Solve Your Problems the SMART Way August 04 2015
rying to solve a problem, the best way to find the root cause is to state the issue in a clear, concise way that describes what needs to be addressed. Rather than covering up the problem with a Band-aid solution, it will be beneficial for you and your organization in the long run if you identify the underlying issues that are causing problems.
However, this is not always as easy to do as it sounds. There are three common errors when defining a problem:
1. Stating a solution in the problem statement: This will close you off to the possibility of alternative solutions by limiting you to the solution proposed in your problem statement.
Bad -- We need a new air conditioner because it doesn’t stay cool.
Good -- The temperature is 10 degrees warmer than it should be.
2. Too large of a problem is attempting to be solved: Tackling an entire process may seem tempting, but you will have more success if you perfect one thing at a time.
Bad -- The sign fabrication process takes too long.
Good -- The design aspect of the sign creation process takes five business days.
3. Vague problem statements: By not clearly defining the problem, it will be exponentially more difficult to find the right solution to your issue.
Bad -- Customers don’t like the product.
Good -- Customer returns of X product have increased by 25 percent.
Think of your problem statement as your check engine light. There is clearly a problem, but the issue is still unknown and needs to be understood before it can be fixed.
In order to give your team the best possible chance of solving the problem at hand, your problem statement must be as specific as it can be. Accurate problem statements save time, money, and effort when they contain these elements:
- Keep it concise
- Avoid technical language
- Define the problem -- don’t solve it
- Express the costs
- Define the scope of the problem
- Outline the pros/cons of proposed solutions
With all of this to remember, it can be difficult to try to figure out how best to define any problem.
Try this simple and effective method of problem solving, which many refer to as SMART problem solving:
Specific - Identify the key issue or process being worked on
Measurable - Establish metrics to identify the target of the solution
Avoid solutions - Problem statements must contain only an explanation of the problem
Really concise - Limit your problem statement to a one sentence summary of the issue your team is facing
Time-based - Focus on the time period when the problem was identified, how long the problem has been an issue, and when you would like to have the problem solved.
Remember, it is crucial to properly understand your problem before you can find a Lean solution!
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