Tools / Methods

Problem-solving pitfalls to avoid

pièges à éviter

After sharing with you with two problem-solving methodologies, I would like to come back to the classic pitfalls of problem solving. Whether for senior professionals or beginners, we can all fall into these few. The human mind is so made that we need to force ourselves (a little bit) to reach our goals and effectively solve the problems. The first five pitfalls concern the definition of the problem, its identification and its analysis. They apply in the first four steps of 8D and A3. The other three pitfalls relate to the last two stages of 8D and A3. These are also the last two PDCA steps: the “control” and “lessons learned” phase.

Pitfall # 1: Forgetting to talk to stakeholders

Who knows the problem better than those who live it? This is obvious, but when the person responsible for solving the problem is not the one who lives it, then it is easy to go wrong. It is essential to go to the “gemba“. There you can visualize the problem, reproduce it (if possible) and exchange with those who live it. The understanding of the problem will be better. By thwarting this first trap, we make sure we get off to a good start!

Pitfall # 2: Define the problem as a lack of …

It is the counterpart of observation and direct exchange. It is strongly connected to pitfall # 5. Stakeholders, on the gemba, risk defining the problem as a lack of … training, human or material resources, … By doing so, the solution becomes obvious: more training, more human resources are needed or material. When observing, focus on perceptions and avoid drawing hasty conclusions. You need to define the problem as what it is: Who, What, Where, When, How, How much. By returning to the basic questions of 5Ws, we focus on defining the problem.

Pitfall # 3 : Tackle the wrong issue

In the heat of the moment, you identify the problem, analyze the root causes. Next you put the solutions in place and … the problem is still there … Maybe you have tackled the wrong problem. I can not repeat it enough: you have to take the time to identify the problem. All the time spent at the beginning of the process to fully understand the problem is time saved for the future. The effort curve required to correct a bad start is exponential. At each step it takes more and more energy to recover. If problem solving is urgent, working on a bad problem is even more costly. Since you will have to start again, with a lot of lost time and efforts invested for nothing. Reflection takes time and you have to give yourself the time to identify the right problem.

Pitfall # 4 : Solve the problems of others before your own

It is written in the Bible (Luke 6:41): we are more quick to see the faults of others than ours. Rejecting is a difficult exercise. If you can not see what’s not working in your area of work, why not get help from colleagues in other sectors? Since it is easier to see the straw in the neighbor’s eye than the beam in his. You can use this adage to help you and better understand your problems. Beyond the problems in other areas of your organization, this trap also applies to the problems of your sector. Especially when the resolution is beyond your reach. Concentrate on the aspects you control before going further.

Pitfall # 5 : Skirt root causes analysis

This is a classic. We go straight to solutions, even before identifying the problem or its causes. This pitfall comes with its variant: we go straight to the root cause without analyzing or sufficiently observe the situation. This trap is complementary to all the previous ones. It can be avoided with the same techniques: to observe, to take the time, to understand.

Pitfall # 6 : Neglect the solutions’ effectiveness measurement

Once the solutions are in place, the problem is not solved. It must be ensured that this is the case. How often do you move to another file, to another problem without having confirmed that everything was working as planned? The definition of an indicator, a control plan and / or a person responsible to measure it will ensure you track your results. It will confirm (or not) that the action plan was the right one.

Pitfall # 7 : Omit the durability of the solutions

In addition to pitfall # 6, once you have made sure that the problem has been solved, make sure that the solution in place will remain so. There is still a little work: nobody wants the problem to reappear. Beyond the documentation of the process, what should be done? Standardization usually happens at this stage, but other actions may be required to ensure the sustainability of operational solutions.

Pitfall # 8 : Miss learning about the process

The last trap of problem solving is to simply measure the results of the solutions to the problems, without being interested in the process. In fact, you don’t want to limit yourself to improving the product / service and associated processes. In order to have a successful organization, it is also necessary to improve the improvement processes. What learnings can be drawn from the approach, from the methodology used? What helped the team or, on the contrary, made the task more difficult? So many questions that we must not forget to ask when closing a problem solving.

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