Problems – Does your business have any problems?


The definition of a problem is “any question or matter involving doubt, uncertainty, or difficulty”.

I find it interesting when I ask people about their business, I am often told that the they have fixed their problems.  Does that mean they no longer have doubt or uncertainty about outcomes and have no difficulties with safety, quality, delivery, and cost?  It seems that many of the problems, the chronic problems, have become generally acceptable or normal.  The company is so used to these issues that the work around them all day long.

Dr. Shingo said that “no problem is a problem”.  Everyone has problems, big ones and little ones, at work, at home, socially, family problems we all have them.  Even though we want a perfect life, I have yet to discover anyone who has found it.

I believe it is fair to say “at work we do have problems, lots of them”. We all have heard this cliche “they are not problems, they are opportunities”.  Though I have found this to be true, it is not often believed.  If a favorable environment for continuous improvement has not been created and sustained most people will roll their eyes when “opportunity” is used in this context.

That bring us to the term “kata”.  Mike Rother’s book “Toyota Kata”

has brought the term to the forefront in lean circles.  Mike speaks of kata as a practice, saying that we practice law, medicine, piano and so on…..but what about our business processes?  Why don’t we practice them?  If we bide by the concept of Deming/Shewhart’s “Scientific Method” Plan-Do-Check-Act, we are always on the search for “problems or opportunities” and working to solve them through PDCA, with the help of everyone in our organization.

One of the powerful message I take from Mike is the concept of “what is next?”.

We never arrive at the finish line.  Everyday we find new challenges and hopefully new strength to understand, then improve the challenging condition.  Without the necessary support we have no hope of maintaining this system, there are just not enough hours in the day.  We need, as Bruce Hamilton says “everybody, everyday”.

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