Effective Problem-Solving In Practice


“Do You Have A Problem?…Let Me Give You The Solution”

If I tell you my problem, what would be your reaction?

You would probably like to understand my problem; you would listen to my story and …give your best solution to my problem, right?


That’s the reason you have to sit in all the meetings all day long. Boring, isn’t it?

Especially the managers among us are fully loaded with meetings. We don’t have time, we just run from one meeting to the next one. And we feel ourselves very important.

In most of your meetings, there is a problem. Your colleague or subordinate has arranged another meeting because there is a problem that needs to be solved.

What happens in such meeting? You come together, if it is carefully organized, you have already received the agenda of the meeting beforehand, and you have already collected some ideas about HOW TO SOLVE


In case you are the manager, you are expected to deliver the solution to the problem. Right? At least you feel that you should. That gives you a sense of satisfaction, it is good for your self esteem and you feel being important.

You appreciate that people around you seek your advice; therefore you make sure you deliver your advice.

This is NORMAL.

Now something better:

Apply Lean Six Sigma DMAIC approach.

Define Phase:

Try to listen first. If you hear about a problem DON’T JUMP TO THE CONCLUSIONS but make sure you and your colleagues understand completely what the problems is.

The key to this is asking the right questions: “How often does this happen?” “When was the last time?” “Where does it happen?” “What are the consequences?” “How could you measure this problem?” “How would it look like if this problem is solved?”

Involve in this discussion the people who are impacted by this problem, they face this issue regularly and are not satisfied about the situation.

Important to create common understanding in the group and do not allow anybody to overrule other’s

opinions and feelings by saying “oh, come on, that not a big deal…”

If you allow this, you will lose commitment and motivation in the group.

Measure Phase:

Insist on data. If the group or the organizer of the meeting has already data, that’s fine. Put it on the table. Try to make an runchart / individual chart of the data displaying the occurrence of the problem in time.

Most probably you don’t have the data in the meeting because nobody thought about measuring it before. (Yes, we are on the way of culture change…)

So agree then what to measure, who will measure it, where and how frequently to measure it. Explain that he/she needs to put it into a runchart (calculating the mean and control limits are possible even in MS Excel).

Postpone the meeting until there is data.

Analyze Phase:

When data is collected in the runchart, discuss the possible causes concerning the current performance.

Brainstorming is essential but you can make many mistakes here. How to do it effectively and with actionable end-result and team commitment, you can read it in my book, Profitable Empowerment (currently I have it in digital format).

Improve Phase:

If you have done your brainstorming correctly, you agreed to test some possible causes to the problem. So you make another appointment to analyze the results of the test. Questions to be answered: “Did we find the most important cause to our problem?” “Can we see improvements in our test results compared to our base line measurement?” “Is the improvement significant or do we need to look for alternatives?”

Control Phase:

Agree with the team how the new procedure will look like to ensure the solution will indeed solve the problem for the last time.

Administrate it, train and educate people.

… and keep monitoring…

Closing words:

Managers like quick problem-solving but how can you solve something which you even don’t know. You can’t.

Following the structured problem-solving of Lean Six Sigma in your daily work does not need to be very time consuming. Often you can solve issues in this way within a couple of hours.

But you need to exercise this.

Currently I’m implementing strategic Lean Six Sigma in a small company where I train 59% of the employees, including the Managing Director.

He said “It is so tempting to provide with quick solutions without truly understanding the problem first. Lean Six Sigma teaches us to be patient with each other and understand each other’s issues better. This makes our organization much more effective and efficient.”

Warm regards,


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