By Jon Miller | Post Date: July 28, 2007 11:26 PM | Comments: 9
One of the things that makes Toyota-style problem solving so effective is the insistence on true root cause analysis and countermeasures. In simple terms this is known as "asking why 5 times" or "5 why". Instead of 5W1H (what, where, when, who, why how) which may be good for journalism, but Toyota-style problem solving focuses on finding problems through direct observation and asking "Why?" until the root causes is identified.
Another one of the things that makes Toyota-style problem solving so effective is the persistence in taking action, checking the results, and making improvements until the problem is solved and the root cause is truly eliminated beyond the possibility of recurrence. This is akin looking at the facts and asking "So what?" Like Starsky and Hutch, the Lone Ranger and Tonto or Sonny and Cher, Why and So What make a great problem solving team.
Problem? Why? Action! So What? This is PDCA problem solving in a nutshell. The A3 report, named after the size of paper, is a convenient way to practice problem solving. The series below helps demonstrate the importance of "So what?" in A3 kaizen or problem solving activities.
Take a problem, a piece of 11 inch x 17 inch or A3 size paper and start at the top left. What is the problem? Describe the current condition, along with supporting facts and data.
Proceed to the Analysis section to use Ishikawa diagrams (cause and effect diagrams) and other tools to organize your 5 why analysis.
Once you have found some root causes, you can set up some hypotheses to test. Try some countermeasures. This is the action plan, including what, who and when.
Once action is taken, you will want to see whether it was effective, so this is to document the where, the when, the who and how of the "check" step of verification.
So what? Results of your countermeasures may have been good or they may have been bad. This is the first step in checking. If a particular countermeasure was effective, it should be monitored, controlled, and expanded as a standard to other areas. Effective or not, we ask "so what?" again.
If a particular countermeasure was not effective, we need to review whether this was because it was insufficient in addressing a root cause or whether the cause being addressed was not the true root cause.
The root cause was not identified and addressed. So what? Go back to finding the root cause. Or perhaps the root cause was addressed. So what? If the root cause was addressed, does the data show that the countermeasure was deep enough?
The data does not show improvement, even though the countermeasure addressed the root cause. So what? The measurement method, tool or the measurement itself may be the problem. This is where six sigma applications can come in handy. The data shows improvement. So what? Has the actual condition improved? Are we getting observably closer to the ideal condition?
The teaming of "so what" as a checking mechanism helps to test all assumptions back to the beginning, and to make sure implementation of the countermeasures was thorough enough. In our rush to solve problems there are factors (often human) that are missed, and only detected when problems recur.
The 5 why analysis helps you question deeply to find the root cause for a particular problem. The So What question helps you question whether your investigations were broad enough, and whether countermeasures were on the mark.
Kent Blumberg has a good example of the value of "so what?" on his blog from last December, demonstrating a test for true root cause by following a series of "therefore" statements backwards up through the 5 why analysis.
So what...problems will you solve with this approach?Comments are moderated to filter spam and inappropriate content. There may be a delay before your comment is published.