Root Cause Problem Solving: The Expectation

To Define a Problem You Must Know The Expectation

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In root cause problem solving, the Expectation is the anticipated outcome or result. It is the assumed or explicit benchmark that triggered the Alarm. It is the strategic focus of a viable solution. The Expectation is also the standard of measurement that will be used to define the problem. It may also be understood as a desirable situation or event with desirable consequences.

Why is The Expectation Important to Problem Solving?

The existence of a problem implies that there is an expected result that is being hindered. A problem is a difference, or gap, between an anticipated outcome (expected result) and an actual outcome. Therefore, to identify a problem (measure a gap) the team must know the expected result(s). The Expectation, then, is a description of the acceptable situation at minimum, or the ideal state at best. It is an Alarm-free situation.

The final Expectation Statement is to be a descriptive, specific, realistic, worthwhile, and measurable identification of a best-case or trouble-free scenario. The best expectation statements are clear, concise, (common language) and contain all critical information.

What is The Expectations Role in Problem Solving?

The Expectation Step eliminates all hidden or unspoken agendas of the team. It allows them to establish an agreement (in a verbal Expectation Statement) of an explicit standard for assessing the problem and causes. The expected result is the standard or benchmark that is currently understood by the team. It becomes both the primary measurement of a In some situations, the Expectation may already be defined as a policy statement, a recurring procedure or precedent, a standard of measurement, a benchmark, a goal, an objective, a desired result or a best-case scenario. In such cases, the Expectation Step is as simple as finding that existing standard and reporting it to the team

In most cases, the Expectation is assumed or implied but not explicitly defined. In those cases, the team must assess what is the implied or assumed Expectation and write it in explicit terms.

The best Expectation Statement is:

Specific : Precisely stated

Realistic: Is doable

Worthwhile: Will it satisfy stakeholders?

Measurable: Can be observed and assessed.

You cannot solve a problem without knowing The Expectation.

Never assume that everyone knows and agrees on the expected result. The existence of a problem means that an Expectation has not been met. If there is no agreement on the Expectation, there cannot be clear definition of the problem.

Highly technical applications require precise and explicit Expectation Statements. As a rule, the more specialized the application, the more precise the Expectation Statement.

If the team has a difficult time determining the Expectation, use the following questions to facilitate team discussion:

  • What was expected?
  • What was assumed?
  • What would not cause alarm?
  • What is a realistic, best-case scenario?
  • How “should” this be?

Accurate Expectations are essential for concise, accurate and factual problem identification.

Learn more about the 6 steps of Root Cause Problem Solving. Read Problem Terminators an Amazon ebook

Learn how to be a problem solver. Download The Master Facilitators Guide, Volume II, Creative Root Cause Analysis