Arizona’s state workforce of more than 33,000 skilled problem solvers will achieve far greater results and increase value and efficiency more than what can be achieved if only leaders and managers solve problems. Through the Arizona Management System (AMS), employees are learning standard work for disciplined, practical problem solving as well as tools and techniques that help achieve success.
Teams need to have a method for differentiating between “Just Do It” (JDI) solutions, basic problems and intermediate-level problems so that they use appropriate tools depending on the size, scope and complexity of the problem. Most of the problems a team identifies will be JDIs or appropriate for basic problem solving. Teams will want to respect their capacity for problem solving and prioritize appropriately. If too many problems are in active problem solving, the team may risk finishing fewer of them in a timely way.
Once the problem has been selected for basic problem solving, use the 4-Box approach:
1) Define the problem. Describe the current situation (the gap) in measurable terms and its impact on customers and stakeholders. A good problem statement should address what’s wrong and how the problem presents itself, i.e., where it appears, how big its impact is, etc. Without a proper problem statement, you can’t effectively identify the root cause(s) or determine countermeasures to address the real issue.
2) Identify the root cause(s). Failure here will likely lead to recurrence of the problem. Use the simplest tools required to get to the root cause. Five why analysis, Pareto charts, fishbone diagrams and basic process mapping are useful tools for such purposes. Don’t proceed to the next step until the root cause is known.
3) Develop countermeasures. Ideally you will want to consider more than one countermeasure to address the root cause of the problem before determining the path forward. If the first countermeasure is not effective, you will have alternatives already identified. Whatever countermeasures you choose should conform to the existing ecosystem (e.g., comply with applicable laws, rules and policies.)
4) Standardize the process improvement. Be sure to create or update standard work to sustain the improved performance over time. A defining characteristic of the Arizona Management System is its emphasis on intentional, systematic performance monitoring and continuous improvement to sustain the gains we are making.