Did You Decide or Determine Your Solution?

by Jamie Flinchbaugh on 02-02-21

There are many ways that lean thinkers look to signal that true problem solving has been pursued. These are a sort of litmus test for genuine versus fake lean efforts. Some of these are about artifacts, such as “show me your A3”, and some of these are about language, such as “can you properly categorize the waste?” The best litmus tests go beyond the surface and get to how someone is really doing the work. 

When it comes to problem-solving, one such litmus test is this: did they decide on a solution or did they determine a solution?

It may not be easy to tell the difference without digging in a bit, and hearing how the work was done, which is really the point. This conclusion about genuine or fake lean is too important a distinction to rely on only surface-level data. 

What’s the difference?

Deciding on a solution means that the really important work was done outside of the process. It was your judgment that determined the outcome.

Determining a solution means that the process, the data, and the criteria drove the outcome. It doesn’t mean that it was devoid of intuition or creativity, but at the very least, that intuition was validated in the process of work done to solve the problem. 

There is a time and a place for deciding, but if you want to reinforce lean problem-solving practices, then you are looking for solutions that have been determined. And in your pursuit of determining the difference, you happen to learn a little more about where people are struggling with the skills of problem-solving, then your effort has already paid off.