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Problem solving success stories: ninth annual Manitoba Kaizen Conference

Published by CME Manitoba on January 12, 2017

By Ian Marshall, LEAN Champion and Chair 2018 Canadian LEAN Conference


What is a problem? A problem is a ‘gap’ between the current state and the desired future state (the way things should be). What is ‘LEAN’? LEAN is engaging employees in continuous improvement or the closing of very specific ‘gaps’ in operational performance. Put simply, LEAN is structured systematic problem solving. 

When an Engineer or manager is hired at Toyota, they spend a number of weeks ‘in the gemba’ (where the value is created) practicing and honing their problem-solving skills, following a very deliberate eight step problem solving approach.

Most of us when presented with a ‘problem’ tend to ‘jump’ to solutions. We’ve seen the same problem before and we already have a solution. But are we really solving the problem or are we simply dealing with the symptom, hoping the problem will go away!

No surprise that the first four steps of the Toyota approach to problem solving focus on ‘clarifying’ the problem and identifying the ‘root cause’ of the problem, before trying out ‘countermeasures’ which don’t become ‘solutions’ until they have proven to ‘solve’ the problem.

The eight steps in the Toyota problem solving approach are:

  1. Clarify the problem – measure the size of the ‘gap’ or problem to be fixed
  2. Breakdown the problem – identify exactly ‘where’ the problem is occurring
  3. Set Target – establish an improvement target or goal at the ‘point of occurrence’
  4. Analyse the root cause – ask ‘why’ and establish the root cause of the problem
  5. Develop countermeasures – select the countermeasures that will have the biggest impact for the least amount of implementation cost or effort
  6. Implement – trial the countermeasures one at a time
  7. Evaluate – measure and evaluate the impact of the countermeasures
  8. Standardize – solidify the countermeasure, share and monitor for compliance

If you want to hear real life problem solving stories and help celebrate the successes of problem solving teams from local manufacturers, service and public sector organisations, register for the February 15 Kaizen Conference.

Modeled on the annual Toyota Kaizen Conference, the ninth annual Manitoba Kaizen Conference will give you an opportunity to learn from the success and challenges of front-line teams tackling real business issues. In previous conferences teams from Loewen Windows and Motor Coach Industries have shared stories of product quality improvements, teams from Cascade Boxboard (now GPI) and Winpak shared stories of machine set-up time reduction, Russell Metals and MasterBrand Cabinets stories of material and information flow improvements and Carte International productivity improvements.

All teams are evaluated from a panel of LEAN Master Blackbelts and presented with a certificate for their accomplishments.

Kicking off and setting the tone for the 2017 Kaizen Conference is guest speaker Dr. Bruce Roe, President and CEO, St. Boniface Hospital. Passionate about improving the patient’s experience and committed to creating conditions that enable health providers to deliver the highest quality care, Dr. Roe has championed and led the development and deployment of a Lean transformation strategy that engages staff and physicians across the organization in problem solving and creating a culture of excellence.

This morning event including a networking lunch costs just $25 and is open to everyone! 

For more information and to register go to and click on ‘events’.

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