5 Problem analysis techniques


5 Problem analysis techniques

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5 Problem analysis techniques

Continuous improvement cultures encourage people to expose risks to quality and patient/resident safety, and reduce preventable errors.

Eliminating wasteful use of time frees up time to review processes and solve problems.

According to the Alcoa’s Safety Pyramid, for every fatality, there were 300,000 unsafe acts.  Said another way, there were 300,000 opportunities to prevent that fatality.

Errors need to be turned into learning opportunities that aim to prevent the error occurring again.

When errors occur the questions to ask are:

1. Why did this error occur?

2. What can we do so that it never occurs again?

Work-arounds are a short-term fix for an immediate problem that do not prevent the problem from happening again – so we are doomed to wast more time fixing the same problem.  Work-arounds are people responses to a faulty system they feel powerless to fix.


What workarounds /problems do you know of (short-term fixes for something that doesn’t work properly – but that doesn’t prevent it happening again)?

To get at the real problems and fix them so that they don’t keep occurring, start where the problem occurred to see what is happening.

Do the 5 whys

Pick a problem in your situation (or something that gets in the way of you achieving your goal). Ask ‘why’ does it occur.  For each answer, ask why that occurs or why that is the case. Drill down on a problem area until you get to a point where you don’t seem to be able to go any further The last problem is probably the root cause.

Are these facts or assumptions?

Do you need more information to understand whether this is the real problem or just and assumption? The following diagram illustrates how this is done.

Do a Fish bone Diagram

Variously called Fish bone, Ishikawa or Cause and Effect diagram, are really good for more complex problems that involve a number of people or teams, that are hard to quantify and have many causes.  It helps team based problem solving and allows everyone to contribute their ideas on the causes of the problem.

First frame up the problem as a why question.  Get the team to agree and then place it at the head of the fish.  Brain storm all the possible causes for the problem, labeling these for each bone – and then dig deeper under each cause – until you get at the real causes.


Pick a method and unpack your problem.

Work with your team using the synergistic problem solving approach to understand the problem better – and also this will help you later when you are generating solutions – it helps to come up with things that you couldn’t if you were on your own.

Once you have uncovered the causes of the issues, summarise these in your A3 under “Problem analysis”.


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