Problem solving is a natural cycle of continuous improvement that seeks to put an organization on a continuous path to higher performance. As each problem is removed the organization runs more efficiently with less waste and more practical outputs. Such improvements can be seen in quality, service delivery, product design and operational function.
The Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA Cycle) is an approach developed by the management guru Deming to improve quality. Planning includes analysis of the problem, do is the implementation of the solution, checking on the results, and act is the implementation and standardization of the solution. The check, act, do, plan wheel is seen as rolling up on quality over time.
Consider the problem-solving steps in the PDCA Cycle by Summers (2000):
Step 1: Recognizing the problem and establishing Priorities: Outline the problem from many different sources and inputs.
Step 2: Forming quality improvement teams: An interdisciplinary team of individuals that focus on solutions to the problem.
Step 3: Defining the problem: The team defines the problem and outlines its edges.
Step 4: Developing Performance Measures: Using measures to determine overall improvement such as in pre and post analysis.
Step 5: Analyzing the problem/process: Flow charting the problem to see how it works together.
Step 6: Determining possible causes: Seeking the root causes of the problem for manipulation and change. This is where all the problems seem to meet up into a single place.
Step 7: Selecting and implementing the solution: Once the root causes are found it is necessary to implement the proposed solutions that impact those causes.
Step 8: Evaluating the solution: It is necessary to follow up on the implementation of solutions to determine if they are working.
Step 9: Ensuring performance: The new methods need to be implemented and workers trained on such how to work with them.
Step 10: Continuous improvement: Once the process runs smoothly new problems and solutions should be proposed that encourage even higher levels of performance.
Fitzsimmons, J. & Fitzsimmons, M. (2011). Service Management: Operations, Strategy, Information Technology (Seventh Edition). NY: McGraw-Hill.
Summers, D. (2000). Quality (2nd Edition). N.J.: Prentice Hall