Creativity and Problem Solving

Course Outline

Learning Objectives:

When you have completed this module you will be able to define the key concepts associated with Creative Problem solving and you will be able to:

  • Identify the main obstacles that prevent problems from being solved in the organization.
  • Understand the components required for successful problem solving.
  • Understand the importance of proper problem solving activity.
  • Use problem solving techniques to improve productivity and profitability.
  • Explain the benefits of having an effective and proactive approach to solving problems.

Introduction: What is a Problem?

Why Solve Problems?

In an organization where problems exist but remain unsolved the following can occur:

·         Demotivation of staff

·         Loss of customers

·         Waste of resources

·         Reduction of profit

·         Compromised growth / survival potential

Solving a problem usually removes an impediment from work leading to:

·         Increased productivity

·         Increased enjoyment

·         Less stress

·         Improved quality

·         Improved efficiency



The Problem Solving Process

Problem Solving Journey

There are 4 main phases in the problem solving journey:

·         Problem Identification

·         Cause Identification

·         Remedy identification

·         Remedy implementation

These can be further classified as:

·         Diagnostic activities

·         Remedial activities

Types of Problem

Problems can be broadly grouped into 3 categories:

·         System problems

·         People problems

·         Process problems

Each problem category has its own peculiarities that must be taken into consideration when tackling them.

Attitude and Problem Solving

An effective problem solving attitude has the following components:

·         Optimism

·         Persistence

·         Basic Knowledge

·         The correct approach

Responsibility for Solving Problems

Responsibility for solving problems may lie:

·         With the individual who has ownership of a process or product.

·         With a work team who operate a process

·         With defined project teams who are assigned to work on a particular issue.

·         With the organization that needs to meet its strategic objectives.

Problems will not be solved unless someone:

·         Takes ownership of the problem.

·         Designs, accepts and works with a defined problem solving process.

·         Designs and implements a quality solution

·         Monitors the effect of the solution in terms of the overall business process.

Continuous Improvement

The Japanese concept of Gemba kaisen has five basic rules for solving problems to generate continuous improvement:

·         When a problem occurs go to the site of the problem.

·         Check the site of the problems

·         Take temporary countermeasures on the spot.

·         Find the root cause

·         Standardize the process to prevent the problem from happening again.

Problem Solving Techniques

There are several techniques that can be used to address these two issues.

Dealing With Information

Gathering facts

·         Clearly identify facts from opinions

·         Use effective measurement systems that are understood by the operators.

·         Treat estimates with suspicion

·         Record facts accurately and maintain them in a secure place for reference.

When gathering information the impact of an effective measuring system should not be under-estimated, as wrong information will generally lead to the wrong solution being designed and implemented.  The basic parts of a measuring system include:

·         The operator

·         The measurement instrument

·         The procedure for taking the measurement

·         A means of recording the measurement accurately and securely.

Presenting facts is part of the problem solving activity, so they must be presented:

·         Accurately

·         On time

·         Visibly

·         Logically

·         Understandably


Data Capture

·         The Measles Chart

Causes & Symptoms

Symptoms are usually the visible manifestation of the problem and because they are visible they can attract attention.  In many organizations effort is often spent eradicating symptoms of a problem, however the unseen parts of the problem – the root cause, is the part that needs attention.  The next set of techniques looks at this.

Methods:The Ishikawa chart

This is also known as the Fishbone chart.  The problem is looked at from the point of identifying possible causes of the problem in 5 areas:

·   Man

·   Machine

·   Method

·         Material

·         Environment



Methods:SWOT analysis

After establishing the root cause of the problem, an analysis is made of the


·         That can be brought to bear on the problem.


·         That will exist if the problem is not fixed


·         That will arise when the problem is fixed


·         That will appear or increase if the problem is not fixed.

The 5 Ws

This is a simple technique that allows one to dig into the problem by asking

·         What

·         Where

·         When

·         Who

·         Why



The 5 Whys

This is another simple technique that allows the team to strip away layers from the problem and tackle root cause.

·         Ask why the problem occurred

·         Get an answer and ask why it is so.

·         Do this 5 times




Method:Cause & effect analysis.


·         Identify all possible causes of the problem.

·         Write them on Post-it stickers

·         Begin to analyze and cluster the potential causes

·         Analyze for root cause.

· Test the reality of each cause

Getting to the Solution – The Logical Approach
This uses the Principle of Cause & Effect.
·Stage 1 – Gather all relevant information.
·Stage 2 – Review the information and develop a hypothesis regarding the problem and the solution.
·Stage 3 – Test the Hypothesis
·Stage 4 – Eliminate the cause
If the problem persists then the process has to go back to Stage 2 or in some cases Stage 1 and a new solution developed.

Developing a solution
It is important that the solution be a quality solution, this means that the team must be aware of the following effects:
·Acceptance of a solution that is not the best available solution for the problem.
·Normally focuses on removal of symptoms and not root cause.
·Short-term response.

  • Problem will recur

Problem solving loop
·Usually associated with a lack of knowledge of the situation.
·Facts are distorted to fit in with old / known solutions to similar problems
·Same solutions are used continuously
·Problems will multiply
Defining a Quality Solution.
The solution devised and implemented can be considered to be a quality solution if it meets the following criteria:
·The problem must not recur
·The solution cannot have an negative knock-on effects
·The solution must be appropriately implemented.
·The resources required to implement the solution must be kept to a minimum.

Solution Effect

You want to design and implement a solution that will be a quality solution.  This technique assists you in achieving that goal.
·List the proposed solutions
·Analyze them in relation to the circumstances
·Take criteria that have an impact on the acceptability of the solution such as cost, speed, and effect on the market.
·Select the best solution from the analysis.
When looking at the solution it is important to identify the issues which are:
The big drivers
·The main reasons for implementing the solution.
The small drivers
·The minor reasons for implementing the solution
The big resistors
·The main reasons that will block the implementation
The small resistors
·The minor reasons that will block the implementation.
Part of the solution is to devise counter measures to overcome the resistors.

Summary and Benefits:

From analysis of roles within the organization it can be seen that solving problems is part of normal work
·Solving problems delivers benefits to the individual, team and organization.
·There are simple techniques for problem solving
·The effectiveness of the techniques is dependent upon the quality of the information available.
·Causes not symptoms should be removed.
·Quality solutions need to be designed
·Implementation of solutions needs to be planned and their success checked.
·Continuous improvement is dependent in many cases on robust problem solving methodologies.
By developing a robust, reliable and implemented problem solving process, there are benefits to be gained across the organization and out to the customers.

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