February 10, 2009 | Barb Carr

Which Expert is Missing from your Problem Solving Brainstorming Session?


Brainstorming is often successfully used to develop new ideas, increase employee moral and unfortunately… even to attempt to find Root Causes for problems. Lets start with the basics. Who should be sitting at the brainstorming table? When should brainstorming be used and more importantly when should it NOT be used? If you solve problems what can you use that has been successful?

So let’s start with roll call… say present if here:

Human Engineering Expert?

Procedure Expert?

Quality Control Expert?

Communication Expert?

Management Systems Expert?

Work Direction Expert?

Training Expert?

What… someone is missing? Who? Why would this matter you may ask? Let’s take a missing Training Expert. When is the last time a new training idea was suggested, developed and THEN handed off to the Training department to run with? Have you seen new training ideas getting stopped in their tracks because no one understood the process… after your brainstorming team invested all that time? After all, time is money. Why do we at System Improvements, Inc. think these are the right experts? Just take a look at our TapRooT® success stories and their companies’ return on investment and reduction of incidents.

One caution from experience, once you get the experts in the room you must also have a facilitator present to help the team keep the same perspective and reference. Try this if you don’t think so: ask everyone in a team to close their eyes and point North… which way do we go? TapRooT® has a way to solve arguments and to keep people on track, use our Root Cause Dictionary & Laminated Root Cause Tree. These tools will standardize your points of reference in your problem solving session.

When should brainstorming be used… Now that seems like it might be a tough question to answer, but it’s not. Use it when you first need to develop possible venture ideas, develop new ways to work a process or to communicate what others may have successfully done. Sometimes brainstorming can be used to develop corrective actions on GOOD problem Root Causes. System Improvements, Inc. has also developed a Corrective Action Helper® to use with our SMARTER technique. This guide includes best practice examples from multiple industries and includes references to allow you to dig even deeper.

When should brainstorming NOT be used… DO NOT use it to solve problems or to find Root Causes for problems. Why not you may ask? Brainstorming requires you to ASSUME that you know why a problem existed. Think about it, how many brainstorming sessions have you been in where you were called in as group for a company crisis… did it go a little like this:

“We are here today to solve the XYZ crisis. Write down your ideas on yellow stickies as to what the problem could be. We will affinitize these ideas and vote as a group on what the problem is and put a team on it to fix it.”

Whoa… how can you solve a problem when you don’t have the facts nor do you know the sequence of events of the problem you are attempting to solve? It CAN NOT be done from behind a table and you must GO OUT AND LOOK (GOAL)? If you are using brainstorming and other similar tools to solve your major issues and the problems continue to repeat or even get worse, then it is time to CHANGE. Look at our TapRooT® success stories and then talk to us at System Improvements, Inc. to see when the next Public class starts.

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