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The Lean & IT Problem Definition Checklist

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One of the first things to do in IT(IL) – Problem Management, Lean – IT and (Lean) Six Sigma is to define the problem.

Whether you want to write a succintly or more elaborate problem definition you have 2 options. Either you start from scratch or you use a checklist.

Over the years I collected questions and have put them in a checklist.
In my experience a checklist saves you time (waste!) and gives you a more compre- hensive problem defintion.
You don’t have to answer ALL the questions, just see them as a trigger to write down what occurs in your mind when you read the question.

Sticky notes are very helpfull.
The sticky notes are the “fuel” for the problem definition. The checklist and sticky notes also work well in a team.

Those who are familiar with User Story Mapping (Jeff Patton), try to map the sticky notes! Have fun!

Robert Wiering, BSc
Certified Professional Business Process Management & IT

The Lean & IT Problem Definition Checklist

  1. 1. THE LEAN & IT PROBLEM DEFINITION CHECKLIST Robert Wiering, BSc
  2. 2. The copyright of this publication belongs to Robert Wiering, BSc and RO- WITEX. (robert.wiering@gmail.com and https://rowitex.wordpress.com). i R O B E R T W I E R I N G THE LEAN & IT PROBLEM DEFINITION CHECKLIST
  3. 3. 2 T H E L E A N & I T P R O B L E M D E F I N I T I O N C H E C K L I S T One of the first things to do in IT(IL) – Problem Management, Lean – IT and (Lean) Six Sigma is to define the problem. Whether you want to write a succintly or more elaborate problem definition you have 2 options. Either you start from scratch or you use a checklist. Over the years I collected questions and have put them in a checklist, which is on the next page. In my experience a checklist saves you time (waste!) and gives you a more compre- hensive problem defintion. You don’t have to answer ALL the questions, just see them as a trigger to write down what occurs in your mind when you read the question. Sticky notes are very helpfull. The sticky notes are the “fuel” for the problem definition. The checklist and sticky notes also work well in a team. 
 Those who are familiar with User Story Mapping (Jeff Patton), try to map the sticky notes! Have fun! 
 Robert Wiering, BSc 
 Certified Professional Business Process Management & IT
 to write a succintly or more elaborate problem definition you have 2 options. Either you start from scratch or you use a checklist. Over the years I collected questions and have put them in a checklist, which is
  4. 4. 3 T H E L E A N & I T P R O B L E M D E F I N I T I O N C H E C K L I S T Are the facts based on your direct observation of the problem? Are there any other factors that directly influence this problem? Are users frustrated, discouraged, overwhelmed, worried, trapped or resentful? Are you dealing with a major concern? Can users help you or stop you solving this problem? Can you break the problem down (e.g. by product, region, division, etc.)? Can you check the result if you solve the problem? Can you derive something useful from the information you have about the pro- blem? Can you draw the problem? Can you express the deviation visually? Can you express the presenting problem succintly? Can you restate your problem? How many different ways can you restate it? More general? More specific? Can you separate the various parts of the problem? Can you write them down? Can you solve the whole problem? Part of the problem? Can you use this problem to solve some other problem(s)? Can you visually map the value-stream, if applicable? Can you visually place incidents on a timeline? Cost of the current and desired situations? Did staff performance during the incidents meet expectations? Do we have a deviation? Do we need further clarification of the problem? Do we need to know the cause of a deviation to take effective action? Do we need to make a choice? Do you know a related problem(s)? Do you see a pattern in the incidents or problem? Do you understand the challenges of the problem? Does the problem show any pattern? Does this problem fit with the business strategic goals? Evidence is provided that this is a current problem? General population group affected by the problem is identified? Have proper controls been put in place and documented to prevent reccurrence? Have you gone to the “gemba” (the place where the value-creating work hap- pens)? Have you seen this problem before? Have you seen this problem in a slightly different form?
