Welcome to part 2 in our 3 part series on Problem Solving the O3 Way!  

As a recap, Orgwide’s “O3” Problem Solving Process is a comprehensive approach to equipping managers with the leadership, process improvement skills and mentorship capabilities necessary to achieve their organizational objectives.  At the heart of our O3 approach is a one-page visual (drawing, charts, graphs, words, etc.) depicting a seven-step problem-solving process.  During the problem-solving process, leaders and mentors guide their protégés in the discovery learning process, so the protégés will be able to produce an accurate, thorough O3 report while simultaneously learning how to use critical thinking to make better business decisions.  Throughout the process, key business problems are explored, investigated, and ultimately solved.  The steps of the O3 Problem Solving Process are:

1. Background
2. Current Conditions
3. Goals/Targets
4. Analysis
5. Proposed Countermeasures
6. Plan
7. Follow-up

In part one of our series we discussed the first three steps in the seven step O3 Problem Solving process.

  • Background - Answers the questions “what?” and “so what?” regarding the problem at hand.

  • Current Conditions - the state of the problem as it exists today and how it relates to the organization.

  • Goals/Targets - The measures of success (or other means of evaluation) you will use to determine whether or not the ideal target state is achieved - where you want to go and how you’ll know when you get there.

Here is a look at the Purpose and Key Elements of these three steps and how a basic graphic (it can even be hand drawn!) might look at each stage:





Today, we stand on the shoulders of giants such as Drs. Walter Shewhart and W. Edward Deming as we explore the fourth and fifth steps in the O3 Problem Solving Process – Analysis and Proposed Countermeasures (commonly, and erroneously, thought of as Solutions).



analysisThe purpose of the Analysis step is to discover the “root cause” of your problem.  Just using the term “root cause” sends shivers down the spine of many managers.  They think of fish bone diagrams and other such complex activities.  In truth, this step is important and need not be complicated.  The O3 Problem Solving Process uses a simple, yet incredibly effective means of determining a problem’s root cause.  First, clarify the problem.  What is the “real problem” in measurable terms of performance?  Next, go to the Gemba.  The what?  That’s right, the Gemba.  It is a Japanese term meaning "the real place."  Japanese detectives call the crime scenegemba,” and Japanese TV reporters may refer to themselves as reporting from “gemba.”  In business, gemba refers to the place where value is created; in manufacturing, the gemba is the factory floor.  It can be any "site" such as a hotel front desk.  It’s wherever the service provider interacts directly with the customer.  By going to where the problem lives, you can gather your facts first hand and thoroughly and objectively analyze the situation. 


Once you’re at the gemba, it’s time to ask some questions. As John Shook, former manager at Toyota’s Japanese headquarters, said in his webinar “Managing to Learn”, “it’s more important to give people the right questions than the right answers.” What Shook was referring to in that instance is the importance of getting your team to think and to take initiative.  So, what’s the most important question you can ask to do that: Why? What’s the second most important question: Why? In fact, the O3 Problem Solving Process advocates the “5 Why’s” process. The “5 Why’s” process is the practice of asking “why” repeatedly (or at least five times) to go beyond the obvious symptoms of the problem to discover the root cause.  The first “Why” usually yields the direct cause of the problem.  Asking “why” four more times is a “peeling back of the onion” so to speak that helps you dig to the root cause.  An example of the “5 Why’s” in action might look like this when confronted with a machine that stopped working:


1.      Why did the machine stop?  A fuse blew due to an overload.

2.      Why was there an overload?  The bearing was not sufficiently lubricated.

3.      Why was it not lubricated?  The lubrication pump was not pumping sufficiently.

4.      Why was it not pumping sufficiently?  The shaft was worn out and rattling.

5.      Why was the shaft worn out?  A strainer wasn’t attached, so metal scraps got in the shaft.


In this example – if you stopped at one why, you might just change the fuse, even though attaching a strainer to keep metal scraps from getting in the shaft would fix the problem forever!


Proposed Countermeasures                     

countermeasuresDuring this step you will develop, evaluate and, eventually, select 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.  Once a countermeasure is in place, it may create a new situation with its own set of circumstances that need to be addressed.  Based upon an evaluation of the various options – costs, quality, delivery, speed, etc. each countermeasure can be objectively reviewed by the team.  One key to success is to gain consensus or agreement on the chosen countermeasure.  This is key for two reasons: 1) it helps to recognize who actually “owns” the countermeasure, and 2) it helps the “owner” gain the often critical support of others for its ultimate success.


Through the first five steps, we’ve identified our problem, shown the current state of affairs (and compared it to other problem-free areas), and articulated the target for our eventual actions.  Additionally, we finished our Analysis and developed a selection of Countermeasures for consideration.  Next week, we’ll bring it all home with a look at steps six and seven – your Plan and Follow-up.  Until then, remember take care of the customer, take care of each other, and take care of yourself.


Leave us a message and a best time to contact you.

* Fields are required