The Continuous Improvement Process

Introduction
To help improve the work we do, the following steps for problem elimination have been developed. The purpose of these steps is to assist an area which has identified a problem that needs to be solved, or a situation which needs to be improved. The process is a structured, six-step Problem Solving approach which is a critical part of the Continuous Improvement Process.

The Steps

1.  Define the problem
2.  Verify the problem
3.  Analyze the cause(s)
4.  Identify improvement actions
5.  Test the improvement actions and confirm the results
6.  Standardize the improvement actions

About the Problem Elimination Process and Steps

When solving a problem as a team, it is important to use the experience and knowledge of the group, supported by appropriate facts. These steps follow a pattern of creating a group perception of an issue, then verifying that perception with facts. In many groups, there is a temptation to jump past the facts because “we know how it really is.”

Each step is important and should be completed. A tendency exists to skip steps and move immediately to an Improvement Action. Skipping steps can lead to solving the wrong problem or ineffectively addressing the right problem.

As information is collected, it may be necessary to back up and repeat a step, but no step should be skipped.

These steps take time. Do not rush and overlook vital information or critical group agreements. The phrase “go slow to go fast” is a good guideline. At times it may be necessary to slow down and get the facts or develop buy-in. The best solution to a problem is not always the most technically correct one, but often is the one everyone can agree on, and which still does the job.

It is recommended that you and/or your Team develop a schedule for moving through the steps. However, remember that problem solving takes time, and though a schedule should be followed as closely as possible, solving the problem is more important than coming in on time but unfinished.