Picking the Right Solution

February 8th, 2011

In Six Sigma we use a five step process (DMAIC) based on facts and data focused on our customer value to grow the business. The idea is to improve the process; make things better; make step function improvements. But as I say that I have seen perfectly run projects get to the end of analyze and are killed when they start to make the improvements. Killed by management. What has happened? To understand that let’s look at the objectives of the Analyze step and the Improve step.

Analyze: Analyze the current state data and determine the Root Causes (opportunities to improve).

Improve: Develop and implement the best plan for improvement of the opportunities (Root Causes) identified in the Analyze Step.

The problem I have found is that teams focus is on one root cause and what they perceive as the best solution to that root cause. That does meet the objectives but the team is made up  of experts and others involved in the process at hand. They do not see the bigger picture from the total company or corporation view point. What usually kills the project is the solution is not acceptable to upper management and it is upper management that are the experts of the top level company/ corporate view of things. The L1 (level 1) Map of an organization. The team is usually working (and are the experts) at a L3 or 4 of the company. So how do you solve this problem. By doing two things.

1.) Make sure that your top level management sponsor is constantly up-to-date on all the teams activities. That they are PART of the team where they will see these problems coming. They are part of that management expertise that can see issues that will cause a solution, that looks obvious, to not work for the company as a whole. This is one reason why in Define you want a top level manager that has “scheduled” their time to work with the team. They have to be committed not just supportive of the team.

2.) Every problem I have seen has had more that on Root Cause. Each root cause also has more than one solution. Make sure you have multiple ways (options) to solve your problem. Yes, one of the causes will be the biggest and to solve it there will be one way that gives you the best return on investment, but you need to propose several ways to solve the problem, some better than others but all make an improvement.

Now when you pitch your solution to management you give them several options that your top level manager/sponsor has seen and supports. Management can look at what you propose and select the best way from their expert view point. Yes, I would push the teams solution but management should be able to tell you why they would not go with that one and as such your can propose a alternative that you have already developed that avoids the issue they see.

When a team does this they never seem to fail at this point in the project and they tend to go on to success.

Well there you have my thoughts on picking the right solution. It more like picking the right solutions. I hope this help you with your project and brings you to success. If, you have questions or comments please feel free to contact me by leaving a comment below, emailing me, calling me, or leaving a comment on my website.

Bersbach Consulting
Peter Bersbach
Six Sigma Master Black Belt

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