an example of a table showing how to define a problem using 5w1h
How to Define a Problem using the 5W1H tool
August 7, 2023
a team, photo of Productivity people in the rain
Kotahi te aho ka whati, ki te kāpuia e kore e whati
September 19, 2023
an example of a table showing how to define a problem using 5w1h
How to Define a Problem using the 5W1H tool
August 7, 2023
a team, photo of Productivity people in the rain
Kotahi te aho ka whati, ki te kāpuia e kore e whati
September 19, 2023
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DMAIC – The 5 steps of Structured Problem Solving explained

cartoon of 5 steps of problems solving

Structured Problem Solving is a systematic approach to document, analyse, and solve those problems that have the highest impact on the organisation. This approach to investigating past events with the aim to prevent their re-occurrence is one of the most powerful characteristics of a Continuous Improvement culture.

A five-letter acronym describes the 5 steps of a structured problem solving cycle:

  1. Define the problem. Be clear on what exactly needs solving. Identify what actually happened as opposed to what should have happened. Learn more about Define here.
  2. Measure the problem and collect data, the size and nature of the problem is clear to everyone.
  3. Analyse the problem and review the collected data using various tools to find the root cause of the problem.
  4. Improve the situation by putting a permanent solution in place.
  5. Control the situation by putting controls in place to ensure the solution stays in place and also monitor to ensure that the improvement has indeed solved the problem.

Each step has its own challenges, but Geerten Lengkeek, MD of Productivity People, argues that the ‘C’ for Control is the most difficult to adhere to. His words “Once we’ve done the hard work from defining to implementing a solution, we move on to the next problem.”

In my opinion, this is typical human behaviour, we like to solve an issue and move on. Therefore, the best Controls are those that design the problem out: you don’t have to think about it ever again.

The second best is error-proofing: making it a lot easier to do the right thing, and a lot harder to do the wrong thing. The weakest Controls involve human action, such as (Leader) Standard Work checks and/or Visual Controls. They require regular checks, which most people find mundane and rather boring.

The worst type of Control after a Structured Problem Solving exercise is “telling people what they should do to prevent the problem from ever happening again”. There is little hope of expecting that the problem will not re-occur. Even when it has been written up in a manual.

About the author: Liddy Bakker is the Managing Director of Productivity People