Continuous Improvement

Avoid firefighting with Structured Problem Solving

All too often there is an urge to rush straight to solutions when we encounter unexpected snags or roadblocks in our business functions. Afterall, if time is money, then you could argue that you can’t afford not to make a quick intuitive decision, right? But what if the problem keeps recurring despite your efforts to patch and mend the process? You might find that you have fixed the problem five or six times and at that stage you must reassess, if time is indeed money, then you’ve wasted quite a lot of it.

Enter Structured Problem Solving (SPS) which is very much exactly what it says on the tin. SPS provides tools and frameworks to better understand a problem before taking a more fact based, and data driven approach to finding solutions. A key item in any Agile toolbelt, SPS can help to reduce waste, increase productivity and address quality issues by first gaining an understanding of the root causes of the issue rather than immediately rushing to find remedies which may not have any long-lasting impact.

Who can use Structured Problem Solving

SPS can be used any organisation regardless of its size or product. Whether it’s a fortune 50 corporate giant or an SME with a handful of staff, SPS can be adapted to a wide range of business functions. A working understanding of the primary tools can be gained in most instances in just one day of training.

When to use Structure Problem Solving

Companies have been known to use SPS as a metaphorical last throw of the dice when other approaches have failed to fully resolve their problem. However, the earlier SPS is adopted the better and thanks to its multistage framework it allows for the possibility of moving back in stages if so needed.

How to use Structure Problem Solving

SPS relies on a number of set tools in its approach. The most widely known of these is the DMAIC model which is synonymous with Six-Sigma methodology. The DMAIC model is broken down into five stages:

  1. Define: Create a problem statement which includes specific information around the problem rather than general information, for example rather than saying Quality is too low instead say Quality is coming in 0.8% below our target of 99.2%.
  2. Measure: Measure the process to determine the scale of the problem and collect baseline data using tools such as Histograms and Pareto charts.
  3. Analysis: Analyse the initial problem to determine root causes and establish what factors are inside and outside your control using tools such as Fishbone diagram and priority matrix.
  4. Improve: Sometimes known as Implement, this is when you select practical methods and deploy the chosen improvements based on the data obtained in the earlier stages.
  5. Control: Establish a set of controls to ensure that the improvement is maintained and alert users if further actions is needed and any previous stage needs to be revisited.

Find The Solution

SPS helps businesses learn to overcome unforeseen obstacles and provides solutions that can be adopted across all areas. Combined with a connected workforce solution such as Nvolve, businesses can share information more effectively and ensure no one gets left behind.