Module 7: Business Problem Solving

Problem Solving should be treated as a project. It’s something in particular that your team doesn’t do all the time (operations) and it’s something that needs to have an acute solution.

This could be an extension of “Streamlining and Operational Excellence” but it’s really looking at those large problems that you face that isn’t Operations. You can apply some of the same principles to operations or acute problem solving

Focus on the solution, not on the problem.
— Jim Rohn


  1. Definitions

  2. What is a Business Problem?

  3. Why do we need to go through a process to solve problems?

  4. Methodologies

    • 8 Disciplines

    • DMAIC

    • Project Management Steps

  5. Applied Project Management and DMAIC To the problem

  6. Homework


Project - A project is temporary in that it has a defined beginning and end in time, and therefore defined scope and resources. And a project is unique in that it is not a routine operation, but a specific set of operations designed to accomplish a singular goal.

DMAIC - DMAIC is a data-driven quality strategy used to improve processes. It is an integral part of a Six Sigma initiative, but in general can be implemented as a standalone quality improvement procedure or as part of other process improvement initiatives such as lean.

PMI / PMP / Methodology - is an internationally recognized professional designation offered by the Project Management Institute (PMI). As of March 2018, there are 833,025 active PMP certified individuals and 286 chartered chapters across 210 countries and territories worldwide.

PMBOK - stands for Project Management Body of Knowledge and it is the entire collection of processes, best practices, terminologies, and guidelines that are accepted as standards within the project management industry. ... The first edition of the PMBOK Guide was published in 1996.

Phase Gate - The phase gate is a project management technique that reviews the end of the phase of the project. ... The project is divided into different stages or phases and separated by gates.

Deadline - In project management, a task is an activity that needs to be accomplished within a defined period of time or by a deadline to work towards work-related goals. ... A task can be broken down into assignments which should also have a defined start and end date or a deadline for completion.

Kickoff Meeting - A kickoff meeting is the first meeting with the project team and the client of the project.[1] This meeting would follow definition of the base elements for the project and other project planning activities. This meeting introduces the members of the project team and the client and provides the opportunity to discuss the role of team member. Other base elements in the project that involve the client may also be discussed at this meeting (schedule, status reporting, etc.).

Eight Disciplines of Problem Solving - The eight disciplines (8D) model is a problem solving approach typically employed by quality engineers or other professionals, and is most commonly used by the automotive industry but has also been successfully applied in healthcare, retail, finance, government, and manufacturing. The purpose of the 8D methodology is to identify, correct, and eliminate recurring problems, making it useful in product and process improvement.

What is a Business Problem?

All of those things you could consider outside of the direct realm of the core competencies which affects your business could be considered a business problem. This process isn’t for the small problems like “the water cooler ran out of water”, but rather for those large problems like:

  • Acquisition of another business

  • Comparing Vendors and Corporate Partners

  • Unexplained hemorrhaging of capital

  • Pre-Planning for projected Market Moves and governmental policy changes

  • Cash Borrowing and new initiatives

  • Improvement or upgrading with the times

  • Competing with a new powerful market entrant (or old competition with new initiatives)

Although you can use these techniques for a nuanced scale of problems, the more complex the problem should warrant the more complex evaluation and solution determination. Not even NASA uses every step in the PMBOK’s project management

Why do we need to go through a process to solve problems?

Standardization - When you standardize the way you make decisions, you can make smarter choices faster and stay within the bounds of your business values.

Documentation and Record Keeping - In business it’s important to keep records in general, but you essentially see the same problems repeat when you’re in business long enough. Looking back and seeing what worked and what did not allows your business and team not to have to re-invent the wheel.

This documentation also allows you to recognize, in hindsight what went wrong and what went right.

Return On Investment - When you standardize and document as well as go through the process properly, it has been proven to increase your efficiency saving money versus non DMAIC and PMP methodologies.

In an enterprise where on an average when an employee adheres to Lean Six Sigma process improvement methodology achieved 40% more ROI than those who did not use it.

Cost vs. Savings

Yellow Belt – 3:1

Green Belt – 5:1

Black Belt – 7:1

In today’s competitive environment, businesses that have a formal Lean Six Sigma program and who have adopted DMAIC methodology require Lean Six Sigma Black Belt certified professionals to produce 65% of higher project savings which in turn achieves 40% more savings than those who apply traditional and archaic programs to complete their projects.


8 Disciplines



D1: Form a Team

A Cross Functional Team (CFT) is made up of members from many disciplines. Quality-One takes this principle one step further by having two levels of CFT:

A Core Team uses data-driven approaches (Inductive or Convergent Techniques)

The Core Team Structure should involve three people on the respective subjects: product, process and data

SME Team comprised of members who brainstorm, study and observe (Deductive or Divergent Techniques)

Additional Subject Matter Experts are brought in at various times to assist with brainstorming, data collection and analysis

Teams require proper preparation. Setting the ground rules is paramount. Implementation of disciplines like checklists, forms and techniques will ensure steady progress. 8D must always have two key members: a Leader and a Champion / Sponsor:

The Leader is the person who knows the 8D process and can lead the team through it (although not always the most knowledgeable about the problem being studied)

The Champion or Sponsor is the one person who can affect change by agreeing with the findings and can provide final approval on such changes

D2: Describe the Problem

The 8D method’s initial focus is to properly describe the problem utilizing the known data and placing it into specific categories for future comparisons. The “Is” data supports the facts whereas the “Is Not” data does not. As the “Is Not” data is collected, many possible reasons for failure are able to be eliminated. This approach utilizes the following tools:

5 Why or Repeated Why (Inductive tool)

Problem Statement

Affinity Diagram (Deductive tool)

Fishbone/Ishikawa Diagram (Deductive tool)

Is / Is Not (Inductive tool)

Problem Description

D3: Interim Containment Action

In the interim, before the permanent corrective action has been determined, an action to protect the customer can be taken. The Interim Containment Action (ICA) is temporary and is typically removed after the Permanent Correct Action (PCA) is taken.

