Checklist to Prevent Problems from Recurring

Do you spend time and money reacting to – and fixing – problems only to see them again? Maybe, like many others, you are reacting to issues (putting out fires) even though you would rather be investing in ways to prevent problems from arising in the first place. A culture that supports and values problem prevention is key to improving your department and company’s results.

We believe that there is great value in adopting a company-wide approach to problem solving that identifies the underlying causes of costly or recurring problems, and develops effective corrective actions. Doing so in the right way improves an organization’s long-term operational and financial performance.

8 Small Steps to Sustainable, Improved Results

In many organizations, problem solving is masked in forms, templates and systems that track activities related to quality problems, but don’t focus on the key objective of discovering the root cause of the problem. Without a known cause (or causes) there cannot be an effective corrective action (solution), and any contrived preventive actions are meaningless.

To make problem solving effective, a disciplined thinking process must be embedded into your company’s culture; or put more simply — the right approach needs to become a habit and a way of thinking.  When this happens, corrective actions are held in place and made permanent, and actions designed to prevent the root cause are shared with similar processes and systems within your organization.  That part magnifies the improvement.

Our Unique Spin on 8D

We’ve put our own spin on the traditional 8-step Problem Solving approach.  First, it’s NOT followed as an obligation to your customer; it’s used because it will result in improvement to your work.   Second, it’s NOT the responsibility of the “Quality” department – problem solving is about fixing work processes that have shortcomings, therefore any function can lead it.  Third, each of the 8 baby steps serves a purpose… the steps are scalable, but they each have a purpose; with Step 4 as the focal point.

Step 1 – See the Problem as an Opportunity; this is a chance for improvement.

Step 2 – Describe the Problem; the more specific, the better.

Step 3 – Implement Containment; make sure the short-term plan is effective.

Step 4 – Recognize Root Causes; what’s the real driver of the symptoms?

Step 5 – Design Solution; does the plan and the team address the need?

Step 6 – Implement Corrective Actions; what resources and tools are needed?

Step 7 – Leverage Learning; how do you magnify actions into long-term improvements?

Step 8 – Recognize Effort; appreciate what team members contributed, communicated, and learned.

Developed with an understanding for why 8D is the standard problem solving approach in the Automotive industry, our method has universal applicability and can be used to improve organizations in all industries, including service, manufacturing, and product development.

Are you ready to learn more, or to start taking action to prevent known problems from recurring?  We’d like to give you a tool to help.  Download and refer to our 8-Step Problem Solving Sufficiency Checklist and see your teams move beyond treating symptoms and start addressing root causes.

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Making Problems Stay Away

In our work, we are often challenged with solving problems. Doing a very effective job in this area depends on three factors:

  • Identifying and addressing the root cause
  • Using that understanding to prevent the problem from surfacing again
  • Working with a leadership team that supports our work and allows us to help form a big picture understanding of problems and their underlying causes

Over the summer, an electronics component manufacturer we had been working with to help transition to the new ISO 9001 Quality Standard, came to us for help. They wanted a better approach to solving plant floor problems so that they could not reoccur.

We knew that they were in a mode of operation that many companies face:  lack of clear standards, new employees (many fresh out of school), some aging equipment, and many processes dependent upon proper human actions. These conditions don’t change overnight, but they were under pressure from a key customer to improve results quickly!

Working with their president and head of operations, we crafted a workplan to put three types of problems in the spotlight, each with a process owner and a small team.  One problem related to variation in a machined component, another was a product design issue, and the third was related to performance variation with an assembly machine.

Before training and challenging the three teams to address the problems, the president and his management team learned about the science of problem solving. Having the leaders work on a simple case study, we helped them see that:

  1. A problem is not described by one defective part in your hand… you have to look at other parts, observe the process and look for differences between conforming and non-conforming parts
  2. It is not possible to identify the cause of a problem if you don’t have enough clues about the problem… Guessing isn’t helpful
  3. You can’t create a lasting solution if you don’t know the true cause… Implementing an ineffective solution actually drives unnecessary costs

After the management group was trained to understand the process and ask the right questions of the team members, the three teams participated in our Effective Problem Solving workshop.  In two days, they were able to define their problem with facts and data, identify potential causes, and develop a plan to test causes that best fit the discovered clues.

Over the next four weeks, progressing at their own pace, each team narrowed the issues to the actual cause of their assigned problem, and were able to recommend systemic solutions that management was glad to consider, now with high priority.

Find out more about our two-day problem-solving workshop.

When your senior leaders are engaged, the Luminous Group brings maximum value to your organization.

By using a structured approach to problem solving to channel the knowledge and experience of your workforce, you will become better at fixing both the surface causes and underlying root cause of most problems.

Try it yourself.  When you see a costly problem in a new light, you might find that by following a structured approach, you’ll prevent problems from recurring.