3. Diagnose

It's tempting to jump straight into 'solution mode' and start coming up with answers. But this can lead to hasty decisions and false solutions. It's important to accurately diagnose and fully understand the sources of a problem. This gives you valuable insights into where, how and why a problem is arising and how you can 'design out' the problem in your new way of working.

Do you really know what the problem is?

We often come up with a solution, but are we clear what we’re trying to fix or really know what the problem is? Collaborative Problem Solving can be used as a way to quickly move through the issue. It brings together a set of tools to help you including the 5 Whys  and Specific Problem Statements (SMART).

How to distil and record your problem solving steps?

The 'Problem on a Page' template is designed for use in conjunction with the Collaborative Problem Solving process described above. The template enables you succinctly to record the key points from each stage of the CPS on a single sheet of A4. Choose between a printable version and one you can fill in electronically. 

What’s the cause?

There may be one cause or often there are several causes - each should be investigated as a separate cause. Fishbone is a useful tool to help you and your team identify, collate and organise the possible causes.

Another way of identifying the cause may by observation using Go See or Fresh eyes – ideally by someone outside of the process. 

Is the process broken?

If the problem is with the process then Process Mapping can be a useful way of identifying where the process is going wrong. Relationships with teams working around you can be improved by ensuring that everyone understands their part in the process and understands the impacts of their actions.

Overlaid with the 8 Wastes, process maps can provide a wealth of useful information.

Are you clear on your customers' expectations of the process?

Before you try to change your process, it's worth getting clear on what your customers need from it and what is most important to them - this might be different to what you have assumed is most important to them, or different to what's most important to you. For example, if you change your process to deliver outcomes more quickly when what your customers would prefer is greater accuracy, your changes will fail to hit the mark. Furthermore, if what they most prize is customer service with a more personal touch - and you failed to realise this, then you've missed the chance to exceed their expectations. 

Kano is a tool for categorising your customers' needs according to the importance to them, By doing this you can understand whether the changes you are planning will meet their expectations or nor - and you can also plan to exceed their expectation.  

What next?

Having identified the underlying or root cause of the problem, the team together should consider all the options – think outside of the box, not just the obvious options. There may be lots of options identified and so looking at the Impact and Effort of each is key to help prioritise.

How do I set out a clear case to gain agreement to a change?

You've identified the problem and want to propose a course of action to address it. Now you need to gain approval to proceed. Having a well set out 'Case for Change' will put you in a strong position. Use the 'Case for Change' template to set out, clearly and concisely, a reasoned case for making the change. Having this information summarised in one place, under headings that anticipate the key questions you're likely to be asked, will help you to gain buy-in from decision makers and from colleagues who will likely be involved in designing and implementing the changes.