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Lean Tools, Training, and Systems

Problem Solving

Problem solving tools and lean methods for continuous process improvement

Problem Solving Tools

make problem solving techniques easier

Here at Systems2win, our mission is to help you
continuously improve your tools, training, and systems for continuous improvement

A truth is that

problem solving templates have value
only in the context of appropriate problem solving techniques

so each of your Systems2win Excel templates includes training (and often videos) for 'How to do it'

Problem Solving Tools

Use your Tool Selection Matrix
to choose the right
Problem Solving Templates

Problem Solving Templates

often provide a first glimpse of a new Lean method

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 an urgent crisis

If you are in a crisis at this moment, then you will want to:


Is it your job to put out fires?
or to prevent them?

  1. Quickly choose any one of the following problem solving approaches...
  2. Go put out your fire... and then...
  3. Bookmark this web site... to come back when the ashes begin to settle

and then set aside some quality time to begin learning
how to design and use field proven systems to prevent fires

(and have a whole lot more enjoyable and successful career)

Problem Solving Methods

Lean Methods for Problem Solving

By far the most well-known lean problem solving technique is PDCA.

PDCA Lean Methodology

If you happen to be in crisis fire fighting mode, you will appreciate some of its virtues:

  1. Simple (only 4 steps)
  2. Able to be applied quickly to almost any situation
  3. 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 with the PDCA Lean Methodology


DMAIC Methodology

or the DMAIC Methodology

(which is very similar to PDCA, yet more popular in the world of Six Sigma quality improvement)


The Scientific Method

the scientific method

At the root of every lean method is the scientific method:

  1. Come up with a hypothesis

    a theory of how something works, and how something that you might do might affect it

  2. Try an experiment — to test your theory.
  3. Observe, study, analyze, and reflect on the results.
  4. Do something with your newfound knowledge:
    1. If your theory seems wrong or incomplete — come up with a new hypothesis, and a new experiment to test it
    2. If your theory seems right — apply your new knowledge, and publish your results so others can benefit.

And then choose your next puzzle to solve — in a virtuous cycle of continuous improvement.

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


A3 Problem Solving

If you only use 1 problem solving tool,

your A3 Report template is a great choice.

A3 Problem Solving

is a highly visual, teachable, repeatable way to systematically and consistently complete each of the 8 steps in the 8-Step Problem Solving method.

A3 Problem Solving template

A3 template and training
for 8 Step Problem Solving

8-Step Problem Solving

The Toyota 8-Step Problem Solving Method is the backbone structure for A3 Problem Solving and PDCA



  1. Clarify the problem
  2. Break down the problem
  3. Set the target
  4. Analyze the root cause


  1. Conceive countermeasures
  2. Implement countermeasures


  1. Monitor and evaluate results
    (and the processes that produce the results)


  1. Standardize and socialize success

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

While A3 Problem Solving is scalable to serve well for both:

  1. One-on-one short mentoring sessions
  2. and longer projects that might involve groups of stakeholders and decision-makers

Kata coaching is designed mostly for one-on-one short mentoring sessions.

It 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.

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.

5S to Reveal Problems

Problems can only be solved if they can be seen.

That's the purpose of 5S tools and systems:

to establish a culture where people are encouraged and rewarded to find and expose problems, (not hide them), so that those problems can then be systematically reduced or eliminated.

And people grow to trust that attention will be on solving problems... not blaming people.

5S checklist

Is Is Not Problem Analysis

You can use your button to 'Insert Sheet'

to insert a sheet into any Excel document

for Is Is Not Problem Analysis to clearly define what your problem is (and is not).

Tools to Solve Quality Problems

Your Systems2win templates have an entire suite of Quality Improvement 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.

Risk Analysis

If risk lies at the heart of the problems you're seeking to solve,
then use your FMEA and other templates to Design For Six Sigma.

8D Problem Solving Approach

Have a vexing quality problem that might (or might not) involve a supplier?

Use your 8D Problem Solving template (8D.xlsx)
and/or Corrective Action Request (SCAR.docx)

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.

Jidoka Swarming

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.

Issues & Ideas template

Lean Management Systems

If you've always solved problems using the same tired problem solving methods,

then you might be stuck in a pattern
of always coming back to a few same tired suggestions for solutions.


Every lean tool needs
a corresponding
Lean Coaching System

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.

One Good Idea Problem Solving tool


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.

Brainstorming template

Problem Solving Approval Form

You can easily use the button to 'Insert Sheet' to add an Approval form to any Excel workbook for any type of problem solving tool

to add a very clear, concise, and visual system to ensure that all decision-makers and stakeholders approve of the work done by the problem solver.

Problem Solving Approval form

Human thinking

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.

human problem solving

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.

Tool Matrix

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.

Click here for the printable PDF version of this Decision Logic Flowchart


Problem Solving Decision Logic Flowchart of Lean Methods

Each problem solving lean method has an associated problem solving template

Process Analysis

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

yamzumi Pareto Chart

Your process analysis tools can be used as needed when employing any of the above problem solving methods.

Root Cause Analysis

cartoon big glasses

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 online training to

Choose the right Root Cause Analysis Tools

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.

Value List template Decision PICK Matrix

Your decision making tools can be used as needed with any of the above lean problem solving methods.

Own all 150+ Problem Solving Templates

to empower every team member

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