Verification of effectiveness of the ICA is always recommended to prevent any additional customer dissatisfaction calls

D4: Root Cause Analysis (RCA) and Escape Point

The root cause must be identified to take permanent action to eliminate it. The root cause definition requires that it can be turned on or off, at will. Activities in D4 include:

Comparative Analysis listing differences and changes between “Is” and “Is Not”

Development of Root Cause Theories based on remaining items

Verification of the Root Cause through data collection

Review Process Flow Diagram for location of the root cause

Determine Escape Point, which is the closest point in the process where the root cause could have been found but was not

D5: Permanent Corrective Action (PCA)

The PCA is directed toward the root cause and removes / changes the conditions of the product or process that was responsible for the problem. Activities in D5 include:

Establish the Acceptance Criteria which include Mandatory Requirements and Wants

Perform a Risk Assessment / Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA) on the PCA choices

Based on risk assessment, make a balanced choice for PCA

Select control-point improvement for the Escape Point

Verification of Effectiveness for both the PCA and the Escape Point are required

D6: Implement and Validate the Permanent Corrective Action

To successfully implement a permanent change, proper planning is essential. A project plan should encompass: communication, steps to complete, measurement of success and lessons learned. Activities in D6 include:

Develop Project Plan for Implementation

Communicate the plan to all stakeholders

Validation of improvements using measurement

D7: Prevent Recurrence

D7 affords the opportunity to preserve and share the knowledge, preventing problems on similar products, processes, locations or families. Updating documents and procedures / work instructions are expected at this step to improve future use. Activities in D7 include:

Review Similar Products and Processes for problem prevention

Develop / Update Procedures and Work Instructions for Systems Prevention

Capture Standard Work / Practice and reuse

Assure FMEA updates have been completed

Assure Control Plans have been updated

D8: Closure and Team Celebration

Teams require feedback to allow for satisfactory closure. Recognizing both team and individual efforts and allowing the team to see the previous and new state solidifies the value of the 8D process. Activities in D8 include:

Archive the 8D Documents for future reference

Document Lessons Learned on how to make problem solving better

Before and After Comparison of issue

Celebrate Successful Completion

(Direct source)



It’s often pictured as a circle, because it CAN be cyclically used.

DMAIC process

Understanding that you must Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, then control is not difficult.

Define - Define the project, the scope and what kind of metrics you will measure to determine success.

Measure - Benchmark your current situation, define what metric goal you would like to see in order to define success for this project.

Analyze - This is the vital determination of what the actual problem is. Dig deep to find the root cause of the real problem.

Improve - This is the initial “action” phase of the system - you’ll implement your changes in this phase.

Control - This is what I like to refer to as “Tweaking” the plan for optimal results. This part of problem solving is often missed and commitment is lacking from leadership to continue when the crisis seems to not be solved immediately.

In the case of a problem that is not solved, you would start the DMAIC program over at the Define Stage.

Have you ever heard

“We tried that once, it didn’t work”.

I have, in fact as a continuous improvement operations consultant I hear it quite often. I also end up finding out that they didn’t try to solve their problems by using this technique. Most times, in fact, it doesn’t work the first time and management gets a slew of complaints and shuts down the new way of doing things because it wasn’t perfect. The team reverts back to the old way of doing things and drastically impedes business progress.

It is important to note, any solution will never please 100% of people, nor will it seem natural at first after doing a process a certain way for years. It’s up to the leadership team to take feedback during the entire process to ensure success, and then hone the project at the control phase.


PMI Project Management


PMI Project management has 49 Steps (you can find this in the PMBOK Table 3-1) - The key here is to know when to use the step and when not to. Understanding the Academic Side must balance with the experience based practical side, is important.

On the flip side of the coin not knowing these steps limits the ability of a project manager or anyone planning a project. When you’re able to know these steps, pick and choose which to use during the planning process. When you don’t think about tasks like Quantitative Risk Analysis, you fail to plan for that factor and you have an opportunity to fail (See DPMO in the operational excellence module 3)

The PMBOK Sixth Edition is 756 pages long, so We’ll summarize this with a video.


applied problem solving


Source and references


Being able to use these techniques to solve problems is essential. For this module

  1. Find a 3 or more business problems in your business.

  2. Prioritize the three problems by [perceived] ease of solving and then by impact of solving.

  3. Plug the data from your top priority problem into the DMAIC system.

  4. Work through the planning stages of your problem.
    Do not move on to the “Improve” or “Control” Stage until you meet with your consultant.

  5. Pick the processes you believe are necessary through the PMI PMBOK Table 3-1 in each of the process groups and come up with a detailed plan to initiate a project to solve your problem.

  6. By the end of this exercise you should have a document outlining

    1. Define the problem and the solution

    2. Measure - collect data about your problem

    3. Analyze the data you have collected to find the desired outcome you would like

    4. Plan the Project using the PMBOK table 3-1 in outline form.

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Cory Myres - Lubbock Consulting

Cory Myres is a serial entrepreneur and wine connoisseur. A Lubbock Texas Native, he enlisted in the US Army shortly after graduating from Coronado High School. After a tour in Afghanistan, with the famed 101st Airborne Division he returned to Lubbock Texas to attend Texas Tech University. As a Red Raider he studied Architecture, Civil Engineering, Statistics, Economics and Graduated from the Rawls College of Business Administration with a Bachelors of Business Administration in Management with a focus on Entrepreneurship. From then he went on to become certified in Six Sigma as a Black Belt, and Project Management Professional in order to found his business consulting firm, Lubbock Consulting.