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Online - Introduction to Problem Solving

Problem solving is critical to every position in every industry.

In this course, you will learn to grasp the situation at the gemba (where the work is done) and use all your senses to understand what is truly happening. All too often, people create countermeasures to perceived problems without digging deeper, asking the right questions, and thinking more. Learning to grasp the actual situation is paramount to identifying root cause(s) of the problem and solving it.

Throughout the entirety of the course, we use a case example to illustrate the problem-solving approach as you are learning. In addition, you will deepen your understanding by applying this new way of thinking to a problem of your choice.

This course breaks down lean problem-solving concepts and techniques into simple, easily understood pieces. Take a moment to review the breakdown in the 5 Whys of Problem Solving:

Learning Objectives

  • Build a foundational understanding of problem types and problem solving
  • Identify the four types of problems
  • Apply A3 thinking to solve problems
  • Clearly define problems, beginning with grasping the situation at gemba
  • Learn to break down vague problems to specific problems that can be solved to root cause

Course Outline

Unit 1: Lean Problem Solving
  • Lean Transformation Framework
  • How We View Problems
  • Lead with a Questioning Mindset
  • What Is a Problem
  • Four Types of Problem Solving
  • Make the Problem Clear
Unit 2: What is an A3?
  • Introduction to the A3
  • A3 as Good Storytelling
  • It’s not a Template
  • Problem Solvers
  • The A3 Process
  • Jumping to Conclusions
  • Not Grasping the Situation
  • What Is the Ladder of Inference
Unit 3: Creating Your A3
  • Grasp the Situation at Gemba
  • Problem-Solving Funnel
  • Analysis
  • Five Whys
  • Choose Countermeasures
  • Countermeasures vs. Solutions
  • PICK Chart
  • Create Your Plan
  • Nemawashi
  • Consensus/Agreement
  • Follow-up
  • PDCA
  • It Takes Two to A3

Below is a sample of some of the course content. Your professor for this course is John Shook, author of the best-selling book Managing to Learn which is widely considered to be the go-to book for problem solving. Have questions about this course? Contact us at blackboard@lean.org.


Please note, you have 120 days to access and complete this course.


Problem Solving (45 minutes), What is an A3 (2 hours), Your A3 6.5 hours

Time estimates are teaching content only. Work-based activities may take 10+ hours.

About Our Partnership 

UMass Amherst Isenberg School of Management

Introduction to Problem Solving is an innovative online course developed by the nonprofit Lean Enterprise Institute (LEI), a global leader in lean management thinking and practice, in partnership with the Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

With a mission to make things better through lean thinking and practice in order to create more value and prosperity while consuming the fewest possible resources, LEI conducts research, teaches educational workshops, publishes books and ebooks, runs conferences, and shares practical information about lean thinking and practice through lean.org.

The LEI/Isenberg School partnership will give you an exclusive educational opportunity to earn graduate level academic credit from the University of Massachusetts Amherst with a companion course offered by the Isenberg School tentatively scheduled for Spring 2018. By taking part in this partnership you’ll receive, among others, the following benefits:

  • A deeper understanding of Lean Management and how to sustain it
  • Access to LEI’s decades of thought-leading content and research about Lean Management
  • Learn from and engage with top-rated Isenberg faculty
  • Be better prepared to apply to the Isenberg MBA Program
  • Discounted tuition

Required Reading for this Workshop:
Suggested Reading for this Workshop:

Price: $500.00

Access to this online workshop can be purchased individually or in blocks. Individual student access and blocks of up to 9 students are $500.00 per student.

Larger access blocks are available at discounted prices.

10 - 49 students: $400.00/student
50 - 99 students: $350.00/student
100 - 499 students: $300.00/student
500 - 999 students: $275.00/student
1000+ students: $250.00/student

Cancelation Policy
Refunds will only be issued up to seven days after purchase. Contact the Lean Enterprise Institute at (617) 871-2900 for a refund.