The Small Batches podcast summarized the book The High Velocity Edge. In part seven, Adam covered this disciplined problem solving method that was my core takeaway from the summary:

A “problem” is anything that inhibits achieving the ideal flow. The ideal flow is asymptotic, organizations can never reach it, only approach. Failure is inevitable, but each failure is an opportunity to learn and grow better.

Quoting the author, Dr Spear, the ideal flow is:

  • Defect Free - never compromising on customer satisfaction.
  • On Demand - only in response to real need. One piece at a time, providing those who needed something exactly with what they could put to use, not overburdening them with the obligation to hold things in anticipation of future need.
  • Immediate - providing those who needed something what they needed without imposing any waiting time on them. But if this was impossible, small batches of finished goods may be kept on hand to provide the illusion of immediacy.
  • Without Waste - never spending time, effort, creativity and other efforts in ways that wouldn’t be valued by someone else.
  • Safe - so no one gets hurt physically, or emotionally, or is professionally threatened.
  • Secure - so that material, services, or information go only to those intended and not others.

If the system falls short of the ideal, then that’s a “problem.”

High Velocity organizations follow a disciplined approach to problem solving that goes something like:

  1. describe the process and why you’re concerned about it
  2. describe the current condition (how work is being done)
  3. conduct root cause analysis
  4. apply countermeasures (offset the root cause)
  5. clarify the target condition (with countermeasures in place)
  6. figure out what actually happened
  7. conduct gap analysis (if a difference between target condition and reality, then why?)

This is basically the scientific method, and the hard part is the discipline that goes into always doing the process. See also concepts like PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Act) and OODA (Observe, Orientate, Decide, Act) that encapsulate the same process. The important part is that they’re loops done on repeat.