Good morning!

There was an excellent question posed by a lean colleague on LinkedIn a couple of days ago.

He posted the video clip of Lucy in the Chocolate Factory that lots of us use in teaching and simply asked “What is the problem?”

The responses range from solutions (”They need an Andon to slow or stop the line,”“no feedback,””no Kanban”) to assumptions (“Her mental models are the problem,” “fear is present and respect for people is missing) to general statements (“Every muda starts with MURA and MURI”) – These are all different categories of waste in the lean world.

All of these comments are by seasoned professionals who are good at getting to the root cause of a problem, but solutions and the absence of solutions, assumptions, and general statements are not stating the problem. 

My response was:

“The problem is we make assumptions about what the problem is.  The problem begins with what we can observe, so say what you see.  These are the symptoms of the real problem. 

Starting with what you see, start pulling layers back with critical thinking and effective analysis.  Keep pulling until you find a measurable and actionable root cause (5 whys), then explore at least 5 ways to solve each root cause (5 whys to 5 ways). 

In this case the starting problem must be that Lucy and Ethel aren’t keeping up with the line. 

As we peel, all of those other problems mentioned here begin to come out, but we have to be able to keep our list of contributing problems in context with the observed problem or we will keep working from assumptions and we will miss the correct root causes.”

Problem solving has to begin with the fundamentals.  Sometimes, we restate what is clearly obvious, but I’ll refer to the way Vince Lombardi, the legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers, and for whom the Super Bowl trophy is named, used to start training is players.  He always started by showing the team a football, and saying “Boys, this is a football.”

Similarly, John Wooden, another legendary coach of the UCLA Bruins, the NCAA basketball team with the most National Championships, would start his training by teaching the players how to put on socks and tie their shoes.

Reminders of the fundamentals is never wasted.

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