Problem-solving is a critical skill in any organization, and it’s often assumed that it’s the management’s job to take care of it. However, we had a client with a different approach a few years ago. The company’s operational vision was to equip all supervisors with problem-solving skills, regardless of their position in the organization.
Supervisors were waged staff, not management, and the organization wanted to ensure that there were at least five people in every plant capable of running root cause analysis routines using a fishbone and five whys, regardless of the problem. It was a lofty goal, but the organization was optimistic about achieving it.
The process began with candidate selection, followed by a 4-step cycle: training, coaching, refresher, and further coaching. The organization set a metric for each supervisor to have undertaken at least one fishbone/five-why exercise per week at the weekly meeting with hourly employees. The management had their metric at their meeting of achieving, in total, the coaching of at least four exercises per week. Regular conversations occurred at many levels around “did we get to the root cause?”
Initially, the process was bumpy, but as momentum grew, a platform of capability was built that created significant improvements. The approach helped the organization to build momentum towards its goal of creating a broad operational problem-solving capability.
If you aim to build problem-solving capability, this approach can help you create momentum toward your goal. Here are a few key takeaways:
- Equip everyone: Don’t limit problem-solving to the management team. Equip everyone in the organization with the skills to identify and solve problems.
- Use a structured approach: Use a structured approach like the fishbone and five whys to identify and solve problems. This approach ensures everyone is on the same page and working towards a common goal.
- Measure progress: Set metrics and hold everyone accountable for their actions. Regular conversations at many levels can help ensure everyone is focused on getting to the root cause.
- Build momentum: Don’t get discouraged if progress is slow at first. Building a broad operational problem-solving capability takes time and effort. Keep at it, and momentum will grow.
Building a broad operational problem-solving capability is a challenge, but it’s a worthy one. By equipping everyone in the organization with problem-solving skills, using a structured approach, measuring progress, and building momentum, you can create a culture of problem-solving that drives significant improvements.