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I became aware of a truth about lean problem solving and kaizen yesterday while reading an article about 10 internet rules and laws, “Internet rules and laws: the top 10, from Godwin to Poe,” published on the Daily Telegraph’s web site (www.telegraph.co.uk).
Skitt’s Law applied to kaizen would be “any action to solve a problem will contain at least one problem itself” or “the likelihood of a problem resulting from a proposed solution is directly proportional to the embarrassment it will cause” to the person who is promoting the particular solution.
Just as all standards should be considered temporary until improved, all improvement ideas should be considered provisional until they are proven not to be ineffective. Too many times people approach problem solving or kaizen as a process of championing a favored solution, only to be blinded by its failings. This results in embarrassment when a solution proves ineffective but the organization has already committed too much time and resource, as well as personal reputations. It is difficult to change course gracefully at that point.
We should keep in mind Skitt’s Law and assume that all kaizen ideas are full of holes, no single countermeasure will solve the problem entirely, and that some countermeasures may solve one problem but cause another. Toyota uses the term “countermeasure” for a reason, rather than “solution,” because they understand problem solving as taking a series of measures to counter root causes of problems, rather than to put so-called solutions in place and move on.
As with anything, kaizen can contain errors. Many times the countermeasures are the result of solution-jumping and shallow or nonexistent root cause analysis. Just as we should run spell check before sending out a piece of writing, we should spell check our problem solving thought process by tracking the solution back through the root cause to the original problem statement using the “therefore” or “so what” test.
The kaizen process must be inherently self-skeptical. While being confident that we can surely solve all problems (the what), we should always be challenging the method or solution itself (the how). The plan-do-check-act (PDCA) cycle is all about checking and adjusting our plan, learning from the result of the “do” phase. The learning is as important, if not often more important, than the solution that is put in place. Remember Skitt’s Law and check your work. Don’t fall in love with your kaizen ideas, because love will blind you. Keep a healthy skepticism and be prepared to love and nurture all kaizen ideas.
Speaking of healthy skepticism, there were two other laws also worthy of note.
And to bolster my argument with another quote from the internet:
The internet is a dangerous place for a curious mind.
Copyright Gemba Research LLC