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About this lesson
The problem statement clarifies the goals and activities of the Lean Six Sigma project by specifying the issue to be resolved. It's an excellent communication tool for the team to use with stakeholders.
The problem statement clarifies the goals and activities of the Lean Six Sigma project by specifying the issue that's to be resolved. It's an excellent communication tool for the team to use with stakeholders.
When to use
Every Lean Six Sigma project must have a problem statement. It is completed during the Measure phase of a Lean Six Sigma project and is referred to again when reporting results at the end of the project.
The problem statement describes the problem from the customer viewpoint. However, the Lean Six Sigma problem statement does not rely on the voice of the customer comments, rather it collects data and describes the impact of the problem of the customer using the real data of what happened. By using real data, the team and stakeholders are less likely to assume what the core problem or solution is. Fixing the wrong problem not only waste resources, it can often make the real problem even worse.
The next module will provide a number of tools for gathering the data used to write the problem statement. In this module, the focus is on the result – the problem statement. There is no one right way to write a statement. I have seen many formats which were quite good. The key is that several questions are answered, and these answers must be from the perspective of the process customer or user, not process operator.
- What is the product or service performance result that is not meeting expectations?
- When does it typically occur?
- Where does it typically occur?
- Who is affected?
- What contributing factors are present – how does the problem manifest itself?
You may not have answers yet for the last question and that is acceptable. The Analyze phase of the Lean Six Sigma project will provide those answers. But sometimes, if the problem was due to a special or unusual cause, the contributing factors, or even the root cause(s) are obvious.
Make sure that your problem statement is fact-based with no embedded assumptions. Also, make sure it's based upon the impact from the customer perspective. Finally, the problem should be stated with a measurable component. When the Lean Six Sigma project nears completion, the team will need to demonstrate the impact of their improvement. It's much easier to explain impact when there was measurable problem described in the problem statement.
Hints & tips
- Take your time and don’t rush the writing of the problem statement. A poorly written statement, or worse yet, one that describes a non-problem, will waste the team’s time and effort and not satisfy the customer.
- Don’t jump to conclusions, use facts.
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