When T.Q. starts within an organization, it appears quite
simple, "set up teams and solve a few problems", some managers say.
However, as we discussed before, T.Q. is about a cultural change based
on a desire to satisfy the customer and eliminate problems for good.
Education is a key pan of T.Q. If teams start to look at
problems without it, they will lose their way and become disheartened.
If the problem is not identified accurately, nor the correct solution
selected based on data analysis, the problem will not be eliminated
forever. In addition, the project has got to be controlled by an
effective leader to ensure that implementation will be achieved.
Hence, this section is devoted to looking at the first step in
a structured approach to the Improvement Process Cycle. By applying the
methodology described and not passing from one step to another before
completion, the team has a much greater probability of finishing the
STEP 1: DEFINE THE PROBLEM
The first stage in the process of eliminating a problem is to
define the problem carefully and precisely. Once this is done ft is
easy to quantify the problem in terms of any deviation of the output
You should aim to arrive at a definition of the problem which
will allow anybody else to understand it, without misconceptions. To do
this you must avoid some common pitfalls.
DON'T JUMP TO CONCLUSIONS
Avoid the temptation of guessing what the cause of the
difficulty might be and using this as a quick way of stating the nature
of the problem. You run the risk of jumping to the wrong conclusion and
causing delays and misunderstandings later in the process.
Let us look at an everyday example. If you have difficulty
starting your car on cold mornings, you might define the problem as the
car has a worn out battery. This is not an accurate description of the
problem but a guess as to the most likely cause and the ultimate
There are many other possible reasons for the cars poor
performance it could be a bad connection or the
alternator which needs attention. Yet the garage may simply change the
battery in response to your suggestion. if your hunch was wrong, you
will have wasted time and money. The problems would be better defined
as the car will not start on one or four occasions when the temperature
falls below 0 degrees C.
DON'T BE TOO GENERAL
The definition should provide unambiguous and objective
details of the problem. Imagine that you reject an output, say a batch
of color, and send it back to the manufacturing area. It is not enough
to define the reasons for rejection as merely poor quality, or not up
to required standards. You must specify exactly what the deviation from
requirements is for instance contamination is
AVOID BLAMING PEOPLE
The aim of the Problem Solving Discipline is not to apportion
blame, but to understand the problem well enough to propose effective
solutions. So always point to the process and not to the people
operating the process. Most people do not respond well to negative
criticism they do not like to be called failures.
It is essential that an atmosphere of openness is encouraged, in which
all employees are happy to raise problems knowing that their
difficulties will be treated seriously and even handedly.
1. Quantity the problem
The benefits of eliminating the problem
2. Define the scope of the problem
An unambiguous and simple problem definition in writing
Do not proceed to Step 2 - Analyzing for Root Causes
until all the above outputs are available and recorded.
PROBLEM DEFINITION SHEET
STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
QUALIFYING CONDITIONS - WHEN, WHERE, WHO, SINCE WHEN,