Change Your “Pet” Problem Solving Method
“Some business problems require a quick reaction to “stop the bleeding” while others require creativity or more analytical approaches to reach better target states or attain breakthrough results.
No matter the problem, it probably will fall into one of the types in the helpful framework that author and veteran lean management practitioner Art Smalley introduced in his recent book, Four Types of Problems. The flexible framework helps leaders and teams apply the right problem-solving approach by recognizing the four problem types:
- Troubleshooting: A reactive process of rapidly fixing abnormal conditions. (When a house is burning, extinguish the fire.)
- Gap-from-standard: A structured problem-solving process that aims at the root cause. (Determine what caused the fire and how to prevent another.)
- Target-state: Continuous improvement (kaizen) that goes beyond existing levels of performance. (Use superior building materials that are much less likely to lead to fires in the first place.)
- Open-ended and Innovation: Unrestricted pursuit through creativity of a vision or ideal condition that entails radical improvements. (Ask why not have systems that detect, prevent, or immediately stop fires from occurring right away?)
In this interview, Art reflects on why we make the mistake of reaching for the same problem-solving technique over and over, how the framework helps us talk about problem solving, and why troubleshooting is so important. Finally, he offers examples of different types of problems when he gets locked out of his hotel room by a faulty lock.”