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Robert Kowalik, PPMV NAM, 2010

Operational Excellence
4Q & Problem Solving
Effective problem solving and root cause analysis is a key to sustainable quality and operational excellence improvements. It
can be applied to any quality problems, customer complaints or deviations to the standards or targets.
Following structured problem solving methodology will prevent you from identifying solutions too early in the process, before
knowing the true root cause of the problem and its consequences.

ABB uses 4Q (four quadrant) model to facilitate the problem solving process.
Below are the key steps that need to take place in various quadrants of the 4Q template.

ƒ Identify the problem (how do you know that there is a problem, for the problem to exists, there must be a clear standard or
objective and the gap / deviation to that standard, what evidence do you have to prove that this is a problem, demonstrate
facts and data only, avoid opinions).
ƒ Develop a thorough understanding of the situation by observing the process yourself (verify facts, observe existing process).
ƒ Examine and define the true problem, aim before firing, don't fire the shotgun on all problems without aiming (clearly
describe the problem on the piece of paper).
ƒ Justify the problem and it's consequences (safety, quality, customer and financial impact in $), use “therefore” method to
justify consequences of the problem.
ƒ Get agreements of all stakeholders that this is the problem you want to solve (focus, avoid blaming later).

ƒ Complete a thorough root cause analysis using basic quality tools, as Pareto and Ishikawa / fishbone diagrams (ask
„why“minimum 5 times to get to the root cause, see below example).
ƒ Seek problem root causes that are solvable and within control (there are always more than one).
ƒ Describe the root cause(s) so it's clear to everyone.

ƒ Brainstorm and define possible countermeasures and options to solve the root causes of the problem, involve the right
people, Kaizen (prioritize ideas).
ƒ Narrow down the solutions based on simplicity, costs, area of control and the ability to implement quickly.
ƒ Justify the costs of the proposed solution vs. the costs of the problem (make sure you don't implement 10$ solution to solve
1$ problem).
ƒ Develop consensus (get agreement from all stakeholders that these are the solutions you want to implement).
ƒ Test selected ideas for effectiveness (run pilot, can solution control the outcome and simulate the problem?).
ƒ Select best solution.
ƒ Develop the plan (clear actions and deliverables, timeline and responsibilities, define how you will measure success).
ƒ Implement solution (s).

ƒ Verify results and impact of the solution (s) implemented (does it address and solve the problem).
ƒ Update standards with the new solution (i.e. drawings, process maps, procedures, instructions, document changes and train
employees to sustain it).
ƒ Continuously monitor the process to verify sustainability of the solution and to detect any new problems (audits, control
chart, diagrams, etc.).
ƒ Reflect and learn from the process (what we did right and what we did wrong, how to improve in future).

Not knowing the root cause will always lead to costly band aids. Below example illustrates application of “5 Why” methodology.

Problem: The Washington Monument was degrading

ƒ Why? Use of harsh chemicals
ƒ Why? To clean up after pigeons
ƒ Why so many pigeons? They eat spiders and there are a lot of spiders at the monument
ƒ Why so many spiders? They eat insects (gnats) and there are a lots of gnats at the monument
ƒ Why so many insects (gnats)? They are attracted to the light at dusk.
Solution: Turn on the lights at a later time.

Problem solving is everyone’s responsibility and shall be embedded into every level of the organization.

Robert Kowalik
Power Products Medium Voltage NAM

ABB Inc.
655 Century Point
Lake Mary, FL 32746
Office: +1 407 732 2376
Mobile: +1 321 578 2259
Fax: +1 407 732 2342