times as implementation of solutions takes place there will be some adjustments needed. Step 7 is all about monitoring the outcome of your solutions and making any necessary adjustments or improving on the solutions you have used.
Step 8 - Normalize - As with any other improvement, the standard now changes and the new level of performance must become the measure.
Step 9 - Share - There is a good possibility that your solutions can help others too. Be sure to share with others too.