Problem solving tools and lean methods for continuous process improvement
150+ Problem Solving Tools
Problem Solving Tools
Here at Systems2win, our mission is to help you
continuously improve your tools for continuous improvement
and yet the truth is that problem solving tools have value
only in the context of appropriate problem solving techniques.
Lean Methods for Problem Solving
Ideally, problem solving is done to accomplish strategically aligned objectives
in the context of an organization-wide lean transformation.
We recognize, however, that more often than not,
people first get introduced to their very first lean problem solving tools
because they are in crisis-fire-fighting mode at the moment.
Is it your job to put out fires?
If that's where you are at this moment, then you will want to:
and then set aside some quality time
to begin learning
PDCA Lean Methodology
By far the most well-known lean problem solving technique is PDCA.
If you happen to be in crisis fire fighting mode,
you will appreciate some of its virtues:
- Simple (only 4 steps)
- Able to be applied quickly to almost any situation
- Robust enough that it still works reasonably well, even if poorly applied by someone who really doesn't know much of anything else about other lean methods.
If you only have time to learn one problem solving approach,
you can't go wrong by starting with the PDCA Lean Methodology
or the DMAIC Methodology
(which is very similar to PDCA, yet more popular in the world of Six Sigma)
Bookmark = science
The Scientific Method
At the root of every lean method is the scientific method:
And then choose your next puzzle to solve —
There's no such thing as a failed experiment
Learn why there is no such thing as a failed experiment
Lean Methods & Problem Solving Tools
Problem solving tools and methods are useful only to the extent that they stimulate human thinking.
When using any problem solving tool or method,
always visit the Hansei page,
which is overflowing with questions designed to stimulate human thinking.
A3 Problem Solving
Your A3 Report template (A3Report.docx)
can be used as a Team Charter, or a project status report,
but is most popularly (and powerfully) used as a problem solving tool.
In fact, if you only use 1 problem solving tool, this would be a good choice.
Many teams use their A3 Standard Operating Procedure template (A3SOP.docx)
without any changes. Others use it as a helpful starting point
to personalize the problem solving steps that might be somewhat unique to your organization.
Your A3 Approvals template (A3Approvals.xlsx)
provides an easy-to-use at-a-glance visual system
to quickly empower people that come up with great ideas
(no matter where they fit in your organization chart).
Kaizen Events for Problem Solving
If you have the luxury of being able to sequester 5-10 people for 1-5 days
to devote 100% of their attention to solve one clearly-defined problem,
then a Kaizen Event can produce head-turning results.
When you download your dozen free trial templates
you also get a dozen additional free templates that have no time expiration, including most of the templates that you need to thoroughly prepare to lead a kaizen event, and to follow it up to ensure that each team actually accomplishes their chartered mission.
Kata Coaching for PDCA Problem Solving
The PDCA/PDSA scientific method lies at the heart
of every lean tool, every lean method, and every lean principle.
Define the Problem
Do an experiment
Check/Study the results of your experiment
Act on your findings to start a new experiment
or standardize the new (better) way
Kata coaching is a popular new way to systematize the way that you coach every middle manager to coach every team leader to approach obstacles to Strategic Targets — using the PDCA scientific method.
Six Sigma Tools to Solve Quality Problems
Your Systems2win templates have an entire suite of Six Sigma Tools
to help you identify root causes and possible countermeasures
for a wide variety of 'things that can go wrong'
that can affect the quality of your deliverable products and services.
8D Problem Solving Approach
Have a vexing quality problem that might (or might not) involve a supplier?
8-Step Problem Solving
Toyota uses an 8-Step Problem Solving Method for PDCA.
- Clarify the problem
- Break down the problem
- Set the target
- Analyze the root cause
- Conceive countermeasures
- Implement countermeasures
- Monitor and evaluate results
(and the processes that produce the results)
- Standardize and socialize success
7-Step Problem Solving
A quick internet search will reveal that just about every consultant and author
that has any opinion about either lean or six sigma
has published his or her own version of suggested 'Problem Solving Steps'.
You will find multiple variations of 5-Step, 6-Step, 7-Step, 8-Step, 9-Step, and 10-Step methods.
