Eliminating Root Causes »
Systematic Problem Solving (SPS) is a foundational skill, addressing performance and also behavioral problems to boost quality and customer satisfaction level.
- How it works:
The SPS course consists of three parts: training, solving, and certification. During the training session (1 day), participants learn proven tools and techniques, including PDCA, 8D, and DMAIC. Right after the training, learnings are immediately applied to current problems (ideally those that repeat and haven’t solved before), building real skills and returning real benefits to the business. Once root-causes have been removed, students present their cases during the certification session (1 day), getting formally certified, while moving up in the skill pyramid, so they can train and certify people below them.
- How long it takes:
The total SPS process from training to certification takes 1 day for level-2 «Beginner», 1 week for level-3 «Qualified», 1 month for level-4 «Independent», and 3 months for level-5 «Expert». After attaining certification, students must solve one more problem (at the same level) before they can apply for the next level, e.g. solving a total of two basic problems at level-3 before they can apply for level-4 training to solve advanced problems.
- Who is involved:
There are four roles to be assigned: sponsor, learner, and trainer. The sponsor initiates the program, allocates resources, and provides context, such as unhappy customers, excessive losses, or repeat issues hurting the business. The learners invest time to analyze problems and implement solutions. The trainer leads learners through the program, transferring skills and providing coaching support.
- What you can expect:
Certified problem solvers are able to address persistent problems, reducing defect rates, delays, and costs. They create a tangible benefit to the business by improving customer satisfaction and teamwork from joint problem solving.
- How much it costs:
Any repetitive problem permanently solved lowers non-performance cost, making a positive contribution to the bottom line. The training therefore is self-funding, provided that skills are actually applied and root-causes eliminated. Leanmap provides training and certification classes, as well as coaching support, typically 5 consulting days for 5-10 trainees.
How the Model works
- The Skill Pyramid cascades problem-solving knowledge down from «Expert» to «Independent» to «Certified» to «Beginner» level.
- Employing a Train-the-Trainer approach allows certified problem solvers to become the trainers for people below them.
- At a span of five, each Expert trains 5 Independent, who train 25 Qualified, who train 125 Beginners. This means that one Expert can build the problem-solving skill-pyramid and support an organization of 200 people, of which 80% practice systematic problem solving.
- As skills being developed, people move up in the pyramid. Ultimate goal is that all managers and functional specialists are certified at least at «Independent» or 4+ level, and all other employees at least at «Qualified» or 3+ level.
How Skills are certified
- Problem-solving skills are developed and certified at five levels (percentages refers to PSP skill scores):
- Level-1 «Ready» has registered for PSP training and recorded a problem to solve, but not yet formally trained (0%).
- Level-2 «Beginner» has completed the introductory training and is able to correctly fill the problem-solving form (40%).
- Level-3 «Qualified» has completed the basic course and is able to solve simple problems at the process level (60%).
- Level-4 «Independent» has completed the advanced course and is able to solve cross-functional problems (80%).
- Level-5 «Expert» has completed the expert course is able to solve multi-dimensional problems, using failure trees (100%).
Problem Solving Methods
When embarking on systematic problem solving, the first step is selecting an appropriate process. There are many methods to chose from, while the optimal choice depends on the type of problems that needs to be solved. Here an overview of the top-4 problem solving processes.
Top-4 Problem Solving Processes
Most common problem solving processes are PDCA, DMAIC, A3, 8D:
- PDCA: plan-do-check-act is the the classic process
- DMAIC: define-measure-analyze-improve-control
- A3: Toyota’s solving and improvement template
- 8D: the eight disciplines of problem-solving
- 3W: what-who-when “quick fix” (not shown in graph)
Which Process for which Problem?
The following four questions help selecting the best solving approach:
- Is the problem small, medium, or large?
- Is the solution obvious or unknown?
- Is the problem reoccurring or a single incident?
- Single cause or multiple causes to address?
- Does the problem require statistical analysis?
Comparing PDCA, DMAIC, A3, 8D, PSP, 3W
Because all scientific problem-solving methods follow a similar logic, it allows mapping the different phases from one process to those of another (see graphic above). For example, the PDCA planning phase covers the first three steps of DMAIC and the first five steps of A3 and 8D.
- PDCA: the Deming or Shewhart cycle “plan-do-check-act” is the classic method, used by over 80% of companies that practice systematic problem solving. PDCA is most effective for medium-size problems that can be solved within a few days or weeks.
- DMAIC: the 5-step Six Sigma process “define-measure-analyze-improve-control” is ideal when solid data are available. DMAIC is mainly used to structure larger projects and solve complex problems that require statistical analysis and several months to complete.
- A3: the A3-report, developed by Toyota, is an 8-step improvement and problem-solving process that fits on one A3-sheet of paper. The A3-report is mainly used to address medium-size problems and improvement projects within several weeks.
- 8D/PSP: the eight disciplines (8D) are commonly used in automotive and the problem-solving process (PSP) in avionics. Both methods are nearly identical, using 8 steps with focus on fast reaction to complaints, completing the first three steps in three days.
- 3W: when the problem is small and the solution is obvious, a less formal method should be used to get faster from the problem to the solution. The 3W defines the “what-who-when” of an action plan, “Quick Fix” or “Kaizen Blitz”, to contain and correct a small problem.
PDCA is the most popular Problem Solving Process
If you are unsure which process to use, start with PDCA! The format is simple and straightforward, it fits to a board range of applications, large and small, making it easy to learn and fast to deploy. Below you can find the PDCA form and detailed instructions how to use it. To start, download the PDCA Toolkit here.