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, I lxl7-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 Analysis phase of problem solving.
A pioneer of statistical quality control, W. Edwards Deming is famously to have said, "In God we trust. All others must bring data." This could be a mantra for AMS, Arizona's intentional, data driven approach for managing performance, reducing waste and continuously improving state government operations for sustained progress. Everything we do in AMS is rooted in collecting and analyzing relevant data to identify and address root causes of problems that inhibit our efficiency and productivity.
During the analysis phase of problem solving, the team seeks to thoroughly understand and clearly explain the causes of the problem using tools and techniques we have previously examined in AMS In Focus articles (e.g., Five Why and fishbone analysis, Pareto charts and process mapping).
Through a process known as "gemba," a Japanese term that means "the real place," (i.e., where the work is done,) team members are encouraged to physically go and see where the process occurs to understand standard work flow and roadblocks to performance. By humbly asking questions of the employees doing the work, they seek to learn what is happening and why steps are done the way they are.
Once team members have:
I) completed an exhaustive analysis of the problem,
2) clearly articulated and visualized the current state reality, and
3) refined the original problem statement,
they are ready to brainstorm solutions that address
the root cause or causes of the problem. All ideas are recognized and noted before undertaking a grouping exercise to combine similar ideas and further refine them.
At this point, the team is ready to plot potential solutions on an Impact/Complexity matrix to prioritize the ideas for which they will develop strategies and action plans in the next phase of their A3 problem solving activity.