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.
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.
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.