Root Cause and Quality and Process Improvement

Survival of the fittest is not just a biological concern.  Our business must constantly adapt to external stimuli and find better, quicker ways of performing our work.  One way to accomplish this growth is through actions sometimes referred to as project post mortem, or an after action report.  We have a plethora of tools of which we can avail to understand what happened, and why.  We will briefly discuss a couple of those techniques below.

  • 8 Discipline Problem Solving
  • A3 Problem Solving

Like many things, the origins for this form of problem solving can be found in the United States Department of Defense standards, specifically, “MIL-STD 1520 Corrective Action and Disposition System for Nonconforming Material”.  The purpose of the standard is to:

  • Reduce waste
  • Eliminate recurring problems
  • Improve efficiency (manufacturing but there are other areas as well)
  • Promote a culture of quality and productivity improvements

The 8 Discipline

All of the Root Cause and Process Improvement activities have a theme, associated with the Shewart Cycle (Plan, Do, Check Act), so named for the American physicist and engineer sometimes known as the father of statistical quality control. The 8 Discipline format is one used by quality engineers in the automotive industry for years.  Below find the specific headings for the 8D or 8 Discipline document. The example below is provided from the LinkedIn Group TRIZ and Innovation from Michael Carter.

Process and Quality Improvement via Diligence

Example of 8 Discipline form

 

The A3

The A3 method of problem solving associated with Toyota.  The name A3 comes from the corresponding European paper size (roughly 11.7 x 16.5 inches).  The paper size makes the difference.  If you wish to perform like Toyota, you should copy how they perform their work precisely.  By the way, that was a joke.  You can see a common theme in the 8D and the A3 processes.

Quality improves as we understand what went wrong in the process.

Quality improves as we understand what went wrong in the process.

However, good tools do not drive our organization improvement and ultimately we need the engagement of our talent.  Sometimes this exploration into what went wrong can produce additional harm.  Consider this comment from a person as our organization attempts to find the source of the problem and ultimately the improvement actions.

“I don’t have time for a “witch” hunt.   If we had sufficient and competent workers completing the details from the beginning; and continuous progress throughout, you wouldn’t need a meeting to discuss PROCESS. The process is a guideline – I bet nobody follows it!!!”

Wow – huh!  Seems like this person has been into the root cause breach one too many times.  Seriously, these evaluations can lead to some defensive behaviors as we see in the sanitized excerpt above. The root of such responses may be in previous excursions down the root cause road which were “witch hunts” and not the exposition of why we see the malady.  The problem is the work must happen to improve our work results and disseminate the learning associated with the root cause analysis work.  The documentation helps, but the learning accomplished by the exploration helps drive the point.  It is the difference between reading a recipe and backing a cake.  You gain some understanding by reading but you learn the nuances by exploring and doing.

To improve efficiency and quality it is incumbent upon us to constantly review the way we work. When we see the symptom, a performance we do not want, it is prudent to investigate and take some actions to redress.  This is part of our organization improvements.

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One Response to Root Cause and Quality and Process Improvement

  1. Shawn

    Root cause analysis is commonly associated with failure or problems, but what people fail to realize is that there is also a reason things are done right. This capitalizing on the positive is a better source of improvement than waiting for a problem to occur. It is also a process that is at the heart of most organizations that lead the way, Organizational Learning. The desire for change is caused by the tension between where someone or something is; actually not perceived, and where they desire to be. This desire can not be satisfied in a true learning organization as the desire to improve is always present. Hence they lead the industry.