Effective Team Based Problem Solving

Jun 1, 2016

Problem solving and corrective action means going to the place where the problem is happening, in other words the Gemba. We must involve the team that have the problem and use the full range of senses; listening, seeing and touching the problem in order to fully understand what the problem is.

In approaching this you should seek to be uncomplicated and straightforward. It’s best to use a simple and straightforward methodology and A3 Thinking really fits the bill for this. Think of this as a “Project on a Page” that utilises existing problem solving mechanisms such as Plan Do Check Act and Practical Problem Solving.

A common mistake that people make is to try and solve lots of problems all at the same time. Try thinking of this differently – what about ‘one problem flow’. In other words, focus on solving the individual problems well and solving them sufficiently to ensure that they can’t happen again.

Once each problem is solved take the next problem and solve it and move on. Then the focus is on the quality of problems solved, not the quantity.

Here are a few tips to help get you started.

  • Remember that with this team based problem solving approach we should not attempt to solve the problem sitting behind our desk. We must always go to Gemba (i.e. the place of work)
  • Then start to define the problem. You will understand that a problem well defined is a problem half solved. So in order to help you define the problem you may need to undertake some analysis. Data and not opinion is the first step in problem definition.
  • Be as clear and precise as possible. Avoid starting on vague problems like “I think we have a problem with quality in area ‘xyz’, please take a look at that for me”.
  • It is important that you are working on the biggest problem first. This should be weighed against meeting either Value Stream Analysis and / or business objectives. So the more focussed the reason for action, the more focussed we can be in resolving the problem.

The most important thing is to get started . Don’t procrastinate over starting to make improvement.

However it is understandable if you are wondering where to start because there are so many problems occurring at the same time. If this is the case be sure to give the team a chance by first using Pareto analysis to focus the effort on the vital few rather than the trivial many.

This kind of focus will really help to target the improvement to deliver the best results.