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Making IT Lean by Rebecca Duray, Howard Williams

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123
Chapter 6
Lean Problem-Solving:
Identifying and
Managing Solutions
If A3 Thinking is the driving methodology behind problem identica-
tion and understanding, as discussed in the previous chapter, then PDCA
(Plan–DoCheck–Act) plays a similar role in implementing and managing
solutions. Fundamental to this is the notion that good problem identifica-
tion leads readily to good solutions. Well-defined and targeted solutions
inherit the analysis done in problem identication and problem understand-
ing because real root causes lead more readily to the solutions that address
them.
Starting with Root Causes
With the list of causes we identied during Root Cause Analysis (RCA), we
can identify those that, for any number of reasons, seem appropriate to do
something about. This suggests that we need to apply some criteria to select
those causes that seem particularly valid and tractable and, for whatever
reason, are of high enough priority to address. Priority for attention may be
based on a variety of criteria, including measurable impact, strategic priority,
relative ease of addressing (low hanging fruit”), and so forth. Inputs to this
prioritization include data (e.g., from a Pareto chart), as well as subjective
assessment and, perhaps, even political considerations.
124 ◾  Making IT Lean: Applying Lean Practices to the Work of IT
There are other ways of establishing this priority, some of them system-
atic (using tools), and others that are less formal, but the bottom line is the
same. We want to identify root causes that we have reason to believe will
lead to the resolution of problems we identified in the first place. While
there is no single best way to prioritize, it is important for stakeholders to
agree on the criteria in use. In Chapter 8 we will also discuss the impor-
tance of establishing a governance, or decision-making, mechanism, for this
purpose, specifically to assist in identifying criteria, selecting improvement
projects for solutions, and managing results.
A3 Thinking will guide us to the right set of causes to work from as
well, and the experimental nature of this approach means that some trial-
and-error to get there is to be expected. Pragmatically, what this means is
that we may need practice to derive the optimal set of root causes for any
particular problem, but identifying candidate root causes along the way
can only help us get there. As we mentioned in Chapter 4, it is not uncom-
mon to identify root causes that appear intractable or too big to identify
solutions for and, if this is the case, we probably want to look for other
causal factors that are more straightforward to address. Above all, we don’t
want to get stuck in a place where we feel we cannot make forward prog-
ress on a problem. It is for this reason that we always want to identify a
set of causes from which we can experiment with solutions.
Identifying Solutions
In the server build scenario, we identified several causes and we suggested
at the time that good identication of these made identifying solutions
relatively easy. For example, several causes related to the forms used by the
Apps team to submit their requirements, including the following:
Procedures require a team to evaluate each form according to a set of
criteria that may not apply to all types of conguration requirements.
The form itself is cumbersome and requires time to transfer data from
the Word
®
doc into a spreadsheet where team tracks requirements
through the rest of the workflow.
The form instructions are not clear so the Apps team often leaves out
critical information.

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