Intermediate-level problem solving uses relatively sophisticated problem solving techniques to resolve complex problems and manage projects. Within the context of the Arizona Management System (AMS,) teams use a standard, single-page, 11x17-inch (A3) template to manage and document their work. The template aligns with the familiar Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle of continuous improvement through five sections:
• Purpose (PLAN)
• Analysis (PLAN)
• Strategy (PLAN/DO)
• Results & Issues (CHECK)
• Standardize & Sustain (ACT)
This edition of AMS In Focus focuses on the Check and Act phase of problem solving.
Results & Issues (CHECK)
The Results and Issues phase of A3 problem solving serves as a consistent check on your team’s progress toward completing its various countermeasures.
Here you will want to show your metrics - typically displayed as a green circle (ON TRACK), yellow triangle (BEHIND) or red X (OFF TRACK). Don’t be too concerned when you see yellow and red, as these identify issues that need to be addressed.
It’s also OK if team members occasionally miss due dates for valid reasons; just document why and add a revised date. When setting due dates for completing action items, closing out countermeasures and achieving the project’s ultimate goal, be realistic when establishing your glide path to success.
Under Results and Issues, you’ll want to include statements to explain problems that are blocking progress on the countermeasures, or better yet, talk about your successes. So, how do you know if your strategy is successful? When all the deliverables have been met, and your metrics and goal are achieved and sustained, you know you have been successful.
Standardize & Sustain (ACT)
Once the team achieves its goal, there is still plenty of work to do. The last three steps in your action matrix might well be: Finalize standard work; Create communication and training plans; and Celebrate!
In the Standardize and Sustain section of the A3, you will want to document that standard work exists, where it is located and how it will be maintained going forward. The same can be said for the communication and training plans so as standard work is updated or new team members come aboard, a process exists for getting them up to speed.
And we always want to remember to celebrate the success. Celebration can be fun and productive. Use these team building opportunities to reflect on what worked well during the project and how things might be improved next time. Identify specific groups or other agencies that may be able to benefit from your lessons learned or use your problem solving strategy to improve processes of their own.
Celebration and reflection build morale while affirming that Arizona state employees do, indeed, solve problems and finish projects. Most important, consistent success reinforces that good things happen when we think and do the right things the right way, and this is vital to creating the positive, can-do culture of continuous improvement that the Arizona Management System promotes.