  5. 5. 4 T H E L E A N & I T P R O B L E M D E F I N I T I O N C H E C K L I S T Typ hier om tekst in te voeren Have you seen this problem before? Have you seen this problem in a slightly different form? Have you taken into account all essential notions in the problem? Have you used all the information about the problem and/or incidents? Have you verified the information you received about the problem? How are you going to obtain information about the problem? How much? How long? How many? Where? When? How big is the problem? How did actual staffing compare with ideal levels for problem management? How did the system performance affect the problem? How did this problem happen? How do users experience the problem? How do we measure the system’s success? How does the organization’s culture support incident and/or problem reduction? How is the problem relevant to the organization as a whole? How long did the (major) incident(s) occur? How many configuration items are involved? How many deviations are on each object? How many deviations could there be on each object, but are not? How many different ways have you tried to solve the problem? How many objects could have the deviation, but do not? How many objects have the deviation? If left unresolved, how and when will the seriousness of the problem change? If managing the constraining resource does not give us all the improvement we need, then how can we acquire more of the resource? Information to determine reoccurrence and impact of the problem? Is a work-around available, if yes which one? Is it how “ït’s actually done” or just how it “should be done”? Is the deviation statement to vague? Can it be more specific? Is the immediate cause known? Is the information based on evidence or just anecdotes, points of view and hearsay? Is the information sufficient? Or is it insufficient? Or redundant? Or contradictory? Is the problem defined and supported with data? Is the problem fact-based or just derived from experience? Is the situation getting worse, better, or staying the same? Is there a critical deadline? Is this a customer-oriented problem?
  6. 6. 5 T H E L E A N & I T P R O B L E M D E F I N I T I O N C H E C K L I S T Is this problem worth doing? Log who has been contacted about the transfer of the problem? Quantification of the current and desired situations? Reason for transfer of the problem? Short and clear description of the reason for involvement of problem management (recurring incident, major incident, etc.)? Should you draw a diagram of the problem? A figure? Source of problem management involvement request (incidents, monitoring)? Suppose you find a problem related to yours that has already been solved. Can you use it? Can you use its method? The geographic area where the problem exists is identified, if appropriate. To what degree is all the necessary information available? To whom was the problem reported? Try to think of a familiar problem having the same or a similar unknown cause? Was the cause of the system breakdown determined? Was the direct root cause(s) identified? Was the staff properly qualified and currently competent for their responsibilities at the time of the incident/problem? Were there any steps in the process that did not occur as intended? What additional analysis is needed? What are parts of this problem? What are symptoms of this problem? What are the boundaries of the problem, e.g. organizational, work flow, geographic, customer, segments, etc? What are the broader constraints that act on the problem and your ideas? What are the constants of the problem? What are the customer complaints? What are the differences or changes over time? What are the relationships of the parts of the problem? What are the symptoms of the incident(s)/problem? What are you comparing the current problem to? What benefits will you receive by solving the problem? What bothers us about the problem/incidenst(s)? What central question needs an answer? What changes are anticipated? What containment actions, if any, have you taken already? What controllable environmental factors directly affected this problem?
  7. 7. 6 T H E L E A N & I T P R O B L E M D E F I N I T I O N C H E C K L I S T What could be happening but is not? What could be the problem but is not? What could be the trend, but is not? What data on this problem do you have already? What decisions need to be made? What department or what units are involved? What deviation does it have? What deviations are occurring? What different deviations, decisions or plans are part of this problem? What do we mean by ......? What do we need to do about the problem? What do you actually know about the current problem? What does not have the problem? What else concerns us about the problem? What else could be done? What emergency and failure- mode responses have been planned and tested? What evidence do we have on the problem? What exactly is the problem? What expects the customer from us? What greater system is your system part of? What happened? What have others done with the problem? What human factors are relevant to the problem? What impact does the problem have on all stakeholders, e.g. employees, suppliers, customers, shareholders, etc? What impact does the problem have on the business or customer? What impact is the problem causing? What incidents are you trying to prevent? What is actually occurring? What is done now? What is it you don’t yet understand about the problem? What is NOT the problem? What is still missing for the problem definition? What is the bigger picture into which the problem fits? What is the current impact on people, safety, cost, productivity, customers, reputa- tion, etc.? What is the deadline for problem resolution?
