“ACT” – Make a Change Based on the “CHECK”

[Post by Chuck Krugh, December 19, 2022]

Rounding the corner into the last quadrant of our Business Operating System (BOS) – ACT is our last stop in the cycle. As you’ll recall from last week, ACT is preceded by the CHECK step where we checked our results to make sure we are doing what we said we would do. In the ACT stage, we adjust our action plans so that we hit our targets during the next cycle of production.

Hitting our goals is important in our business. The better we do at meeting our goals, the more successful our company performs.

We don’t always hit our goals even though that’s what we intend to do. There are many reasons we might fall short of our targets. Some common reasons are: not enough people, a flawed process, not enough training, incorrect budget hours and so forth. Over the years, I have learned that these general reasons are often excuses offered in lieu of an analysis of what happened during the execution of the task.

So after we have checked our outcomes, we need to know what we might have to fix or address to avoid repeating the same problem in future work. The “fix” is the action in the Act quadrant. So how do we know what to fix?

It takes some work to dig in and understand the root cause of the problem that kept you from achieving your goal. That process is called problem solving. There are a number of problem-solving techniques used in business. Root Cause and Corrective Action (RCCA) is one that has been used for many years in the aviation, space and defense industries.

Before we get to the RCCA process, we need to introduce the documents used in the ACT quadrant. In our BOS, we use one problem-solving document, the “Top 3 Problems List,” along with a number of other problem-solving tools to organize and structure the way we conduct problem solving.

The Top 3 Problems List is simply a prioritized list of known problems. The list is usually developed by the team working at the point of execution and organized into priorities by a team leader. The prioritized list makes sure we use our scarce problem-solving resources to solve our most pressing problems.

Solving our biggest problem first helps us get the biggest return from our problem-solving resources, in other words, the biggest bang for our buck. Tackling that top problem should result in the most savings or gain the most efficiency in our operations as we fix it. If we are using the Top 3 Problems List properly, the problems on the list will change as conditions change. Once the top problem is addressed, the others on the list move up a spot.

The Problem Solving Tools we will use in the ACT portion of our BOS are actually a suite of tools that you can deploy to problem solving. We will discuss individual tools in a future blog.

In my mind, there are three levels of problem solving: the problems that you can fix with no help; more difficult problems that require the help of others; and company-level problems requiring powerful problem-solving tools and high-level intervention.

The easiest problems to solve are ones you can just go fix that do not require anyone else to help you. Usually these are small adjustments that can be made at the point of execution to keep a problem from happening again. Typically, these problems are solved at the mechanic or front-line supervisor level. These also do not require a formal problem solving method – they are usually based on common sense.

The second level of problem solving involves problems that require more than just the mechanic or front line supervisor. These are problems that may involve other parts of the company like Planning, Facilities, Engineering or Supply Chain. These problems involve more people, which makes solving them more complicated.

For these more complex problems, we will use a tool called an A3 Problem Solving Sheet to help us work toward the solution. This approach is appropriate for the majority of problems we need to solve in business. It is the tool we will use in the ACT quadrant of our BOS when it’s not a level one problem we can solve on our own.

The A3 Problem Solving Sheet is a method of documenting a problem, its current outcome and suggested changes. We will talk more in depth about the A3 Problem Solving Sheet in a future blog.

Problem-solving strategies are key to our Business Operating System. That’s because the ACT quadrant compels us to react to the data collected in the CHECK quadrant. If the data from the CHECK is positive and shows we met our goals, then no action is required. If the data shows we didn’t make our target, then we need to ACT.

We have now covered the complete PLAN-DO-CHECK-ACT (PDCA) cycle of our Business Operating System. I hope you see how this organized and structured approach to doing our work can help us bring more efficiency into our business.

In a future blog, I’ll bring this all together and we will make it a system! See you on the deckplates!

Safely Execute High-Quality Work

President, General Dynamics Bath Iron Works

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