At the heart of every Quality Improvement Initiative lays a solution to a problem. However blatantly obvious this sounds, business improvement practitioners will be the first to admit the process of selecting, applying and measuring the impact of solutions can be a daunting task itself. You don’t always get the luxury of selecting a “no brainer” solution to close improvement gaps.
It’s well accepted that most problem solving methodologies involve 6 generic steps in the Cycle of Improvement.
Step 1. Defining the problem
Step 2. Defining the desired Outcome
Step 3. Generating Ideas as Solutions
Step 4. Implementing a Solution
Step 5. Measuring the Impact of the Solution
Step 6. Reviewing / Adjusting / Optimising the Solution
Step 4 is the real “show stopper” and determines whether all the efforts put into the solution will bear any fruit.
If trial and error is at one end of the solution selection scale, how do you go about choosing the most appropriate solution to implement, test and measure the impact, from a collection of ideas or a brainstorm?
Most selection techniques revolve around a type of priority grid. In its simplest form, The priority grid can be represented by a Pain vs Gain grid, where improvement solutions are placed on a chart with 2 axes, one showing the Pain or Effort scale (Easy to Difficulty to implement) and one showing the Gain or Benefit scale (High benefit to Low benefit). The quadrant of choice, no prizes for guessing, is the Low Pain, High Gain quadrant.
There are however, a lot more considerations that should be taken into account when selecting a solution for implementation.
The Key Questions To ask Before Deciding a Solution to Implement.
- Does the solution meet Customers’ Requirements?
- Is it aligned to the Business Strategy / Mission and Values /
- What Impact will this have on the business now ?
- What is Potential Impact the solution have in the future ?
- What Business Benefit does the solution bring? – This is one where you need to strike a balance between tangible and non-tangible ideas in order to get everybody on board. The difference between these categories are that tangible ideas will lead to a financial improvement whilst non-tangible suggestions contain a non-monetary aspect. But this doesn’t mean they are not important, as often this intrinsically contributes a lot to the well-feeling and being of employees.
- Does the solution directly impact one of the KPI’s ?
- How much Time will it take to implement solution ?
- What is the Urgency in implementing this solution ?
- What Investment and resources are required? / How much will the solution Cost ?
- What is the Payback (in years) for this investment ?
- What is the Value of the solution ?
- What Authority will be needed to approve the solution ?
- How Complex is the solution ?
It goes without saying that some of these questions may not be applicable to every type of solution you’re considering and should be therefore be used as a generic guide.
It’s also good practice to create a kind of scoring system for each of the answers based long the lines of
- 0 = No / None / Nil evidence
- 1 = Somewhat positive evidence
- 2 = Significant evidence
- 3 = Definite Yes.
By tallying up the individual scores for each question to a proposed solution, you start to get a feel of who’s likely to top the “billboard charts”.
Armed with this prioritisation matrix, select your best solution , put it to test and measure, measure, measure.
For more resources, see our Library topic Quality Management.
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