Good Morning!

On this day in 1878, Edison Electric Light co. founded. More relevantly, in 1951, the First episode of I Love Lucy aired on American Television. That’s relevant because we use a clip from I Love Lucy in teaching the principles of problem solving. That clip is available on my YouTube channel.

I’ve mentioned my process for solving problems a few times, but so far, I haven’t had an episode dedicated to the C4 process. After discussing the evolution of the scientific method and the history of the quality movement over the past couple of days, I think it fits in nicely here and will help set the tone for future episodes.

The C4 Process is an evolution of the PDCA cycle that I first learned in the Army, but later really focused on in working with Toyota to understand what makes the Toyota Production System tick.

I taught PDCA for several years. It’s stages of Plan, Do, Check, Act I found were excellent for conducting a thoroughly scientific analysis of a problem that we needed to solve or for an improvement we needed to make to a process.

I ran into problems with people taking shortcuts in the process. Mostly, people would tend to skip completely over the Plan stage, and Do something, then see what happened, and then do something else.

I was working with the team the developed the Rolls-Royce Production System and having lots of discussions about learning, employee development and engagement, and simplifying the problem solving process.

Separately, we had both began to focus on the key activities within the Plan stage, to call them out separately, so people might stick to them a little better. As we worked through these issues, Mike Kirkby of the RRPS team, told me that they had run a trial of a simple system they were calling the 3C’s process because it focused on the Concern, then the Cause, and then the Countermeasure.

I had already decided that Cause and Countermeasure had to stay, but I couldn’t find the right word for the first stage until this discussion. I immediately adopted this (or abducted it – or stole it outright) but because my focus was much more centered on what the employees can learn from the process rather than simply getting a solution in place, I added a 4th stage to capture the need for some retrospective thinking to solidify the learning. I called that 4th stage “Confirm.”

So the 4 stages of the C4 process are Concern – where we understand the real problem; Cause – where we find the root causes; Countermeasure – where we develop and evaluate potential solutions; and Confirm – where we collect and analyze the results and reflect on what we learned by going through the process.

Tomorrow, I’ll break these down into 11 key steps that I teach.

I’m presenting tomorrow and the People Processes Digital Summit that kicks off this morning.  My presentation on Solving Tomorrow’s Problems will go at Noon Eastern time tomorrow, October 16.

Hit the link in the comments to register. It’s free, unless you want to upgrade to VIP access for only $30 – that will get you access to all the videos for another month plus a few other perks.

Have a great day and I’ll see you tomorrow.