Blog Archives

Solve Problems to the Generative Level

This is the second to last post about my reflection and learning from the Lean Experience class taught by Jamie Flinchbaugh and Andy Carlino from the Lean Learning Center.

On Wednesday morning, the class participated in the Beer Game.  It is a simulation showing the effects of processes on a system.  At the end all the teams had to chart their results.  A quick debrief showed how different teams used different strategies during the simulation.  The eye-opener was that all of the charts from the different teams showed the SAME pattern on every one of them.  That really struck me on how processes drive everything (something I have always believed but the example was powerful).

Jamie and Andy went into explaining their Iceberg model that is below.

As problem solvers we seem to talk a lot about being reactive versus proactive.  This is definitely better but we never seem to talk about problem solving to the generative level.  Jamie and Andy use the iceberg to show how we spend a lot of time reacting to what is happening now (fire fighting).  This is what we can see easily so it is shown sticking up above the water.

When we get below the surface, we start to see factors that are contributing to the results.  These factors create patterns and when we problem solve to fix the patterns is when we are being proactive.

Being proactive is good but it isn’t deep enough.  We need to solve a problem at the systems level so no matter what strategy we use we get the desired out come we are looking for (just like the Beer Game).  When we dig this deep and change the systems we are getting to the generative level.  This is the level that starts the generation of results we see at the top of the iceberg.

Lets look at a bearing going out on a machine as an example:

Reactive would be to wait until the bearing goes out and the machine shuts down to replace it.

Proactive would be to change the bearing before the machine shuts down when you notice a difference in the machine’s sound or it starts to vibrate.

Generative would be to understand how long the bearing typically lasts before it starts performing at a less then optimal level.  The have a maintenance program that replaces the bearing before it can even perform at a less than optimal level.

I know that I have done some of this problem solving in the past but I always looked at it as proactive.  I now have a new lens to look at it and ask better questions to make sure we are changing the system and not just addressing the pattern.

Other blog posts about my learnings from the Lean Experience Class: