Quality Progress - May 2013 - 48

StatiSticS Roundtable BY RogeR W. HoeRl and Ronald d. Snee one Size does not Fit all Identifying the right improvement methodology THE NEED TO improve is ever present in install a new computer system. We assign a The problem is categorized into one all endeavors and will continue to be so. project manager to implement the solution. of four quadrants in the matrix that helps We live in a dynamic world. As predicted Knowing the problem solution does not identify the best solution method. Note that in the second law of thermodynamic and mean the solution is easy or unimportant. the listed methods are illustrative, but not entropy, the world will continue to change. For example, a person might know why exhaustive; other methods could be added. This change produces a need for improve- he or she is overweight, and what must be Let’s look at some examples that illustrate ment; we have learned that if left alone, done about it. Keeping weight off is not how the matrix is used. things get worse—not better. easy, however. A key question is, “How?” Lean Six Sigma is generally considered to be the best available approach to im- That is, “How to implement solution?” If the solution is unknown, we don’t Case 1. Last year, we presented a case study in which a company that manufactures flushable baby wipes found that its provement: true for a lot of problems, but know why we have this problem. The key product was clogging septic systems.4 not all problems. In improvement, one size question is, “Why?” That is, “Why is this Obviously, this was a serious problem does not fit all. We have argued a holistic problem occurring, or what is the root for the company, but was also clearly a improvement approach is needed, with the cause?” Here, a problem-solving approach special cause: This hadn’t happened in the four critical building blocks being: leader- and mindset is needed. past and occurred suddenly. This sug- ship, top talent, infrastructure and holistic Both kinds of problems are impor- gested that the problem had relatively low improvement method,1-3, meaning it can tant to the success of an organization’s complexity. However, the solution and the handle any problem. improvement initiatives. In fact, a blend of root cause were unknown. The problem, of course, should define solution-known and unknown problems This placed the problem in quadrant the improvement method. To help get to the is the rule rather than the exception. The two. The company chose a team problem- principal difference is that approaches to solving approach, using techniques such discover the best solution are needed in as brainstorming, Pareto charts and run solution-unknown problems. charts. The root causes and appropriate solutions were found using these basic Problem complexity tools, resolving the problem and returning Another critical consideration is the com- the process to normal. plexity of the problem. Problems with low Case 2. One of this column’s authors complexity are typically isolated prob- was once asked by an IT professional lems: problems involving a special cause. to help him on his Six Sigma project. It The important question here is, “What turned out that he wanted to install an went wrong?” You find the root cause, fix Oracle relational database to replace a it and return to normal. manual system. The author asked him Problems with high complexity typi- whether he had done this before, and he correct characterization of the problem, it cally involve the entire system and involve replied yes. So the author asked the IT is helpful to evaluate two critical variables: working on common-cause variation: professional whether he felt he knew how whether the solution to the problem is There’s no special cause to fix. Here, an to do this, and again he said yes. known and the complexity of the problem. improvement approach such as lean Six When presented with a need to im- Sigma may be appropriate. Looking at the matrix, this was clearly a solution-known problem. Even though he prove, the first question we must ask our- Taken together, these two variables had done it before, the problem had high selves is whether we know the solution to create a matrix (see Figure 1) that is help- complexity because it could easily be mis- the problem. Examples of a solution-known ful in identifying an appropriate problem- managed with serious consequences. Also, problem might be to pave the parking lot or solving method. the details of how to deploy the database 48 QP • www.qualityprogress.com http://www.qualityprogress.com

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Quality Progress - May 2013

Up Front
LogOn
Expert Answers
Keeping Current
Mr. Pareto Head
Balancing Act
Avoiding an Avalanche
What Makes You Tick?
Mood Righting
Innovation Imperative
Quality in the First Person
Standards Outlook
Statistics Roundtable
Special Section: ASQ Enterprise and Site Members
3.4 per Million
Career Corner
Career Corner
QP Toolbox
QP Toolbox
QP Reviews
QP Reviews
One Good Idea
One Good Idea

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