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Problem solving tools and lean methods for continuous process improvement
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'
Use your Tool Selection Matrix
to choose the right
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?
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)
Lean Methods for Problem Solving
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:
If you only have time to learn one problem solving approach,
you can't go wrong with the PDCA Lean 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
At the root of every lean method is the scientific method:
a theory of how something works, and how something that you might do might affect it
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
If you only use 1 problem solving tool,
your A3 Report template is a great choice.
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 template and training
for 8 Step Problem Solving
The Toyota 8-Step Problem Solving Method is the backbone structure for A3 Problem Solving and PDCA
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:
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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)
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.
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
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.
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.
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 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.
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 Selection Matrix
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
Each problem solving lean method has an associated problem solving template
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 when employing any of the above problem solving methods.
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.
Your decision making tools can be used as needed with any of the above lean problem solving methods.
to empower every team member
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