Four Types of Problems by Art Smalley

Four Problem Solving Types

Four Types of Problems: from reactive troubleshooting to creative innovation by Art Smalley (2018,
 Lean Enterprise Institute, Inc. ) is a fascinating book focusing on dividing problem solving and innovation into four major types:

  1. Troubleshooting: A reactive process of rapidly fixing abnormal conditions by returning things to immediately known standards. While beneficial in the immediate term this approach often fails to solve the problem’s root cause.
  2. Gap-from-standard: A structured problem-solving process that aims more at the root cause through problem definition, goal setting, analysis, countermeasure implementation, checks, standards, and follow-up activities.
  3. Target-state: Continuous improvement that goes beyond existing levels of performance to achieve new and better standards or conditions.
  4. Open-ended and Innovation: Unrestricted pursuit through creativity and synthesis of a vision or ideal condition that entail radical improvements and unexpected products, processes, systems, or value for the customer beyond current levels.

Art Smalley is a well known Lean expert, and this book definitely grows out of the wisdom and is a pretty good read. He shares
the strengths and weakness of each problem solving technique providing many points of introspection, such as the questions at the end of each chapter and excellent illustrations.

This book provides s a framework, a mental model, to effectively approach and assess a situation in order to seek and bring the appropriate kind of thinking to calmly, confidently address the problem at hand.

In many ways this book was my favorite quality book of 2018. I think it could serve as a valuable primer and I’m contemplating how to use it for internal training this year.

Conference Speaking

Conference proposals are a different writing beast than articles or columns or papers. Don’t be coy. Don’t give us a promise.  Tell us the problems and what we will learn.

Johanna Rothman “Writing Advice for Conference Proposals”

Good advice from Johanna Rothman on conference proposal writing.

Giving back to the profession, sharing best practices and lessons is an important part of being an ethical practioner, and also a great way to build your career. Preparing and speaking at a conference is also a great way to build connections with the material and to stretch in order to build expertise.

In 2019 I’m speaking at 4 conferences:

In addition, I tend to speak at a variety of internal events and provide a ton of training.

I hope to run into some of you at these events next year.

ASQ Lean and Six Sigma Conference – Speaker

I will be presenting at the ASQ Lean and Six Sigma Conference on March 5, 2019 on the topic “Training as Part of Lean Change Management.”

If you plan on being at the conference, let me know. I always enjoy sitting down with colleagues and chatting.

This topic unites three of my passions: change management, knowledge management and continuous improvements. 

One of the key parts of any change stemming from a project is preparing people to actually do the work effectively. Every change needs to train and building valid and reliable training at the right level for the change is critical.

Training is valid when it is tied to the requirements of the job – the objectives; and when it includes evaluations that are linked to the skills and knowledge started in the objectives. Reliability means that the training clearly differentiates between those who can perform the task and those who cannot.

In this session we will take a risk based training approach to the best outcome for training. The following criteria will be examined and a tool provided for decision making:

  • Is a change in knowledge or skills needed to execute the changed process?
  • Is the process or change complex? Are there multiple changes?
  • Criticality of Process and risk of performance error? What is the difficulty in detecting errors?
  • What is the identified audience (e.g., location,size, department, single site vs. multiple sites)?
  • Is the goal to change workers conditioned behavior?

Armed with these criteria, participants will then be exposed to specific training tools to enable quick adoption of the training:reader-doer, pre-job briefings, and structured discussions. Advantages of each method, as well as common mistakes will be evaluated.

Knowledge management as a key enabler to lean improvements will be examined. Participants will gain an understanding of how to draw from their organizations formal and informal knowledge management systems, and gain an understanding a tool to ensure results of a lean project feedback into the knowledge management system.

Participants will leave this training with the ability to execute decision making around providing successful training for their lean projects and ensuring that this deepens their organization’s knowledge and the ability to apply that knowledge in the future.

Lessons in Lean – Structured Problem-Solving: Rarely Given the Attention it Deserves

There is little argument regarding the critical role that structured problem-solving plays in a lean transformation. Besides the business results associated with solving problems, developing problem-solving skills increases learning, drives the desired change in thinking, and helps people more clearly understand how lean works as a system. With this said, however, it is amazing how little effort many organizations put into developing effective problem-solving skills. It seems like more time is spent on things like 5S, value stream mapping, and other tools that are generally considered easier to apply and less likely to be met with resistance.  As a result, transformation does not occur, improvements are not sustainable, and the big gains possible through lean thinking are never achieved.

Lessons in Lean: Structured Problem-Solving: Rarely Given the Attention it Deserves
by Greg Stocker

Good discussion on the importance of rigorous, sustained problem-solving as part of Lean initiatives. I think many of us have experienced this in our own organizations.

Utilizing problem solving tools in a structured way helps us better understand what is happening, how it is happening and most importantly, why it is happening. Armed with this understanding we can then engage in those improvements. Problem solving is key to getting those improvements because it allows us to discover why a problem is actually happening and not to just treat symptoms.

Problem Solving needs to reach a level of detail that accurately identifies an actionable cause that can then be addressed.

Deep expertise, quality culture and the long road

Dr. Zeynep Tufekci, a professor who writes about the social impact of technology, wrote and excellent Op-Ed in the New York Times this past weekend titled “What Elon Musk Should Learn From the Thailand Cave Rescue.” In this she takes to task silicon valley, stresses the importance of hard-earned expertise and the “safety culture” model. A topic near-and-dear to my heart as a quality professional, as she stresses the importance of deep expertise, lengthy training and the ability to learn from experience (and to incorporate the lessons of those experiences into future practices) as a valuable form of ingenuity.

Safety culture = quality culture. It has been said many times that the only real difference is that of the question asked (patient safety vs employee safety), but lets all agree that the tools used are pretty equivalent.

What this article really reminds me of is an article from A Lean Journey back in February titled “Lean Culture: Do You Want Firemen or Farmers in Your Organization.”

I see this a lot in Lean, especially early in the transformation process. An idea that any expert is equivalent, that quick, fast wins are the best. Which is sometimes relevant, often not good for the long run. Its interesting that we are, what, 30-40 years into Lean as a management methodology in this country (my entire adult life I have been involved in Lean projects of one sort or another) and it still feels new in most places.

I think that the trends Dr Tufekci and Mr McMahon are discussing are very similar. Stem from similar causes, and probably lead to why a lot of long-term transformations don’t get the benefits we intend.