Improving Processes & Services

Structured Problem Solving

Tackling a Project

These notes are designed to be the programme for the first meeting of an Action Team working on solving an operational problem.

It links with Structured Problem Solving in that it is designed to get such a team moving from "Symptoms" (e.g. too many   queries) to "Root Causes" (e.g. our database is out-of-date). Typically, such a team will meet for 1 to 2 hours a week.

The first two or three such meetings should be spent doing and refining this programme until they feel confident that they have identified the real "Root Causes", before starting to look at  Solutions".

It has been used numerous times in practice either as part of one of our training workshops or as part of a work group meeting.

Brief - Tackling a Project

Step 1    Redefine The Problem

  • Check and if needed "Redefine the Problem Definition".
  • Hint:- Try to phrase it in terms of an “unwanted effect” that you want to remove.

Step 2     Identify Possible Causes

  • Use Brainstorming and Cause and Effect analysis to create a fishbone diagram of the problem and the likely causes.
  • Use voting to get a feel as to what the group consensus is on the most likely causes - each person simply ticks what they feel are the most important four causes.
  • See Cause & Effect Analysis in Tools for a detailed programme for this.

Step 3     Action Plan

  • Develop an action plan for the team for the next two months; in particular:
    • Any “Temporary Fixes” needed.
    • What information to collect in order to identify which of causes should be pursued in more depth.
    • How it should be collected. Any surveys to be carried out.