Automotive Problem Solving Facilitation

By Christian Green, Kepner-Tregoe

In the automobile industry, improved problem solving is continually cited as a critical priority. Even auto manufacturers and suppliers that are known globally for innovative and successful approaches to quality, face problems with their products and processes. Every organization needs advanced problem solvers who can lead timely and effective issue-resolutions and prevent their recurrence.

Among the most efficient and effective approaches to improving problem-solving capabilities in an organization is to use facilitators: people with advanced problem-solving skills who can step in, as needed, to help pursue root cause analysis.

Developing facilitators goes hand-in-hand with building new capabilities in an organization. Adoption of new skills is a  driver of results. Better problem solving skills is key to achieving maximum ROI around any initiative to improve quality within an organization. Problem-solving facilitators can help others transition new skills to the workplace and lead teams charged with resolving complex issues in a timely fashion.

Problem-solving facilitators have the ability to transform an organization’s quality efforts by dramatically improving root cause analysis. In our auto industry experience, these facilitators are a key component  in building manufacturing excellence. Consider these guidelines to optimize the effectiveness of facilitators in your organization.

  1. Leadership. Facilitators need to have the leadership skills to keep problem-solving teams on task and involved without overwhelming them with their own agenda. They need familiarity with the root cause analysis (RCA) tools that support efficient problem solving and the ability to encourage participation and commitment within a team setting.

  2. Time. Often the best facilitators are also great at other things; demand for their capabilities in other areas can overwhelm the time they can commit to RCA. In our experience with helping organizations choose effective facilitators, one of the biggest challenges is in balancing responsibilities. Facilitators who cannot be freed up from other responsibilities are not effective. It is important to choose facilitators whose responsibilities can be adjusted so that problem-solving is an accepted part of their role within the organization.

  3. Advanced Skills. An in-depth understanding of RCA tools by the facilitator helps the team choose the right RCA tools for efficient issue resolution. Does the presenting problem demand a SixSigma project or is it a special cause variation that requires other tools? Have we identified the problem, or can we get more specific by using the 5 Whys? Do we know what really happened or would a Fault Tree Analysis provide the necessary clarity? Do we have the right data or could the IS/IS NOT matrix help us focus?

  4. Risk and Opportunity. Facilitators help teams move beyond problem solving to problem prevention. Once root cause is identified and corrective actions are taken, getting back to normal is a priority. But a facilitator can encourage troubleshooters to take a step beyond problem solving to optimize their findings and identify opportunities to prevent future problems and pursue opportunities for improvement. Whether it is setting triggers that will signal potential, future problems or pursuing related improvements that could reduce costs, RCA efforts have the potential for uncovering myriad opportunities for improving quality, reliability and costs. Facilitators can ensure that these added benefits are achieved.

When organizations are dissatisfied with their efforts to transition skills learned online or in the classroom, they can accelerate adoption with facilitators who act as the bridge from learning to applying skills. Organizations who are successful at problem solving are most likely to have in-house experts charged with overseeing these efforts. These facilitators have advanced skills and leadership capabilities that maximize the quality and efficiency of RCA. They bring a level of expertise and leadership to problem-solving teams that helps optimize diverse insights while building a commitment to finding true cause.

Read more about Root Cause Analysis

Root Cause Analysis: Are these Mistakes Common in Your Organization?

About Kepner-Tregoe (KT)

KT has been the industry leader in problem-solving and service-excellence processes for more than 60 years. The experts at KT have helped companies raise their level of incident- and problem-management performance through tools, training and consulting – leading to highly effective service-management teams ready to respond to your company’s most critical issues.