Root Cause Problem Solving: The Solution(s)

Solutions Eliminate the Root Cause

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The Solution is the course of action the team chooses to address The Root Causes and solve the problem. It becomes the strategic objective targeted by The Tactical plan.

Problem Solving is All About Viable Solutions

The Solution step identifies and describes the strategic direction that will solve, resolve or eliminate the problem. Since problem solving requires a change in thinking or process (different from the thinking and process that created the problem) there will, by necessity, be some level of innovation, creativity and risk in any viable course of action.

The outcome of The Solution Step is the creation of a viable way to eliminate The Surface Problem at the root cause.

To create a solution, review The Alarm, The Expectation, The Surface Problem statements, and The Root Cause diagram.

The probing question I often pose to a team to find a solution is: “If you could, without fear or limits, offer any suggestions to address the root causes to this problem, what would be your suggestions? I also like to advise teams: “Never allow fear, flak, or finances to prematurely eliminate a viable option.

Introspection and dialogue by and between team members are the primary sources of solution generating. Interviewing people for ideas can be useful to some extent, but the primary source of creative solutions will come from the team members themselves who have been intensely involved in the work of problem solving. The creative idea or solution usually comes after a period of intense involvement and commitment. Encourage team members to trust and rely on their own creative insights and solutions.

How to Create Viable Solutions

Generate creative ideas by repeating the cycle three times: Ask for ideas, record on a list, ask again and expand the list or solution ideas. Experience with Creative Root Cause Analysis (CRCA) has demonstrated time and time again that the most creative, innovative and viable solutions are generated in the second and third rounds of solution generating. Challenge team members to probe their subconscious. Encourage individuals to avoid self-censoring and express all that comes to mind, even ideas considere

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d silly or impractical. All ideas are to be suggested without critique.

To facilitate repeated cycles of inquiry, the asking of additional probing questions is usually helpful. Challenge the team to generate a list double in size to the initial list of ideas that resulted from the preceding response to the probing question. The greater the number of options generated, the greater the likelihood a viable and innovative solution will be identified.  Accept and record all ideas without critique. Remember, critical judgment applied too soon stifles creativity. You can eliminate weak or poor ideas later, but if you never get an idea on the table because someone held back, it can reduce the results.

Once the team has exhausted all ideas for possible solutions, the task is to reduce the long list to a short list of viable solutions. Team members discuss, clarify, combine, critique, and integrate ideas. Allow the discussion to take a positive approach and develop the best ideas. It is not necessary to eliminate ideas; simply focus on developing viable solutions. The most viable ideas will continue to attract the team’s attention; others will fall by the wayside for lack of interest. At this stage, it is important to anticipate new problems a solution could generate.

Through discussion, the team works to combine, divide, stretch, and mold new ideas. This is the point at which synergy has the greatest benefit. Through discussing several ideas, an entirely new idea may emerge. Continue the discussion and refinement until a short list of three to five viable courses of action remain.

Prioritize the short list. In most cases, the number one priority item will be the selected solution. If not, the team can select a solution or multiple solutions. This solution will become the expectation against which its success or its problems will be measured.

Manage time pressures. Sometimes, it is best to take a break and get away from the problem. At other times, a break would disrupt the thinking flow. Pressure is nearly always the enemy of creative problem solving.


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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