CI Tools

Do you want to boost your team creativity? Use and teach PDCA.

Employees are used to following instructions, if they have a problem, they call the boss and wait for instructions.  When you start the continuous improvement journey, you will empower them to find solutions for their daily issues.  The first time you tell them that they will look at you with disbelief, and the next couple of weeks, and months they will wait for your change in opinion.

Why do they react that way?  First, because after years of not-thinking and waiting for others to solve some problems while they know the solutions seem unreal.  The second reason is fear of what can happen to them if they messed up.  But, by using PDCA and teaching them how to use it, you are going to help them to learn a standard way to solve problems.  PDCA is a guide, a standard of the thinking process to solve a problem.  

When you participate with the team on the problem-solving process using PDCA, they learn and start to trust this new tool.  Because most of the time, the first solution is not the right one, they also learn that it is ok to make mistakes.   When you react to those mistakes by reflecting on the lessons learned and adjusting the plan based on those learnings, they notice it and gain the confidence to do the same.  If you consistently follow that pattern, you will be developing trust, which is critical for a continuous improvement culture.

PDCA is not only the standard to solve problems, but a way to boost their creativity by unleashing their ideas in a controlled test environment.  Over time, they learn more about how to use the tool, but also about how thinking without limits, about new and creative ways to solve problems, and improve their processes.  When that happens, you will be the one in disbelief, asking yourself why you did not start doing this before. 

CI Tools

What is the fishbone diagram? Problem-solving using the cause and effect analysis to find the root cause.

Problem-solving is the process of finding a solution to a problem.  ASQ defines problem-solving as the act of defining a problem; determining the cause of the problem; identifying, prioritizing, and selecting alternatives for a solution; and implementing a solution.  It sounds complicated, and it is complicated.  After all, we are looking for an often-elusive solution for complicated and recurrent problems.

There are various problem-solving methodologies, PDCA, DMAIC, 8D, and others.  The effectiveness of all of them depends on the definition of the problem and finding its root cause.  Tools like fishbone analysis, or the 5 Why facilitates the process to find the root cause.

Today, I will focus on the tool commonly known as the fishbone diagram, but it is also known as Ishikawa Analysis or Cause & Effect diagram.  The diagram looks like a fishbone, with the problem description at the head and five categories as bones attached to the fish backbone.  The categories are the five M’s; material, manning or personnel, method or process, measurements, machine, or equipment.  Some people add a sixth category, environment, or mother nature.

The steps to complete the Ishikawa analysis are the following.

  1. Define the problem.
  2. Identify the major factors or categories, you can use your categories, or some of the general categories indicated above.
  3. Brainstorm possible causes with the team
  4. For each cause identified, continue to ask “why” that happens and attach that information as another bone of the category branch. You can see an example in the fishbone above, in the category machine.
  5. Construct the actual diagram
  6. Analyze to find the most basic causes of the problem, look for causes that appear repeatedly.
  7. Reach team consensus

The goal of RCA is to identify one or two reasons, that, if corrected will reduce recurrence.  The rule of thumb is that if there are three or more root causes, you can assume the root cause has not yet been found, and you need additional investigation.  In summary, keep digging!

CI Tools

Do you really want to go back to normal? Business as usual, will not going to cut it anymore.

These days you can hear the phrase when we go back to normal, dozens of times a day.  We all want to return to our normal lives, right?

As a lean practitioner, I believe that each event is a learning opportunity, the coronavirus pandemic is no different.  During these slower days, there is time to learn new things and plan for the future.  Lean is all about learning, experimenting, and adapting.  That is just what everybody needs to learn now.  Every day I read about how people are adapting to the new normal, and many are using lean or continuous improvement thinking without knowing it.  For me, at this moment, Lean style problem solving is the on-demand skill.

I am not the only one that thinks that way.  Last year, the Indiana Department of Workforce Development (DWD), published Indiana’s Employability Skills Benchmarks.  It describes a set of 18 workplace skills recommended for success in today’s competitive workforce.  One of the skills identified in the learning strategies category is problem-solving.  

The way each business adapts the operation to comply with the CDC guidelines is unique.   The solutions are not one-size-fits-all, and on top of that, those guidelines change as they gathered more information.   Learning how to use a systematic process like PDCA and apply lean thinking is critical to identify and implement the new operational guidelines for your business.  

This situation catches most people without the skills to learn and adapt, but it is never late to start.  You are on time to start using lean thinking to approach the current challenges.  With practice, you can build that muscle memory that will guide you through times like this.  The new normal then should be something better than before the coronavirus pandemic.  It is like when you create the future state value-stream-map, imagine a better and stronger business and plan how to make it happen!  Many will go back to business as usual, your competitive advantage will be your new way to do business.

Better Process Solutions can help you to start designing your new processes, get in touch!