6 Questions About Problem Solving on a Daily Basis
You experience it on a daily basis: problems arise, reappear and don’t get solved. They eat away at the time and energy of your teams. You try and solve them as best as you can, often incomprehensively and without any structure.
You can do better. For instance by seeing problem solving as an opportunity to improve and grow your business. Or by organizing and supporting your teams so that they see problem solving as a toolbox, essential to your daily operations. To achieve this, integrating a Daily Management System (DMS) could be of great help.
Why Problem Solving?
It’s a tool we simply cannot do without. It’s a method to improve your business by suppressing elements that hinder the performance of your operations, your company’s reputation, and the morale of your troops.
Your operational problems have a great impact on your performance indicators. They slow you down, force you to repeat work and represent tremendous costs. And when these problems are not tackled head-on to identify their root causes, they simply reappear.
Your business’s reputation is based on the added value you give to your customers. They expect quality products, delivered on time, at the right price. Each of these aspects is subject to disturbances that should be dealt with in a timely and efficient manner to minimize their impact on your customers.
Your teams inherently want to be efficient; they are galvanized when they generate value. Problems are often perceived as a thorn in the flesh of the company, impeding on the performance of team members.
How Do Your Team Members React to Problems?
Are problems seen as an opportunity for improvement? Probably not! All too often, a problem is seen as an additional workload that disrupts the day’s programme. To get rid of it, we quickly go into solution mode without taking the time to define and understand the problem. Action-Reaction!
Solving a problem can take time, a resource that is oh so scarce. And since we cannot find the root cause of the problem, we don’t understand what is really happening. We work unilaterally without bringing in the expert resources, and the employees who actually suffer from the problem. We implement prompt—yet insufficient—actions.
In a nutshell, we do not take the time to solve problems so that they don’t reappear. To remedy this, we have to implement structure and give ourselves the means to do so.
Who Takes Part in Problem Solving?
Problem solving requires a multidisciplinary approach. The process does not depend on a single person. We have to surround that person with resources that will act as experts or shine a new light on the situation without even knowing all the details. This means thinking out of the box.
But even then, we should get feedback from employees affected by the problem. These people are essential in defining the problem and identifying its root causes. They can also provide potential solutions.
Senior staff members should also take an active role in problem solving. They validate the process, confirm or invalidate the investments in corrective controls, and monitor the performance of such controls.
In brief, each member of the organization contributes to problem solving. When your teams are empowered to solve problems, they act promptly and make sure the issues won’t arise again.
What Skills Do Your Teams Employ in Problem Solving?
The more your employees commit to problem solving, the more efficient they get at applying the methodology and using the tools.
Some of them should master basic tools such as the 5 whys, Ishikawa diagram and Pareto chart. These methods alone can help solve most problems.
Other advanced tools such as AMDEC, 8D, A3, DMAAC and VSM can be used. They can be used individually or jointly with the basic ones, depending on the nature of the problem.
In order to be more effective, facilitators can be appointed to guide the team as they solve problems. These resources determine which tools to use, at which moment, and lead the team toward the right solutions.
How Can a DMS Structure Problem Solving?
As mentioned above, the lack of time and structure hinders problem solving. How can you organize your business so that your teams are not left to their own devices?
Problem solving should be part of your daily routine. You have to take time to tackle these issues systematically, as they arise. An appropriate daily management system allows to set time aside for problem solving on a daily or weekly basis. Typically, 30-minute sessions, once or twice a week, enable rapid progress with ongoing cases.
A team of stakeholders agrees to meet during these sessions. The group includes the facilitator (expert on tools), the manager or supervisor, a few employees affected by the problem, and one or two subject matter experts.
Together they define, analyze and choose the solutions that will help in solving the problem. This results in action plans. The next sessions are for following up. It is important not to use these teamwork sessions to address the components of the action plan; they should rather be addressed on the field, according to a predetermined timeline.
The problems your business is experiencing vary in magnitude and complexity. It would be wrong to believe that problems only affect one department, or one team. There are cases where they can have an impact on whole sites. It is therefore appropriate to categorize problems and to appoint the persons who have the know-how and authority to solve them. You can also escalate issues according to the same parameters.
How Can Problem Solving Be Addressed?
Few companies can boast the fact that they address problem solving like Toyota does, where it is firmly attached to the company culture.
Most crucially, managers should address problems so that each employee takes his/her role in solving them. As stated by Michael Ballé, PhD, author of several books on Lean management, each employee should develop autonomy in a problem-solving context:
By affording to stop and try to correct each problem that arises;
By knowing how to solve a problem in various contexts;
By learning how to identify and report a problematic situation.
Integrating an appropriate DMS to document and prioritize problems will streamline the process and help your teams. Such a solution helps to centralize actions in order to track trends and indicators, and to make issues visible across the company.
An aspect that should not be left aside: the permanence of the corrective measures implemented must be monitored and reinforced. You should track the performance of these measures after a given time. Perform periodic audits. Celebrate success.
Bringing all these pieces together will reinforce your company culture and reorient it toward a continuous improvement culture, where each individual, regardless of his or her hierarchic level, will contribute to problem solving. If you are considering incorporating a daily management system in your organization, contact us for a demonstration!