Sakichi Toyoda, founder of Toyota Industries, developed the concept of 5 Whys to help discover the root cause of problems. Many of the lean techniques in use today are derived from this approach, but the 5 Whys are heavily influenced by the knowledge and experience of the person asking the questions. Over the last 30 years we have developed and tested tools to help make sure we are really getting to the root cause, and not just addressing symptoms:
Analysis, Assessment, Wisdom (A2W) Framework
A2W is Olde Stone's framework for obtaining situational awareness. This approach evolved over 30 years of doing program management and system engineering to help look at each challenge within an overall system.
A2W looks at quantitative (analysis), qualitative (assessment), and leadership (wisdom) issues, and drills down within these as far a needed to solve problems. The three dimensions assure the customer that we are looking at the total picture, and able to find a solution that will answer their challenges.
As with any wicked problem, we want to break the challenges down into manageable parts ..then solve for each part to build up a solution. Often we find that the problem is different than what the customer originally thought, which is why the solutions they are currently trying aren't working.
Constraints, Assumptions, Issues, Risks, and Opportunities (CAIRO)
Cairo is another framework that goes beyond traditional risk management. Best practice today is to combine risk, issues and opportunities (RIO). Olde Stone goes a step farther and looks at the situational constraints and assumptions. Often these come out of the A2W review! A key element of the approach is to start with broader questions to find the challenges that are hidden within your people and processes.
Interviews and workshops are used to help discover issues and get buy-in from participants. We always try to leave customers with a better educated and capable team, and all of our efforts include the customer in the process so they learn along the way.