How to get unstuck

Jason SayensmartPRENEUR Blog Series

Have you ever felt “stuck” in your business?  All of us get stuck from time to time but rarely do we take action to prevent it from happening in the future.  We either just deal with the issue or tell ourselves that we will fix it next time.  Right now we don’t have time to deal with it.  

Sound familiar?

Lean Six Sigma root cause analysis tools can give you and your team a structured approach when it comes to problem solving and getting “unstuck”.  If at the end of a project you always meet with your team to discuss what worked and what didn’t work, these tools can be used to find out the “why” allowing you to quickly get to a solution so next time, you won’t have the same problem.

Fishbone Diagram

Fishbone Diagram

The fishbone diagram is an effective tool that can help your team get to the bottom of what’s causing a problem in a specific area of your business.  It’s also known as a cause-and-effect tool and is a structured approach to a brainstorming session in order to sort ideas into useful categories.  It gets the name Fishbone because of the overall structure which resembles a fish.  This method breaks down root causes into successive layers that contribute to an effect.  

When do I use it?

Sometimes it’s obvious that you have a problem but the exact causes are hard to identify.  There may be multiple items that are causing the problem.  Whenever you have a complex problem that you are trying to solve, the FishBone Diagram is incredibly useful because it allows you to organize the information in a way that you can understand the contributing factors.  Since there may not be one single solution to fix the problem, you can use all of this information to develop an action plan to stop the problem from happening again.

How to use it

  1. Identify the problem that you are trying to solve and make sure everyone agrees on the problem statement.  Write it at the center and to the right of the white board or flip chart that you are using.  This becomes the head or the mouth of the fish.  Draw a box around it and then draw a horizontal line with an arrow pointing to it.
  2. Brainstorm and list the major categories that are believed to be causing the problem.  List these above and below your main horizontal line as branches to the main arrow.  These start to build out the body of the fish.
  3. Brainstorm further on all of the possible problems under each major category by continually asking the question “Why”.  Write sub-cause branches if necessary to dig deeper.
  4. When you run out of ideas for a section, focus on other areas until you have enough information to fully understand all of the contributing factors to the problem.

Much like a SWOT Analysis, you now have a visual all on one page of the problem and contributing factors.  From here, you can develop a plan to fix the problem once and for all.

The 5 Why’s

The 5 Whys

Image courtesy of Jason Sayen

The 5 Why’s is another great tool to help you and your team become “unstuck”.  Sometimes it’s used in conjunction with the Fishbone Diagram but often it’s used when a team is trying to quickly understand why something went wrong.  When it’s a less complex problem but still requires some looking into, the 5 Why’s is a great approach.

How to use it

  1. Start by writing down the problem you are trying to solve.  For example, it may be “Why do our proposals take 72 hours to turn around?”
  2. Ask the question “\Why” to the group and write down each response.  The question should be directed in a matter that is inquisitive rather than accusingly in order to get good participation.
  3. Keep doing this five times or until the group cannot give you any more answers.
  4. By the time you get to the 5th “Why”, you will get to the root cause of the problem. This may be a singular solution or, each of the answers to the question might be a collection of things that need to be fixed in order to solve the original problem completely.

The 5 Why’s is a less structured approach but very effective when quickly trying to get to the root cause of a problem in your business.

About the Author

Jason Sayen

Jason Sayen is the Founder of I am Sayen and brings over 25 years to the custom installation channel.  I am Sayen, helps business owners understand their process through workflow documentation which aligns teams and removes bottlenecks.