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A Toolbook for Quality Improvement and Problem Solving (contents)

A Framework for Process Improvement: 3. Problem

The Quality Toolbook > Applications for Tools > Framework for Process Improvement > 3. Problem

Identify | Define | Problem | Cause | Solution | Implement | Review | Follow-up


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This is the overall process:



Fig. 1. The overall process


In order to identify specific problems to address, the current performance of the process needs to be grasped in sufficient detail to enable the identification of those parts which are in need of attention. This usually requires more detailed information than is available when the project is first selected.

Activities in this stage may include:

  • Implementing a short-term fix whilst a longer-term solution is found.
  • Mapping out the process or problem to understand it in detail and identify potential problem areas.
  • Measuring the process to identify and verify problems.
  • Prioritization and selection of specific problems to be addressed.
  • Revising plans to reflect new knowledge.

When identifying problems to address, it is usually better to select only a few (or even one) at any one time, as multiple changes to the process can make it difficult afterwards to determine the effectiveness of each change. This is also true of the Cause and Solution stages. A common characteristic of this framework is illustrated in Fig. 1, where a broad set of possible items are first identified, then one or two are selected to be carried forward for further action. This pair of activities also occurs for Problem, Cause and Solution stages and is sometimes called divergent thinking and convergent thinking (or simply divergence and convergence). 

Tools that may be used in the Problem stage are described on the Tools for the Problem stage page in the Tool Finder.



Fig. 2. Divergence and convergence to find final solution




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