Problem Solving: Sketching it makes Sense

May 16, 2017 9:07 am
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We only retain 7% of what we hear and around 10% of what we read, so when it comes to the other 80% or so we need to make best use of it! Visual aids and learning by teaching someone what you have learned make up a big chunk of the remainder. It’s worth considering this when it comes to problem solving. By engaging your team in utilising this approach you can greatly increase the holistic understanding of the problem, find the root cause or failure mode, and find the best solution to solve it.

It’s very easy today to hold all your tools and information electronically. This ultimately makes your management of data easier, but you can bring the risk of locking the information away and not truly gaining its full benefit.

While having other media such as schematics, user manuals and SCADA screens is extremely helpful, getting the team to pull together a visual of the problem with pen and paper and explaining to each other their knowledge and experiences benefits the situation in several ways:

Understand the working principle. No matter the size of the team carrying out the activity, it is key that they first understand the nature of the problem. Each individual may have different skill sets and levels of knowledge, so a sketch of the scope and what the equipment does will align understanding and focus the problem solving.

Identify wear points. Going through the drawing, identifying the touch points and flow of the product through the machine, forces exerted during the process and parts designed to naturally wear will help begin to narrow the focus to the root of the problem. This can also work when wanting to define standard settings or listing bill of materials for a sub assembly or area. Using this approach can really bring the machine, sub assembly of a piece of equipment or process to life.

Share knowledge through different experience. Whether it be operations, maintenance, hygiene or quality, each will bring a key perspective to the problem, and therefore finding the solution. For example, there could be a design flaw or past modification which operationally looks fine, and can even be accessed for maintenance, but cannot be properly cleaned. This could give key insights into unlocking perspectives normally missed, or past redesigns that have not been fully documented.

Finally, it doesn’t have to be a work of art… Although some of us may aspire to be the next Banksy, your drawings don’t need to be perfect. Basic diagrams will give enough fuel to fire the discussion, unlock shared learning, and provide a ‘live’ visual aid. Let everyone have a go with the pen to explain their perspective of the problem.

In summary, problem solving is essential in driving behavioural change and improving performance. Utilise a cross-functional collaborative approach by sketching the working principle and learning from the team to bring it to life.


Written by Jeff Wilkinson, Coriolis Ltd