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Benchmark Six Sigma - War Room

Let us examine this sentence as a stand alone statement – “The root cause is missing”. There is certainly a problem in this statement. It just does not seem okay. We, as excellence enthusiasts will like to say – If there is a problem in it, there must be a root cause. Yes, there must be and there is one! We can consider the root cause for the problem in the statement in the following ways.

  • The statement has something missing!

  • The statement is incomplete!

  • Some of the principles of good English Writing are not followed!

This is based on a wonderful explanation for root cause given by Ivan Fantin. According to him, the root cause for any problem in the world is ALWAYS covered in one or more of the three items covered in MIN – Missing, Incomplete or Not followed. The cause just cannot be anything that is unexplained by these three terms. It is really so? Always? For all kinds of problems in the world? I have been wanting to explore more on this and need your help.

Let us have a look at an example that explores inefficiency of security checks in a building. The root cause of inefficiency may lie in some missing checks (like those for liquid explosives), some aspects incomplete (like body being examined incompletely during frisking) and some procedures not followed (like no one carefully looking at scanned images while baggage move through the scanning machine).

As we explore more, I am hopeful that we shall decipher something of huge relevance to all. Let us examine elements of cause analysis story by asking ourselves if the MIN principle really works. Here is the story with questions –

Part 1 – In a monument at Washington, it was found that erosion levels were high and something was supposed to be done soon to prevent further dilapidation of the building. On observing closely, it was found that a strong chemical was being used to clean the building roof. The use of this cleaning chemical was leading to rapid erosion.

So, the cause of problem (erosion) was the long term use of cleaning chemical. Can the cause be explained as something missing, something incomplete, or something “not followed”? To make the question short – Does the MIN principle apply here?

YES

or

NO

Part 2 – The use of chemicals was found necessary due to presence of pigeon poops on the building. The presence of large number of pigeons was the cause for use of chemicals. Does the MIN principle apply here?

Yes

or

No

Part 3 – Study was done to find out the cause for large number of pigeons on the building. There were an unusually large number of spiders on the building. and pigeons like to eat spiders. So, the cause for large presence of pigeons was the presence of spiders. Does the MIN principle apply here?

Yes

or

No

Part 4 – On further analysis, it was found that spiders were present in large numbers because of an insect called Gnat as Spiders like to prey on Gnats. The cause for presence of Spiders was the presence of Gnats. Does the MIN principle apply here?

Yes

or

No

Part 5 – Gnats, it was found, are attracted to presence of artificial light at the time of dusk. The lights at this monument were turned on everyday before dusk (and a decision of turning lights ON a bit late solved the problem of fast erosion). The lights being turned ON early was the root cause. Does the MIN principle apply here?

Yes

or

No

the_root_cause_is_missing

I can sense that many of you have already noted that the first four questions are inappropriate. In question 1-4, the right way of applying the MIN principle was not followed. The MIN principle should be explored only on the root cause which connects with question number 5 and the knowledge that Gnats get attracted to artificial light (and that Gnats can create a chain of events leading to erosion of building) was missing.

The question you can answer now is this – While this pigeon poops case was just one story to explore the use of MIN, do you believe that the MIN principle is useful as a guide to ascertain the root cause of any or every problem? Is it always true that the root cause lies in one of the three MIN elements?

While we are engaged in the MIN thinking right now –

  • We should delve deeper into this and leave no element missing.

  • We should not leave this chain of thought incomplete.

  • If we do not follow a to and fro process of thought exchange, we shall probably lose a chance of exploring something highly valuable.

I shall be responding to this question in second part of this post in a week’s time. If you want to see that response or wish to discuss and explore more, do reply to this post.

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Vishwadeep Khatri
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