Fearless Problem Solving [Guest Post]

by Donald Sweigart on June 14, 2011 · 1 comment

Guest Post: Donald Sweigart worked with “The Body Shop @” which developed the “Star-Link Certified” Lean business model improving Profitability, CSI, and Cycle Time in the Collision Repair Industry. This model is now licensed by a Fortune 100 in it’s Industry-wide Lean Training. His passion is implementing Lean solutions in industry.

You can’t fix a problem that you are afraid of.

Sometimes an issue comes up that scares you. Fear will cause you to experience the fight or flight response. Removing the fear is easier if you have a process.

This emotional response will stop you from making good decisions regarding the issue. To get around the emotions and back to rational thinking you need to have a good system for solving any issue. Lean systems approach the problem solving process using a couple of different ways. One way to work through it is the PDCA cycle. Using the PDCA cycle helps eliminate our innate methods of dealing with problems. As humans we think that we are logical rational thinkers, but we are not. We are far from it and realizing this will help when dealing with any issue. Removing the emotions has to be the first step.

Let’s say a long time customer calls to let you know that they have found another supplier that they will be buying from. Nowadays, you should be expecting that call but don’t panic! That will not help to fix anything. You will need to remove all emotions to be able to think this through. After your blood pressure returns to normal, you can start to find out what you will do. Get everyone involved and ask for their input. Everyone means everyone, sometimes you will get the info you need from the place you expect the least. I actually got great information from a shop maintenance employee one time who I thought would have no information about a specific problem at all.

Take out a sheet of paper and start with the 5 W’s, who, what, when, where and why. There will be lots of ideas. Brainstorm everything you can about each one of these and add any others that pop up. Now that you have a starting point, the hard work begins. Hansei, or deep reflection will be your best friend here. Get anything out of your way that needs to be done now so that you will have time to reflect with an open uncluttered mind. Have your team do this also. Always give yourself a day and a night before doing anything. Your mind will work on whatever issues have come up in the background. After a good night’s sleep you will feel much better and ideas and solutions will appear.

Get the team back together and decide what to do. After the points of action are decided, get the team to look at it closely and make sure that everyone is agreed on the plan. Now that you have actions, assign the responsibilities and turn them into a PDCA format. The Plan-Do-Check-Act format will help get the proposed actions done, but more importantly this cycle will give you a new Standard(which is probably what caused the original issue) that can be turned into an SDCA cycle: Standardize-Do-Check-Action cycle. When you hopefully find the thing that your customer is not satisfied with, you can make a new Standard to address that issue. Usually a customer is dissatisfied with either the way you do things sometimes or something that you don’t do all the time.

Quality to a customer is something you either have or don’t have.

It is your job to find out what their idea of quality is, and it never ends. Having a process to solve issues is a team effort in any quality process.

1 Eric June 14, 2011 at 1:02 pm

Great post – it seems like a natural reaction to avoid problems until they’re completely unavoidable. One thing that I think is important also is prioritization using data when possible. When you don’t have data, you can prioritize with brainstorming, but pareto analysis is the best way to visualize the true problem. Otherwise, you’re attacking an x that may only be a small percentage of your gap.

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