Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Typical approach to solving problems - Fly Swatting

Lean teaches us to look at problems as treasures. An organization that has no problems cannot improve. In order to learn and grow, we need to take risks, make mistakes, discover problems and solve them. The first step to continuous improvement is finding problems.

So, by changing the environment so that discovering problems is encouraged, we create a no blame and learning organzation. An organization where the people are engaged in improving their processes, eliminating waste and adding value for their customer. An environment where people want to work and contribute to the organizatons success. Companies who embrace this philosophy become the employer of choice and typically see a noticable reduction in turnover.

An end result of a systematic approach to problem solving is continuous improvement, lower cost, quicker response and higher profitability. All the things that businesses strive for!

And now I have another problem. All these people finding problems and working to solve them is akin to swatting flies. Everyone is swatting away, but we are not looking for why the flies are gathering in the first place. We need to ensure we get to the root cause of the problem and solve that, rather than the symptoms (swatting flies).

This requires a formal approach to problem solving (so that we get to the root cause) and a systematic approach to improving our system (the value stream) so that we get results sooner and focus our resources on what is important for system throughput. The more responsive our system is to customer demand, the better we can act and improve profitability.

So a great start to a lean journey is to insist that your leaders find and solve problems, and are looking at the business processes as a value stream. A great measure of success would be system throughput and lead time!

Looking to improve your operation? Start by asking your people what value they add for your customer and what problems they are solving!


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