Problem Analysis – 1st critical step – Gathering data
An often occuring issue in many problem solving efforts is the failure to gather adequate data about the issue and failing to look at the issue from the “eyes of the process”. All too many problem solving efforts take place from a meeting room table and without gathering enough data about the problem at the site where it occurred. The Japanese call this Gemba.
Once you have gathered the background information about the problem it is time to go out to where the actual issue occurred. Initial questions to ask for example are as follows:
a) When did it occur?
b) Where did it occur specifically? (plant/ machine/ line/ area)?
c) How frequently/ to what extent/ etc..?
d) Who was involved?
e) What exactly occurred and what is the problem specifically in the eyes of the customer and the process itself?
When you go to the worksite itself it is very helpful to interview those involved. Another useful task is to “try the process”. Many problem solvers are afraid to “get their hands dirty” by actually trying the process steps themselves. In doing so many potential root causes may reveal themselves that are “under the radar” of management. I also try to look at the process and the issue from the eyes of the person working within the process as well as understanding how their specific strengths, weaknesses, and personality may have influenced the issue occurring. Many times I have seen problem solving teams try to disregard the “people’ side of the equation which is not wise (in my opinion).
You also need to look outside the process with the eyes of an outsider as well.
My approach to problem is to get as many potential questions on the table as to what may have caused the issue and that means going to the process (I refer to it as the eyes of the process) vs merely looking at the issue from a high level alone.
Here is to good problem solving.