  8. 8. 7 T H E L E A N & I T P R O B L E M D E F I N I T I O N C H E C K L I S T What is the deviation from the expectation? What is the gap between the current situation and expectation? What is the impact of the problem? What is the impact on the users? What is the information you have? What is the narrowest definition of your problem? What is the pain felt by the business or why should anyone care about the solving this problem? What is the plan for dealing with staffing contingencies? What is the problem or need? What is the problem? What is the real problem you are working on? What is the resource limiting the system from attaining more of its goal? What is the specific level that must be achieved? What is the standard way of doing things? Is it shared and agreed to? What is the system or process that produces the problem? What is the trend on the incidents? What is the unique set of qualities that makes this problem what it is and none other? What is the unknown? What is the urgency? What is the wider impact of any solution for this problem? What is their knowledge and attitude towards the situation? What is their pain level? What is this a part of? What is this an example of? What is your system’s goal? What isn’t the problem? What key elements should you highlight? What might happen if you don’t act? What object (or group of objects) has the deviation? What opinions or assumptions must be challenged? What other deviations could reasonably be observed, but are not? What other size could the deviation be, but does not? What past events or actions should you emphasize? What problem area has the biggest impact on your business? What problem do they have now?
  9. 9. 8 T H E L E A N & I T P R O B L E M D E F I N I T I O N C H E C K L I S T What quantitative and qualitative information will give a better picture? What really matters? What relevant history surrounds this problem? What should you leave out for now? What similar object(s) could reasonably have the deviation, but does not? What specific object(s) has the deviation? What systems does your system interact with? What the customers say about us (literally)? What type of problem is it? What uncontrollable external factors influence the problem? What was affected (resource name)? What was the impact? What was the intended process flow? What were you doing? What will happen when it is fixed? What would a Pareto chart highlight? What would happen if we didn’t solve the problem? What would you like the resolution to be? Can you picture it? When did the (major) incident(s) occur? When did this happen? When do we need to start? When does it need to be fixed? When does the issue occur? When else could it be? When else could the deviation have been observed first, but was not? When since that time could the deviation have been observed, but was not? When else, in the object’s history or life cycle, could the deviation have been obser- ved first, but was not? When since that time has the deviation been observed? When was the deviation observed first (in clock and calendar time)? When, in the objects history or life cycle, was the deviation observed first? Where are the boundaries of the problem? Where do the boundaries of your system lie? Where else could the deviation be located on the object, but is not? Where else could the object be when the deviation is observed, but is not? Where is the deviation on the object? Where is the object when the deviation is observed (geographically)? Where is the problem observed?
  10. 10. 9 T H E L E A N & I T P R O B L E M D E F I N T I O N C H E C K L I S T Where is the problem occurring? Only in certain locations, processes, products, etc? Which concern is getting worse quicker? Which concern is most serious? Which concern will be hardest to resolve later? Which problem requires your immediate attention? Who are the actors who will 'do the doing', carrying out your solution? Who did not find the problem? Who do you need to talk to? Who does the problem affect? Specific groups, organizations, customers, etc. Who else could the problem affect? Who first observed the problem? Who has the problem or need? Who is affected by the problem? Who is on the receiving end? Who is the real owner or owners of the process or problem you are changing? Who needs to be involved for Information? Approval? Analysis? Implementation? Creativity? Development? Commitment? Who owns the problem? Who owns the process (or parts of it)? Who was impacted? Who was involved? Who will document our problem and results? Who will read, approve or contribute to this problem definition? Who will validate your understanding of the current situationWhose field knowledge do you need to leverage? Why are you talking about it? Why do they matter? Why is it important that we fix the problem? Why is it important to solve? Why is it necessary to solve the problem? Will solving the problem result in greater revenue or cost savings?

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