April 20, 2011

Problem Solving Series #1 - The Framework

We would like to re-introduce a makeover of the well-known 7 Steps problem solving method and DMAIC, and call it IDOAIM. It is a 6 steps problem solving approach, and if you look at the steps, you will find it very similar to DMAIC. (Allright, don't get too hung up about the name, or whether it is a 6,5,7, or any number of steps - let's just focus on the core of the concept).

The only differences are that:
  1. IDOAIM can naturally be used on virtually any problems, including personal problems. This is due to the fact that basic natures of each steps were kept raw and we did not put in any business and professional term into the model. (You may argue that DMAIC can also be used on any problems, but when is the last time anyone truthfully use DMAIC to solve household financial problems?)
  2. IDOAIM focuses on the essence of problem solving. You will get more underlying principles of how the brain operates and how we should approach our problems. There will be less technical and statistical tools - although we are still encouraged to used them.
 Ready for the steps? Here they are:
  1. Identify the reason: Begin with the general realization of the problem. Continue with asking: Why should we worry about the problem? Why should we prioritize on this problem? What is the actual pain I am feeling? Why am I feeling it? This is a question of Value, something we need to learn.
  2. Define the problem: Once we get the 'why', we can proceed on defining the problem properly. Problems well defined are problems half solved. If we define a problem wrong, we will look at a wrong set of issues and data, and we will find a solution to a wrong problem.
  3. Observe the situation: Take a look at the surrounding of the problem defined. Every object, condition, and situation will have three elements: Inputs - Process - Outputs (see here for example). Observe all three elements and generate all factors in play. Gather data, information, photos, surveys, etc.
  4. Analyze the problem: (link a) (link b) Once we get enough data, we can do correlation analysis, cause-effect analysis, or a simple 5 why's to drill down to the root cause.
  5. Improve the situation: With a captured root cause, we brainstorm to find many possible solutions to fix the root cause and prioritize / select best solutions to improve the situation. This is followed with executing the solutions and ensuring they make an impact.
  6. Make the change stick: Once we are happy with the solution, we no longer have the problem, and we are ready to close the work, we need to make sure the solutions and changes that solve the problems will never go away. We can do this extrinsically through mechanism or procedures, or intrinsically through personal mastery and shared visions.
We will go through each step later. Looking forward for your feedback. Once again, don't get too attached with IDOAIM. It is just a name, a point of reference.

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