Welcome to part three of the O3 trilogy! If you’ve followed along in parts one and two, I’m sure you’re anxious to learn about the final two steps in the O3 problem solving cycle…at least until the process begins again.

If you missed parts one and two, here is a brief recap.

Overview: O3’s seven-step approach to solving business problems, which is founded on Deming’s PDCA cycle, is designed to equip high-potential employees with the critical thinking skills necessary to truly solve problems. This is done by capitalizing on the learning opportunity present in the problem solving process. At the heart of O3 is a one-page visual (drawing, charts, graphs, words, etc.) depicting the seven-step problem solving process. Throughout the process, key business problems are explored, investigated, and ultimately solved.

In the first two parts of our series we discussed the first five steps in the seven step O3 Problem Solving process.

  1. Background - Answers the questions “what?” and “so what?” regarding the problem at hand.
  2. Current Conditions – Defines the state of the problem as it exists today and how it relates to the organization.
  3. Goals/Targets – Identifies the measures of success (or other means of evaluation) you will use to determine whether or not the ideal target state is achieved. In other words, where you want to go and how you’ll know when you get there.
  4. Analysis – Clarifies the problem; thoroughly and objectively analyzes the details utilizing the “5 Why’s” process of asking “why” repeatedly (or at least five times) to go beyond the obvious symptoms of the problem to discover the problem’s root cause.
  5. Proposed Countermeasures - Develops, evaluates, and selects the best options for addressing the gap between the current and target conditions. By preparing several options from which to choose, the problem solving team can weigh factors of each option such as cost, timing, and ultimately effectiveness. O3 uses the term “countermeasure” rather than “solution” because the word “countermeasure” recognizes that apparent solutions inevitably create new problems

For more information on the O3 Problem Solving process, including the purpose and elements of each of the first five steps, please see the two blogs posted below.

In the final segment to our series, we’ll bring it all home with a look at steps six and seven – your Plan and Follow-up.


planPlanning is the creation of a blueprint or roadmap for all organizations. When done by work teams, plans become an agreement or contract between teams and individuals as to what will be completed, by whom and by when. At its simplest form, the Plan is the “Who will do What When” document. Plans can take fancy shapes and sizes like Gantt charts, or they can be as simple as three columns – Who, What, and By When – a responsible party, an action, and a deadline. For each “Who”, you must define the “What” (to make absolutely clear the actions to be accomplished) and the “When” (to leave no doubt or expectation for completion to chance). If the work team creates the Plan you’ll gain maximum buy-in on the tasks and have the chance to gather feedback about the timeline. Remember, no task is complete or measurable without a target completion date (read: deadline). The Plan becomes a roadmap from the Current Condition (step 2) to the Goal/Target state (step 3).



follow_upThe Follow-up step is one of the most important, as its sole aspiration is to evaluate the effectiveness of countermeasures and memorialize lessons learned. After implementing the Plan – what happened? By what measures can you determine how the plan worked? Have the Current Conditions changed? Has the Goal/Target state been achieved? Maybe most importantly, what unintended consequences have been encountered by the implementation of the plan? As we’ve noted, the Countermeasure step may very well cause a new problem. Recognizing this fact and moving your organization from a “mistakes = failures” mentality to a “discovered mistakes = opportunity to learn” mentality is the key to developing a true appreciation for continual improvement.

So there you have it. A seven step process that will help you and your team stop jumping to conclusions and inefficient “quick-fix” actions and embrace root-cause focused countermeasures developed by work teams in the trenches with accountability, responsibility, and authority to make change and deadlines to do so. Drop us a note and tell us what you think of the O3 Problem Solving Process or if you’d like more information about how to implement the O3 Problem Solving Process with your organization by clicking here. Until next time, remember – take care of the customer, take care of each other, take care of yourself.

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