7 Steps seems to be the most popular.
No two approaches are identical, and yet all are very similar.
If a Change Agent in your organization has a favorite X-Step Problem Solving Approach,
then by all means, use it.
One of the core lean principles is to swarm quality problems.
When anyone identifies a quality problem, work is stopped, (so that no more defects are produced),
and a team of people from many parts of the organization
swarm to quickly identify and eliminate the root causes,
and then to institute countermeasures to ensure that that never happens again.
Problem Solving using Project Management
The opposite of Jidoka Swarming is to 'form a committee'.
If you are a leader or manager, then you will inevitably find yourself leading a wide variety of teams.
Value Stream teams, Lean teams, Six Sigma teams, Quality Circles, Hoshin Strategic Deployment teams, Kaizen teams, your Executive Steering Committee team, and yes, even some traditional project management teams.
Your Systems2win templates come with templates and training for how to launch any type of team for continuous process improvement, and how to follow up to ensure that each team actually accomplished their charted mission.
Download free templates for lean team leadership
Issues & Ideas
Only unresolved issues & ideas should be recorded within your 'Issues & Ideas' template. (Issues.xlsx)
Copy non-urgent potential future issues to your 'Potential Future' workbook (PotentialFuture.xlsx)
so that they don't clutter up your current Issues List,
but you don't forget about these potential future issues
once the more urgent issues have been resolved.
As soon as an issue or idea is resolved
it should be removed from your Issues Worksheet list,
and your decision(s) should be documented in some form of Standard Work.
Problem Solving using Lean Management Systems
If you've always solved problems using the same tired problem solving methods,
Every lean tool needs
Lean Coaching System
then you might be stuck in a pattern
of always coming back to a few same tired suggestions for solutions.
At the core of every Lean Management System
are a few field-proven approaches for problem solving.
Problem solving techniques that have worked for others
in situations that might be very similar to yours.
Why not learn about some Lean Management Systems
that might bring some fresh ideas and energy to the teams that you lead?
Just Do It
Some ideas are so obviously worthwhile and easy to implement
that they simply don't justify a complex problem solving process.
These ideas are commonly called 'Just Do It', or JDI's.
One great use of your 'One Good Idea' template (GoodIdea.xlsx)
is to serve as a storyboard to quickly explain
"What was the problem, and how was it solved?"
in a way that can be socialized and archived.
Even if an idea at first seems "obviously worthwhile",
if you take the time to brainstorm additional ideas,
and/or ideas for how to improve upon the original idea...
your brainstorming efforts are almost always rewarded
with a new idea that proves even better than the first.
No matter whether you use your Brainstorming template
or just use magic markers on a flip board,
any team leader or facilitator will be wise to bookmark and return often
to the training page that has step-by-step instructions for how to lead
several popular alternative methods for brainstorming.
Tool Selection Matrix
Use your Tool Selection Matrix (1ToolSelection.xlsx)
to select the right Process Improvement Tool
for each unique type of problem that you encounter on your lean journey.
Download free Tool Selection Matrix
Which Problem Solving Tools?
Use the Decision Logic Flowchart (below)
to choose which lean methods and problem solving tools to use.
You can click any of the images of the continuous improvement templates
to learn more about the problem solving tools that are used for each method.
Click here for the printable PDF version of this Decision Logic Flowchart
Most problems are complex enough to deserve more thorough analysis
before jumping into pre-conceived pet ideas for how to 'solve' the problem
Your Systems2win templates also come with an entire suite of templates
to apply systematic (teachable, repeatable) systems for how to analyze a process
Your process analysis tools can be used as needed
Root Cause Analysis
Before you start 'solving' a problem...
an early step should almost always be
to identify the root causes
Perhaps use these templates
to apply systematic (teachable, repeatable) systems for root cause analysis.
See our online training page to
for deploying different lean methods for problem solving.
Decision Making Tools
At some point, problem analysis needs to culminate
with some (hopefully well-considered) decisions.
Your Systems2win templates include a variety of templates
to apply systematic (teachable, repeatable) systems for consensus building and decision making.
Your decision making tools can be used as needed
Own all 150+ Lean Problem Solving Tools
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