Five Keys to Problem Solving
When an ICQ consultant is hired for a project, the main objective can appear fairly straight forward. Validate this system, write that protocol, etc… But in practice, helping a client achieve what they need never turns out to be that easy. Problems arise, and it’s at that moment that we need to be able to leverage both our own industry knowledge, and that of all of ICQ, to help remedy the situation. Every problem will be different, but there are some steps that will be needed regardless.
- Define the problem / Focus on the Root Causes (Not Symptoms)
There are many techniques for getting to the heart of a problem (flowcharts, cause and effect diagrams, root cause analysis, the 5 Why’s), but the important part is to be able to identify when a problem is a root cause or just a symptom of a deeper problem. There may be multiple root causes. Experience is key to being able to successfully define a problem. Make sure the right people are in the room, and if you feel as though something is being missed, remember that you work for a growing consulting firm that has years of collective experience. Leverage that experience.
- Look to turn off all Root Causes / Generate alternative Solutions
If we only look to resolve one root cause (for a problem with multiple root causes) the problem will likely resurface shortly, but perhaps appear to be a new or different problem. We want to find solutions that effectively “turn off” all the root causes. We also want more than one solution for any problem. This may be difficult for those of us with many years of experience, but showing patience in these early sets of problem solving can yield much higher dividends.
- Evaluate and Select Solutions
Some things to consider when evaluating and selecting a solution might be:
- What chance does a solution have to solve the problem without causing unanticipated problems? We might want to find simple solutions that affect as few contributing factors as possible. This will limit the impact to processes that are not currently experiencing a problem.
- Will all individuals affected by the problem accept this solution? This may be a tough question to gauge, but if we have the right people in the room, we can find a solution that works for everyone.
- Is it likely that the solution will be implemented? This goes hand in hand with the bullet above. If a solution will be difficult to implement, it’s more than likely that the problem will persist.
- Does the solution fit within organizational constraints? Again, if a solution doesn’t work for the client, they are not going to implement it.
- Implement and follow up
Make sure to thoroughly plan the implementation of any solution: include goals, roll-out programs, CAPAs and plan the allocation of resources. Success will depend on getting the people affected by the problem involved in the solution. Feedback channels should be facilitated and welcomed as a way to continuously monitor the effectiveness of any change.
- Audit Results of Problem Solving
Once a problem has been solved within an operation, we should audit the affected process to make sure we have actually solved, not just contained, the problem. An assessment would also benefit the organization to figure out why a solution was effective or ineffective.
By effectively helping our clients to solve problems within their operations, we can create a good working relationship that goes beyond commissioning and qualifying systems.
Written By: Steve Graham, Consultant II
ICQ Consultants, Corp.
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