Posted by: JC Gatlin | September 30, 2009

Stop! Don’t jump…

“Mountain Jumping” is the term we use when someone encounters a problem and immediately determines the solution to fix it. We all do it. That’s why PDCA is a methodical series of steps that forces you to hit the pause button, examine what’s causing the problem, determine what measures should be taken to stop its recurrence, and then, finally, follow-up to ensure that those measures are working. PDCA forces us to go through every step.

Still – how many times do you encounter that one member of the PDCA group who just knows what we should do, and keeps bringing the conversation back to his solution? Even worse, once one member of the PDCA group takes that giant leap, it’s not long before every other member is jumping off that mountain right along with him.

As a leader on many PDCAs with chronic mountain jumpers, I’ve learned that taking a few pre-emptive measures during the PDCA process keeps me from having to say, “Will you just shut up? Stop! Don’t jump…”

Step 1

Begin every PDCA meeting with the Group Leader writing on a dry erase board (or simply a sheet of paper that everyone can see) the beginning steps of the PDCA process:

  • Problem
  • Goal
  • Point of Cause
  • Root Cause #1
  • Root Cause #2
  • Root Cause #3

PDCA001Visually, this will help keep everyone focused during the PDCA process. Then remind the group that, “Right now, we’re only interested in exploring these areas of the problem. If you have an idea for a counter measure, great. Write it down so you don’t forget it, but don’t bring it up just yet.”

As tPDCA002he group works through each step of the PDCA process, write out the problem statement, goal statement and so forth on the board. This will keep people engaged and feeling like the group is moving forward.

Step 2

Often when the group begins the 5-Why Process, something will spark an idea and someone will say, “Well, you know what we ought to do…” Thus our mountain jumper is primed and ready to leap — and plans on taking the entire group with him.

As the leader, simply respond, “You know, that might work. Write that idea down so that we don’t forget it when we get to the counter measure section.” Then redirect the focus back to the 5-Why Process asking if anyone else has a suggestion.

Step 3

Occasionally, you’ll get that group member who simply won’t let his idea for a counter measure rest. He brings it up again and again. At this point, you may really want to push him off that mountain. Don’t do it.

Generally, this is an idea that he has a personal stake in. Possibly, he has  been working around the problem for some time and has given a lot of thought to his solution. Because it has some specific meaning to him, he won’t let it go until it’s been “officially” acknowledged.  

PDCA003Ask the mountain jumper to write his idea on the board below the beginning steps of the PDCA process (see step 1) under “Possible Counter Measures.” Do not simply write “Counter Measures” at this point – this isn’t a counter measure yet. It’s a possible counter measure. Still seeing his idea on the board in writing will allow his mind to let go and focus on getting to the root of the problem.

People often mountain jump because they think they know the solution going into the PDCA process. However, when you work through the steps, you’ll find that an immediate solution is just one piece of a much larger puzzle – it often only addresses a single root cause, if it actually addresses any of them at all. Immediate solutions tend to be workarounds, creating new problems and additional waste.  Root causes call for real, specific counter measures that eliminate the problem for good.

Time and time again we find that working the PDCA process proves the original solution (or the mountain jumping) actually affects a symptom of the problem and not a root cause at all. In that case, you would’ve jumped for nothing at all.

© September 2009 Homebuilding Partners, Inc.



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  3. We have the same problem using DMAIC; so we just tell’em “no solutions before the I phase!”

  4. Thanks for sharing. I think most of the lean methods for making improvements and solving problems very purposely suspend the solution space and avoid us jumping to solutions. No matter what, we must deeply understand the current reality if we are going to be effective at developing solutions to problems. PDCA works as long as we use it with the right intent and don’t fake our way through it.

    Jamie Flinchbaugh

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