Here is some specific tidbits T.A.S. shared recently with South Sound YMCA leaders about Problem Solving A3s.  With improvements, it is good when you slow down the quick reaction and impulses to solve the problem, to really explore the deeper causes and examine data to ensure things are really as they seem at the surface.  In A3 Problem Solving, the first three steps set you up so that the root cause analysis can be focused.  Here are some key points around problem statements and target conditions-

Problem Statement development tips:

  • Identify the GAP between the current state and the future/ideal state.
  • The GAP is the problem
  • Current state= what we know about today
  • Future State= what we’d like it to be in the relatively near future (1.5 -2years)
    • This may be based on national standards or other similar benchmarks
    • Historical trends are also useful— look at several years data and see what trends are occurring in this category(ies).  Examine whether the past year an anomaly?  How does the organization sit with the national average?  Is there a natural place where “normal” is around this data point?
  • Ideal state is perfection.  In some cases this is not a good benchmark to use for GAP definition.   But in areas where we are designing something new, or trying to be innovative, or it already had good comparison to other benchmarks, it may be appropriate
    • An example of ideal state:  we’d like the number of workplace injuries to be zero injuries a year.  But that may not be realistic, so in this case it would be better to align with a future state
  • The problem statement should set context about the current and future/idea and specifically describing the GAP.  Using data in the Problem statement is absolutely appropriate

Target Condition development tips:

  • Remember the 80 / 20 rule.  80% of your time is spent on 20% of the population.  Here is an example of the 80 / 20 rule with staff— if we have 10 staff reporting to us, it is usually about 2 staff that take up about 80% of our managerial supervisor time and effort…. Just a rule of thumb.  With problems the same is true.
  • Think about what in the data is telling them is that 20% of the problem.
  • The target needs to be focused… the rest of the A3 problem solving work will center around the Target statement.  All root cause and action planning will be in direct response to this solid target statement.
  • For example— If you have 11 different data points from an employee survey results that are not showing favorable data, our natural inclination is to improve all 11 points.  That is way too much.  But using the 80 / 20 rule you could:
    • Identify two of the data points (~20%) could have the greatest impact on the net of all 11.  And narrow focus that way, or
    • (more ideal)  Analyze the data and turn it sideways to think about common themes between all 11 that are issues and perhaps that is the 20% focus area that will have a 80% result?
  • Remember the Target condition is a statement following a formula looking like this:
    • Do what?  (Action verb, e.g. increase / decrease)
    • To What?   (object, what to wish to improve and for whom)
    • How Much? (magnitude of improvement, data & %s)
    • By When? (Date, timeframe to reach target)
    • As Measured by…
  • There should not be a solution or a “how” it will be fixed in the Target condition.
  • If someone pitches a target statement and the entire group just agrees immediately, you are not being serious about this step in the A3 Problem Solving process.
Dialing in on Problem Statements and Target Conditions on Problem Solving A3s
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