I often hear people referring to problems in terms that make them sound like noble experiences that will somehow benefit all mankind.

  • “We don’t have problems, we have challenges”
  • “Every problem is just a solution waiting to be discovered”
  •  “A problem is an opportunity to grow”
  • “Problems make us stronger”

Although some positive benefit may result from the problem, it normally starts with some kind of loss. The extent of the loss depends on the speed with which the problem is identified and solved.
Problems may continue if the root cause had not been found or if the solution results in some additional negative effects.

RDM & Associates help clients to learn and develop a sustainable problem solving culture.
Before we try to sell you some training and consulting time, lets 1st review the basics.

What is the aim of any problem solving?

  • To identify and manage problems. 
  • To find and remove the root cause of problems.
  • To select and implement action to prevent problems from happening.

How do we define a problem?

Ask any group of people to define a problem and you will get as many answers as there are respondents.


  •  A problem is a deviation of actual from the requirement for which the cause is unknown or not yet verified
  • One clearly defined problem will have only one root cause. [Preventive maintenance practices may strive to identify all possible root causes to plan and implement maintenance schedules. This must not be confused with the actions required to solve problems that have already occurred.]

What is the sequence of events in problem solving?

Problem solving is not just about deciding how to solve the problem. There is a logical sequence of events that must be followed to ensure the success of your problem solving.

Many organisations fail to find the root cause for deviations. Instead, they often jump straight to the selection of a solution.

The best solution must be aimed at removing the verified root cause. If the root cause is not known any solution selected is likely to fail.

“But we must do something. We can’t waste time looking for the cause while the problem is stopping production”

This is correct. Although we recognise that we must address the root cause to permanently remove the problem, we can take interim action to reduce the seriousness of the effects of the problem, while we are looking for the root cause.

 Who are the problem solvers in a company?

Every employee is a problem solver.

A cleaner will see all of the section at least once every day and is in an ideal position to help identify problems or potential problems.

The operator will be the 1st person to see a problem when it occurs on the machine.

A forklift driver will be able to spot raw material problems when it is delivered to the workplace.

A financial accountant will be able to facilitate a production problem solving session to avoid personal biases leading a team on the wrong track.

In a pragmatic problem solving system, clear roles and responsibilities will be assigned to all employees.

No one should be allowed to leave their brains at the gate.

How can we equip our employees to play a meaningful role in our problem solving system?

  1. Conduct an initial Situation assessment to identify the high leverage areas
  2. Set specific objectives for each high priority area
  3. Define the different problem solving roles and responsibilities for your employees.
  4. Select the most appropriate training programme to allow each employee to meet the required responsibilities.
  5. Do the training.
  6. Track and monitor the results.
  7. Use the root cause analysis results to improve the planned inspection and maintenance schedules
  8. Use the root cause analysis results to build “Problem Solving Guides” to help new or inexperienced employees solve problems.
  9. Build the Alternative Decision Analysis process into the purchasing procedure



Supervision, Quality Assurance, Process Operators, trainees, drivers and apprentices / learners on learner ships


  1. Identify and track problems  in the workplace
  2. Solve basic problems [technical and administrative]
  3. Make basic decisions to solve problems
  4. Plan preventive actions


1. Assess situations and plan actions 

  • Use the 5 senses and the 5 why technique to identify problems.
  • Track problems to identify re-occurring problems

2.     Solve problems / root cause analysis

  • Use stage one problem solving and fishbone techniques to find and prove the root cause of problems.
  • Participate in formal problem solving sessions by describing the problem, providing information on changes that have taken place and identifying possible causes.
  • Use problem-solving guides to identify and verify the root cause of problems.
  • Implement loop-closing action to avoid the re-occurrence of similar problems

3. Make decisions

  • Make basic decisions ensuring that solutions are evaluated against selection criteria

4. Plan and implement decisions

  • Identify potential problems and plan preventive actions


Louis van Zyl at +27832661429

Angelika Pretorius at +27834496072

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About Louis van Zyl

I am an experienced transformation, competence development and management specialist with extensive pragmaticl experience in developing appropriate solutions to cultivate coaches and mentors at all organisational levels in all types of industries and sectors. I have extensive organisational development, coaching, capacity building and training expertise using clearly defined roles and responsibilities to identify, develop and use best practice coaching procedures and systems During the past 33 years I have developed and applied a range of pragmatic problem solving processes to deal with all types of organizational transformation, product, raw materials and people performance problems in a wide variety of organizations Often my work involves re-engineering organizational processes, developing business strategies, managing transformation and change My experience has been gained during 33 years of pragmatic consulting and design and implementation of consulting and training programs in all spheres of the business and government and has advised and coached companies, governments and communities in the development and optimisation of critical processes and procedures.
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