Problem Solving Techniques

“Maybe you are searching among the branches, for what only appears in the roots”


The easiest way to understand root cause analysis is to think about common problems. If we’re sick and not going to work, we’ll go to a doctor and ask them to find the root cause of our sickness. If our car stops working, we’ll ask a mechanic to find the root cause of the problem. If our business is underperforming (or overperforming) in a certain area, we’ll try to find out why.

Practicing different problem-solving strategies can help organizations to develop efficient solutions to challenges they encounter at work and in their everyday lives. Each industry, business and product have its unique challenges, which means there may be different strategies to solve them. 

DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyse, Improve and Control) and Ford’s Global 8D (Disciplines) methodology are some of the most popular problem-solving techniques.  

There is a seven-step process for the problem solving which includes Define the problem; Containment, Correction, Interim Action; Root Cause Analysis; Implementation of Corrective Action; Effectiveness Evaluation; Horizontal deployment; Documentation, Lesson Learned and promotion of awareness

Definitions (ISO 9000: 2015)

Customer (clause 3.2.4): Person or organization that could or does receive a product or a service that is intended for or required by this person or organization.

Complaint (clause 3.9.3): Expression of dissatisfaction made to an organization related to its product or service or the complaints handling process itself where a response or resolution is explicitly or implicitly expected.

Management (clause 3.3.3): Coordinated activities to direct and control an organization.

Complainant (clause 3.1; ISO 10001: 2018): Person, organization or their representative making a complaint.

Detailed Information

Problem Solving Techniques:

Effective problem solving is one of the key attributes that separate great leaders from average ones. Being a successful leader doesn’t mean that you don’t have any problems. Rather, it means that you know how to solve problems effectively as they arise.

 Following are the 7 steps for problem-solving. They are

  1. Define the problem
  2. Containment, Correction, Interim Action
  3. Root Cause Analysis
  4. Implementation of Corrective Action
  5. Effectiveness Evaluation
  6. Horizontal deployment
  7. Documentation, Lesson Learned and promotion of awareness


  1. Define the problem

Specify the problem by identifying it in quantifiable terms. The problem can be in the area of the organization like new product development, current manufacturing issues, field failures, audit findings.

The Kipling Method named after Rudyard Kipling’s poem “ I keep six honest serving-men,” is a popular system used to define problems. It highlights six important questions you can ask the next time need to overcome a challenge. These six questions are:

  • What is the problem?
  • Why is the problem important?
  • When did the problem arise and when does it need to be solved?
  • How did the problem happen?
  • Where is the problem occurring?
  • Who does the problem affect?

Answering each of these questions can help you identify what steps you need to take next to solve it.


  1. Containment, Correction, Interim Action

Define and implement containment actions to isolate the problem from any process/customer.

Correction: It is the action taken to correct the non-conformance. A correction is not a corrective action, as the correction simply corrects the non-conformance at hand and does not address the cause of the problem. Corrections include reworking, recalling, dispositioning non-conforming materials appropriately (e.g. rejecting), or other actions to address the affected product.

Interim Action: An interim containment action is kept in place until a verified permanent corrective action can be implemented. In some cases, the interim containment action may be the same as or similar to the emergency response action. However, an emergency response action is implemented with minimal supporting data. An interim provides more opportunity for investigation.

Containment: It is immediate action to prevent the further use or distribution of non-conforming material. Containment usually consists of identifying the status of all affected material and quarantining non-conforming material within your organization’s control to prevent further use (typically for a part or material) or distribution (typically for finished products).


  1. Root Cause Analysis
  • Identify all applicable causes that could explain why the problem has occurred in terms of occurrence, outflow and systemic failure
  • Conduct analysis based on failure related to hardware and software
  • Repeatedly ask ‘why’ as many times as necessary and analyse until the root cause is identified
  • Verify the adequacy of the why-why analysis flow
  • Conduct analysis using the relevant cross-functional team

There are many techniques for the root cause analysis, following are the key problem-solving tools:

  • 3 Layered 5 Why Analysis (3L5Y)
  • Ishikawa (Fishbone) Diagram
  • PDCA (Plan, Do Check, Action)
  • Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA)


  1. Implementation of Corrective Action
  • Determine which corrective action is most suitable for the identified root cause
  • Determine the action plan in terms of both software and hardware
  • Ensure that the proposed corrective action plan is suitable not only for the process/operation also for the organization in totality (Cause and Effect Matrix)
  • The corrective actions should result in the elimination of the causes rather than only prevention of the outflow
  • Implement the best corrective actions on the permanent basis
  • Error proofing
  1. Effectiveness Evaluation
    • Validate corrective actions with empirical evidence of improvement
    • Verify effectiveness with a reasonable number of units and time-period
    • No recurrence of the problem from the same cause
    • Depending upon the cause of the problem and corrective action, verify the effectiveness per shift, operator etc.
    • Verify that the corrective action does not have any adverse effect on other products, processes, operations etc.


  1. Horizontal deployment
  • Areas in which similar operations, processes or systems are used
  • The process responsible for the designing process
  • The process responsible for the designing products
  • The process responsible for controlling quality system documentation


  1. Documentation, Lesson Learned and promotion of awareness
  • Manufacturing quality standards
  • Process quality control documents
  • Operation standards (SOP)
  • Other relevant documents


IATF 16949: 2016

ISO 9001: 2015

ISO 9000: 2015

ISO 18238: 2015: Space systems-Closed loop problem-solving management

OEM Supplier Manual

Industry Experts


This is the 140th article of this Quality Management series. Every weekend, you will find useful information that will make your Management System journey Productive. Please share it with your colleagues too.

In the words of Albert Einstein, “The important thing is never to stop questioning.” I invite you to ask anything about the above subject. Questions and answers are the lifeblood of learning, and we are all learning. I will answer all questions to the best of my ability and promise to keep personal information confidential.

Your genuine feedback and response are extremely valuable. Please suggest topics for the coming weeks.

5 4 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments