Wednesday, May 03, 2006

5 Whys On Steroids - Beyond Repeated Questioning to TRIZ Cause-Effect Models

Asking "Why?" is a favorite learning technique of young children, but is it a valuable problem-solving tool? By repeatedly asking why (five is a rule of thumb recommended by Creativity and Problem Solving experts) layers of symptoms can be peeled away, leading to the identification of the root cause of any problem. The claim is that very often the cause of a problem will lead you to another pertinent question.

Maybe this questioning would reveal a solution, maybe not. Every consultant knows that knowing the cause of a problem is 80% towards finding a solution. Sure sounds easy. “5 Whys” may be effective, but can it solve complex problems for which there are no obvious or known solutions? Can we realistically expect Six Sigma practitioners to rely on such a simple method?

Many of the methods that process analysts use in order to find improved process designs are out-dated given the complexity of global business today. P-TRIZ is emerging as a new method that can cope with such complexity. BPTrends reports that this "refreshing new approach to process and innovation is forcing lots of readers to rethink what they do when doing process analysis."

A complex problem is one in which there are connected, conflicting and counteracting causes and effects. Most process redesign falls into this category. A complex problem is one in which critical domain knowledge needs to be integrated during problem solving if solutions are to be revealed. Root causes are rarely linear where processes are concerned.

You can download a PDF to find out how to go beyond "5 Whys" and use powerful P-TRIZ analytic methods. Some have said it feels like "5 Whys on Steriods".