Problem solving is a daily event and in organisations that have applied Lean Thinking, Problem solving begins with a good problem statement, effective root cause analysis (including 5 x Why?) and disciplined execution of the countermeasures following PDCA.
However, we have many problems in an organisation and so how do we ensure that our time is well spent and how do we manage our leaders when they ask us to tackle a problem that we may not consider as big a deal as they do?
The answer is with the H in the 5W + 1H of Problem Statement determination. As a recap:
W1: What is the Problem?
W2: Why is it a Problem?
W3: Where is it a Problem?
W4: When is it a Problem?
W5: Who is it a Problem for?
H: How much of a Problem is it?
I sometimes think that the H should be the first question that we ask, as on many occasions after thorough discussion you will discover that there is a perception of a big issue that is not rooted in fact. It is therefore extremely important that the How Much? question is answered with facts and as much as possible data. For example, if the Problem Statement is around Sales losses in a quarter due to poor Customer Service Levels, we need to ensure that we have data on the CSL over a period of time and, where possible, both quantitative and qualitative data from our customer.
The H part of the Problem Statement is therefore critical if we are to properly prioritise our efforts to improve the business and deliver the maximum improvement possible.
One of the most powerful elements of the Toyota Culture is Hansei, taking the time to reflect deeply on what went well and what didn't go well and to use this time of deep reflection to continuously improve either oneself or the process.
However, it is one of the most difficult elements of Lean Thinking to implement in an organisation, as it takes time and we're all too busy of course, aren't we? This is a key indicator of whether an organisation really does 'get' Lean and a focus area for all of us engaged in the deployment of Lean Thinking.
You can really think of Hansei in terms of PDCA, where Hansei is the Check part and integral to really following through on our discipline around the Deming Cycle, which is the essence of Continuous Improvement.
So please, find time for Hansei if you really do want to be a Lean Thinker.
"I aim to promote the global sharing of best practices in the application of Lean Thinking."