The starting point is that problem creates opportunities. And problem is tension multiplied by involvement. Problem would never appear or it would “disappear right on the spot” if either tension or involvement was zero:

  • Personal involvement is zero. Powerful example for this group is the fact that over a billion of human beings on the planet lives in hunger and extreme poverty: the tension is huge, but as long as I am not involved in it personally, it is somebody else’s problem.
  • Tension is zero. Example for this group might be any attempt to distance from the discomfort saying: “This is the way the things are. It has always been like this and we always used this approach. Do not try to make it better if it’s working”. And in some cases this approach is exactly right: it’s not a problem – just a task and the ways to deal with the task are known and well-established.

Problems-to-be-solved might be divided into three groups:

  1. Low tension and moderate involvement: “No-analogy”, the problem is analogues to the ones with known ways to deal with, the question is to find good analogy and to adapt it to the situation in hands. A good illustration to this kind of problems is here: we need to make the button unavailable for the little baby, where else do they have problems with restricted access? – in pharmacy; how can we use the existing solution? – easily!
  2. Medium tension and medium involvement: “No-direction”, the problem seems to have a wide range of possible solutions, the question is to choose the best way among many possible. Any task starting with “let’s find a way to make this system better…” may be a good illustration to this group of problems.
  3. High tension and high involvement: “No-way-out”, there seems to be no exit from the given situation, and the tension is growing; like for a prison cell – almost any escape would be a good one. And prison cell is a good illustration here. There is often a strict contradiction present right in the wording of the problem: the things are like this and we do not want them to be like this!

As a summary:


On the personal level, the target of the problem solving sessions within the lean manufacturing project is to widen the comfort box of an employee to include the problem solving while narrowing it in the area of denying/avoiding a problem. Least resistance course of action should be reset to the problem solving.


On the company level, the target is to create a team spirit analogues to the one in a good sport team. What makes a sport team successful apart from the skilful players? – In short, joint effort.

  • To win is a joint effort: “There are no problems which are not mine”
  • To win is to find the best use for every players’ strengths: “If I am good in criticising, it is good for the team” (see the below picture)
  • To win is to help others to win: “The best place for my skills is the place I am needed the most – not the one I am the most comfortable in”
  • To win is to practise: “Learn by doing”
  • To win is to motivate: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary and his comfort depend on his not understanding it“ (the later is almost an exact quote from Upton Sinclair)