….a clear and obvious solution.

The following post was originally prepared for A Lean Journey –  The Quest for True North:

[tweetmeme]Determination of root causes should provide a clear and obvious understanding of the necessary solutions.

~~Jeffrey Liker and David Meier, The Toyota Way Field Book

Proper analysis of an issue’s root causes could be the most crucial part of the problem solving process.

While this seems like an obvious statement, leaders and their teams fail to dig deep enough to find the root cause all too often.  Others fail to follow-up on the countermeasures.  These failures have consequences

  • Failure to identify root causes can lead to superficial solutions or Band-Aides that don’t work very long.
  • Erroneous root causes lead to ineffective ideas that don’t impact the issue at hand.

Failure to follow-up on your countermeasures can lead to several issues as well.  The countermeasures may not be working as intended or there could be unintended negative consequences.  You could also be missing out on an opportunity to further improve your process if you don’t follow through in the spirit of Deming’s PDCA.

[tweetmeme]Finding the true root causes of an issue allows your team to identify true countermeasures that are in their control and are positively effective.  Teams that are capable of identifying the true root causes of and issue are normally able to identify effective countermeasures for that issue.


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About Christian Paulsen

Christian Paulsen is an Executive Consultant with 20 years of Lean Manufacturing. Chris adds value to organizations by driving process improvement and bottom line savings. Chris intends to help others by sharing the lessons learned after a quarter century of operational leadership, marriage, parenting, and even longer as a Cubs fan. Your comments on this blog are welcome. You can also connect with Chris via LinnkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook in the right sidebar. Chris welcomes your comments. Christian's professional services are available by contacting him through LinkedIn (right side bar)
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2 Responses to ….a clear and obvious solution.

  1. Hi Chris,
    How will one know the root is found using 5 Why ? I’m guessing it take more practice to understand RCA.

    • Excellent question! You will get better with practice. Bruce Hamilton has a great quote, “If you want to learn to ride a bike, you have to ride a bike.” You will know if you got to the root cause and have effective countermeasures when you have significantly improved or ideally eliminated the problem. If you implement countermeasures and there is not much of an improvement, you either didn’t find the root cause or didn’t identify good countermeasures. Looking back though, the 5-Why was very effective even when it was a new tool to me and the others in my plant. Thanks for reading and commenting on Lean Leadership.


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