7 Step Problem Solving

Prof. Shoji Shiba is an international expert in Total Quality Management (TQM) and Breakthrough Management.[1] Globally he is best known for developing the “Five Step Discovery Process” for Breakthrough Management. In the recent years he has been guiding the transformation of the Indian manufacturing industry.

A Deming Prize winner[2] in an individual capacity for propagating TQM amongst corporates and governments, Prof. Shiba has authored books like ‘A New American TQM’ (co-authored by David Walden and Alan Graham), ‘Integrated Management Systems’ (co-authored by Thomas H Lee and Robert Chapman Wood), ‘Four Practical Revolutions in Management’ (with David Walden) in English and ‘Breakthrough Management’ (Japanese 2003; English 2006).

To handle a complex problem say for example a huge number of calls in a call center, you need the following 7 steps (defined by Dr. Shoti Shiba) to perfectly solve it:

  1. Definition: the first thing is to ask what is the problem really, without the answer of this question you cannot go any further; taking our example, you need to know what the problem really is? Is it the number of calls? Is it how long the call is taken? Or it is about something in the content of the call. Let’s decide it is the number of calls.
  2. Data Collection: next step is to answer the question “WHAT?” Get detailed data about the problem; if we are talking about the number of calls so let’s draw a graph about the number of calls over time.
  3. Cause Analysis: next step is to answer the question of “WHY?”; many techniques can help you find the cause of the problem such as Ishikawa or Pareto; or may be simple analysis, any of them will use the data collected above; in our example you found that the increase of calls synchronized with the shipment of new product, which the most of the new callas are about.
  4. Solution Planning & Implementation: “A lot of work in a simple line of writing”; after previous 3 steps you are ready correctly solve your problem by planning and implementing the solution; it worth the effort because you know you are doing the right thing; in our example you may chip to the customer a check list about the things/checks they need to go through before calling.
  5. Evaluation of Effects: Don’t stop now; you need this step as much as you need the previous 4; the question here is “DID IT WORKED?”; after shipping the check list you need to monitor and collect some data to check if the calls goes normal again.
  6. Standardization: once we found the right solution, let’s see how widely we can use it in the organization.
  7. Evaluation of The Process: after we widely spread the solution all over the organization we still not done; we need to know about the steps we have been through to solve the problem are they good to do every time we solve a problem, what are they pros and cons; so next time we do it more efficiently.