Put Down That Tool
This article was originally published by JFlinch on Oct 15, 2009.
What tool should I use for solving this problem? What’s the right tool? There are many tools in the toolbox of lean for problem-solving and process improvement. When an organization teaches people to use the tools, there is often an over-reliance on jumping into using the tool without making sure it’s the right tool.
Here’s my advice: Use the simplest tool possible. When you start to use tools that are more complicated than they need to be, we add unnecessary waste and bureaucracy to the process of improvement. For example, if you already know what to do, then just do it. You don’t need a tool, you just need to execute on your idea. Don’t force-fit your understanding into an A3 or a 5 Why or any other method just for scoring points. I see this often. Someone solves a problem. But there wasn’t a 5 whys done, so people say “that’s not lean, you have no 5 why”. This becomes a dangerous response because then lean becomes about filling out the form, not about the actual improvement work.
These tools are all designed to help us with the process. That’s how they should be evaluated, by how much they help. When skipping the use of the tools leads to repeat problems and underwhelming results, then it is right to challenge someone on their approach to the problems. Focus on the methods, not on the artifacts. Filling out the A3 or the 5 why report is the artifact. My experience suggests to me that using the form can help you apply the thinking. It is a form of standard work for thinking. But the form itself is not the work. The A3 is not the problem, it is just your articulation of the problem. Never put the articulation ahead of the actual work.