In researching different Problem Solving “systems” I find that I need to expand my vocabulary. First of all, “systems” is probably not the right word. Consider the following taken from a Google search:
I could go on; I see “methodology” twice above, so based on plurality, let’s go with that terminology.
My own experience with formal problem solving methodologies goes back about 20 years; I’ve received formal training in every one of the above-mentioned methodologies. They are all really good methodologies. The methodologies all work. They are more than the sum of the high powered vocabulary used to describe them. But for all their value, and all the hours of training, building catapults, muda walks, kaizen teams, PFMEAs, root-causing and red X analysis, we still struggle to nail down the C (Control) of DMAIC and the 5th S (Sustain) of Lean.
The problem with Problem Solving Methodologies seems to be related to the urgency of the relentless pursuit of results that every manufacturer is more or less obsessed with. Problem solving usually starts with analysis, data, root-causing, brainstorming; but the main focus quickly shifts to the implementation of the strategy. It reminds me of jetliners: taxiing to the runway sets the stage for the main event, the high adrenaline takeoff (followed by hours of boredom at 35,000 feet). In the world of problem solving, getting from the gate to 35,000 feet is where it’s at, and once the team is climbing through the clouds, the urgency of the next problem-solving exercise becomes paramount to the organization. We wouldn’t want those fighter pilot engineers and change agents wasting their time cruising on auto-pilot. So on to the next problem we charge, leaving SUSTAIN to sustain itself.
The reality is that sustaining improvements requires a different organizational mindset than the application of the first 90% or so of the Problem Solving Methodology. It requires staying power, trench warfare mentality, patience, longsuffering, and a focus on the mundane. It’s about unsensational and usually unrecognized effort. It’s about bunting and punting; no home runs, no touchdowns, no awards, no accolades. The timeline transitions from days and weeks to the Cold War of years and decades.
I wish I could say that Automation has the miracle methodology cure for the problem-solving problem.
But we can offer a couple of thoughts on hopeful developments….
We are discovering that these tools can help us address the “micro-chaos” of day-to-day operations. Future blog entries will discuss additional exciting details!
Progress is elusive. It would be very interesting to hear what others have experienced, especially success stories!