Generating Solutions Pt. 1
From: M. D. Anderson Department of Performance Improvement
Date: January 15, 2008

Jyme Arthur: Hello welcome back to our Create Solutions webcast. I'm Jyme Arthur, Manager of Performance Improvement and I'm here to talk to you about generating solutions. So it's time for solutions or is it?

In Pt. I we have a phrase that's corollary to "Don't jump to conclusions," which is, "Don't jump to solutions." And while we don't want to spoil your fun we suggest that because we really need for you to follow the analytical process that we've laid out for you so far, the making it clear problem statement or aim statement so that you're not working on the wrong problem, making sure that that purpose and scope is well defined, you don't want to tackle world hunger, you've looked at that current situation very closely, you've gotten baseline data, and typically you've mapped the process so that you clearly understand what's going on right now.

And then you've done a thorough cause analysis which you learned about the last webcast. And then it's time for solutions and of course at that time you need to be sure that you're looking at what we call root causes or deep causes. And a good test to make sure that that's what you're doing is to ask yourself is this a symptom of the problem? Or is this actually the problem that we're looking at? And ultimately you're gonna develop tests to implement those solutions and that's the hard work and so we definitely don't want you working on the trivial many, rather than the important few.

Brainstorming becomes an integral part of looking for those solutions and it's a wonderful tool, it's very simple and it's used a lot and some of you might ask why are you reviewing the steps, the basic steps to brainstorming. And I want to do that because it's so familiar to all of us it frequently we miss important steps. So as I've outlined here we want to review the topic first, make sure that everybody understands why we're there and allow everyone some time for silent thinking. This is important because you want people to form their own opinions about the issues and problems prior to subjecting them to the group activity.

Then when it's time let the ideas flow and here what we want to see are lots and lots of ideas. We're going for quantity here not quality and it follows that we don't want you to discuss the ideas, now that may sound a little counter intuitive, you're gonna get time to discuss them later but right now discussion slows down that flow, and that's not what you want. Hitch hiking on someone else's idea is terrific, in other words your friend had a brilliant idea and that reminded you of something else. Terrific and then write them down, we use post it notes in PI all the time, just capture all of those ideas.

Crucial point in brainstorming is there has to be absolutely no criticism during the process and I cannot emphasize that enough. There's nothing that will shut that process down sooner than laughing, grimacing, rolling your eyes, and that's hard to control because sometimes it's just funny. However as I said that will shut down the process and that's the last thing you want to do. Another more subtle thing that you need to be mindful of in the brainstorming process is as leader of the process if you are saying 'good idea, great idea' after each idea,unfortunately that can also shut it down because the next person is afraid, 'she's not gonna like my idea as well as the other one' so just a couple of little cautions about brainstorming.

Last year, 2004, I went through these seven steps in detail. I'm not gonna do that this year, you can refer to the previous webcasts on our website, it's clearly identified as the 2004 group. Here what I would like to do is expand a little on the whole notion of creativity but I am going to run through the steps very quickly. The describe the need is all about the who, what, when, where, how, of the problem.

Defining goals and criteria there you're looking for the outcome of the solution, you're looking ahead. Generating alternatives, I'm gonna come back to that. Identifying constraints, here we're looking at budget constraints, policies, those various types of things. And then we want you to evaluate alternatives and here you might dip into the website again, Duke's toolbox probably has a lot of decision making tools for you where you can borrow some good ideas to evaluate those alternatives. And then lastly you want to select the best overall solution and I have one word for you here, and that is simple, simple, simple.

We talk about elegant solutions and what we're really referring to there is again, the last thing you want to do when you revise a process is to make it more complicated than it was the first go around so make sure your overall solution is a simple elegant one. And the follow up of course is all about implementing those solutions and certainly as the cliché goes, where the rubber meets the road, that's the hard part.