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Problem Solving to Align Purpose, Process and People (2 Day Class)

Jim WomackRespect for People
An eletter from Jim Womack

December 20, 2007

For years I've visited companies where "respect for people" is a core element of the corporate philosophy. So I've asked managers in many companies a simple question. "How do you show respect?" I have usually heard that employees should be treated fairly, given clear goals, trusted to achieve them in the best way, and held to account for results. For example, "We hire smart people, we give them great latitude in how they do their work because we trust them, and we hold them to objective measures of performance. That’s respect for people."

When in recent years Toyota made respect for people one of the pillars of the Toyota Way I decided I should ask the best Toyota managers how they show respect for people. The answer I have heard is a good bit different from what I’ve heard at many other companies and goes as follows:

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This 2-day workshop has been designed to emphasize a critical role that the scientific method of PDCA plays in helping organizations successfully implement their strategies, create the environment for continuous improvement and develop people enabling them to solve increasingly complex problems.

A 2-day format uses the experiential approach that takes you, step by step, through an 8-step problem solving process.

During the program, you will discuss what it takes to make lean the way to do business rather than "a program", a company long-term strategy rather than a tactical approach that can change any time, and what role the Toyota problem-solving approach plays in creating the lean culture.

Bring your business problems with you and work on them in class as you learn to apply lean thinking to the problem solving process. We will teach you how to create a summarized document of your thought process which follows PDCA and allows you to share the "need to know" information with others in your organization.  This document which is most often referred to as "A3 problem solving tool" can also be used for:

  • Strategy Deployment
  • Coaching and Development
  • Gaining Consensus/Engagement/Buy-In (Nemawashi)
  • Encouragement of Gemba (Actual work-area) visits (GO-SEE)
  • Establishing a common language for the organization

Topics to discuss

Day 1: Creating the Culture of Problem Solving

  • Values, principles and beliefs that guide daily work activities and interactions in the lean organization.
  • Lean as a philosophy and way to do business vs. a short-term improvement program.
  • Tangible guidelines to be used throughout the problem solving process to bring the company values to life.  
  • A "line of sight" between daily "value-adding" activities and organization's Hoshins (business plan) or KPI's  (Key Performance Indicators) and its impact on problem solving.
  • Micro vs. macro PDCA thinking. 
  • Recognize gaps in your own environments/culture based on class discussions and exercises

Day 2: Applying an 8-Step Process to Solving Business Problems

Learn and practice a problem-solving process based on the scientific method of PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act).  This process helps everybody involved in solving a problem see it "through the same lens" and take actions to solve it at the root cause.

Most of the work in class will focus on the first 4 steps of the problem-solving process as you will learn to apply it to your own business problem. Steps 5-8 will be discussed in sufficient detail to prepare you to complete the process when you return to your organization.



The 8-step process is as follows:


Step 1 – Problem Clarification

  • What should be happening
  • What is currently happening?
  • Why are we talking about this problem?
    (What's the impact on the company' KPI's?)

Step 2 –Problem Breakdown

  • Break the gap into manageable pieces
  • Prioritize them
  • "Go see" the process
  • Find the point of occurrence

Step 3 – Target Setting

  • How much, by when, set to point of occurrence

Step 4 – Root Cause Analysis

  • Potential Causes
  • Investigate/verify at gemba
  • Establish cause and effect
  • Ask Why
  • Select root cause(s)

Step 5 – Developing Countermeasures

  • Brainstorm countermeasures
  • Narrow them down with a  criteria matrix
  • Develop an implementation plan

Step 6 – Seeing Countermeasures Through

  • Reporting, Informing and Consulting Matrix
  • 360 degree communication process

Step 7 – Monitoring Process and Results

  • Was target met?
  • How much of the gap was eliminated?
  • Evaluate 3 viewpoints

Step 8 – Standardizing and Sharing Successful Practices

  • Standardization process
  • Start on the next prioritized problem in Step 2



Over the course of two days you will learn about:

  • The key values and competencies critical to implementing and sustaining a problem solving culture based on the scientific method of PDCA.
  • Problem Solving as a way to cascade the Hoshin/Strategy Deployment

As a result, you will be able to:

  • Use a problem standardization process DAMI (Define, Achieve, Maintain, Improve)
  • Use the 8-step problem-solving methodology and root cause analysis
  • Use the A3 format to visualize your problem solving thinking
  • Use a problem-solving flowchart template.



Send more than two people from your company and save $200 off each registration.


Ernie Richardson Ernie Richardson
Co-Owner, LEI Faculty
Teaching Lean Inc.

Ernie has 25 years of Manufacturing and Human Resources management experience which allows him to see the cultural dynamics from both functional areas of a company. He gained this experience at Toyota Motor Manufacturing where he grew from Team Leader, to Group Leader, to Assistance Manager on the manufacturing side. After which he moved to HR, assuming, at different times, responsibility for skill development programs, safety and medical management. As Acting Medical Director for Toyota Engineering and Manufacturing North America, Ernie was responsible for nine on-site medical clinics across Toyota North America (convenience care, full-primary care, and occupational care). He was also responsible for disability management (as describe above) North American wide. Ernie worked at IBM for 8 years before joining Toyota. Currently, Ernie shares his extensive experience with members of the lean community as a co-owner of Teaching Lean and a Faculty member of the Lean Enterprise Institute.

Tracey Richardson Tracey Richardson
Co-Owner, LEI Faculty
Teaching Lean Incorporated

Tracey has over 29 year’s combined experience in different roles within Toyota and learned lean practices as a group leader at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky from 1988-1998. She was one of the first team members hired, with the fortunate opportunity to learn directly from Japanese trainers. As a group leader and quality circle advisor, she learned first-hand about lean tools and culture development.

For the last 19 years, as president of Teaching Lean, Inc. Tracey has worked with Toyota North American plants, and other companies on their lean journeys, helping them develop the capabilities of employees, including team members and company leaders. Using problem-solving and aligning daily activities with company business plans, she helps them create lean cultures that are the foundations for long-term sustainability.

Tracey is an active coach and contributor to LEI’s The Lean Post. She teaches several problem-solving and A3 workshops as an LEI faculty member. She is coauthor of the new book Toyota’s Engagement Equation.

Locations and Dates for Problem Solving to Align Purpose, Process and People

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Price: $1,600.00 ($1,400.00 if the participant is taking 2 or more workshops at one location)
Price includes all participant materials, breakfast, lunch and snacks each day

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Cancelation Policy
Our workshops are designed to cater to a limited number of participants.  If you must cancel a workshop registration, you will be given a full refund up to four weeks before the workshop. A cancelation occuring within four weeks of the workshop will be subjected to a $350 cancelation fee.  Substitutions may be made at any time prior to the start of the workshop. To cancel a workshop registration, please call LEI at (617) 871-2900.