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Top 5 Benefits of a Problem-Solving

Visual Management Board

Practical problem solving (or A3 Problem Solving) is a structured approach to problem solving and continuous improvement that I have been using since my time as a graduate engineer at Toyota Manufacturing UK. At Toyota we were encouraged to be able to clearly define and summarise the problem we were working through on a standardised A3 Template that can be pinned to a wall and presented. If the information couldn’t be presented on an A3 sheet then the information wasn’t clear or the problem not defined with enough clarity. The A3 Problem-Solving template included several key elements such as:

  • Containment actions: first things first, ensure the problem doesn’t reach the client.
  • Summary: what does the problem look like?
  • Ishikawa/Fishbone diagram: categorise where possible issues could arise, the causes that could affect the problem.
  • 5-Why Analysis: An iterative technique to arrive at the possible root cause.
  • Countermeasures: What actions need to be taken to ensure the problem doesn’t arise in the future?
  • Yokoten: Japanese phrase that translates to “best practice sharing”. Can the important learning be applied to other areas in the organisation to ensure the problem isn’t seen elsewhere in the future?

These key elements provide structure and guidance to the Problem-Solving process ensuring that Problem Solving is repeatable and is guided by logical processes and not by thought, theories or emotion.

I consider myself to be a vastly experienced expert in Visual Management and Lean techniques, who has extensive experience in developing and implementing Practical Problem-Solving Visual Management boards for our industrial clients to help them: drive Lean Continuous Improvement culture and deal with chronic issues. This experience has allowed me to shine light on the top 5 benefits of using a Visual Management Board to provide a platform for the Problem-Solving process.

1. Deal with facts and Data

Showcasing the Problem-Solving process in the Gemba (where the value creation work happens) with a Visual Management board helps to ensure that observable data is being used to guide the process.  It is because the Visual Management board (which is providing structure to the process) is in the place that the problem is happening that it is difficult for opinions and theories to come to the fore, as can happen in office-based discussions on “shop-floor” issues.

2. Encourage Lean Behaviours

Because the platform for the Problem-Solving is a Visual entity located in the Gemba it encourages the Japanese principle of Genchi Genbutsu or “go, look, and see for yourself”.  Invested stakeholders in the problem are encouraged to see any changes to condition and updates to the process in real-time in the Gemba.

3. Visibility and The Team

Repeat issues that are experienced by operators can wear away at a team and have a detrimental impact on the motivation and morale on the individuals in the workplace. Showcasing the process being used to eradicate these issues helps to show the team that an organisation values the wellbeing and morale of the team and desires to make their life better by driving Continuous Improvement through the solving of problems experienced by the team.

4. Create a Shift in Thinking

The visibility of the Problem-Solving Board in the workspace and the activity and actions that are displayed will assist in influencing the thought processes around how to deal with problems. Visually showcasing tools such as 5 Why and The Fishbone cause and effect diagram, helps to educate and influence team members on how to think about driving improvement and deal with issues in a more structed and logical manner. Creating a habit of problem-solving in the minds and actions of team members will ensure future sustainability and success.

5. Accountability

Using a Visual Management board to log actions, dates and ownership necessitates that individuals agree ownership of actions and dates in front of their peers. This means that these individuals are motivated to complete these actions and move the project forward so as not to let the team down.

As vastly experienced Lean professionals the PEAK VM founders, share our experience in Practical Problem-Solving with our clients, this sharing can range from advising simple tips and guidance on board usage through to full training packages.

The team and I at PEAK Visual Management not only have an extremely strong background in implementation of Lean and Visual Management techniques, but we are also expert Visual Management designers. We will ensure that the Problem-Solving design template is tweaked to function in the context of our clients’ working environment. We also ensure that the design is aesthetically professional and follows any corporate branding guidelines that might be in place.

As part of our process, we also provide market leading design support in providing 3D design visuals and full-scale paper prints which allow our clients to obtain buy in from their team and ensure key stakeholders remain involved in the design process.

The relatively minor investment involved with implementing a Visual Management Problem Solving board is likely to be recouped on completion of the first significant Problem-Solving project, making the ROI on this type of Visual Management high. The benefits formed in using a Problem-Solving Visual Management board elevate the performance of the Practical Problem-Solving process and make it an essential tool for fostering a culture of continuous improvement that will endure.

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