Using the Scientific Method for Problem Solving

Are you rushing to solutions? Are you not using data to help make decisions? Are you not clearly defining the why and what before the how? Many organizations and people operate this way. It is something I have struggled with myself in multiple positions and industries throughout my career. So how do you change this way of thinking and operating?

In the book, The Lean Electronic Health Record, the author discusses the meaning behind using a scientific approach:

Lean Improvement systems are developed on the principle of deciding very carefully and then deploying quickly. “Deciding carefully” implies using all the stakeholders in the process in evaluating many alternatives, testing those alternatives, and then making a fact-based, informed decision on the best approach.

Bercaw, Ronald, et al. The Lean Electronic Health Record: a Journey toward Optimized Care. CRC Press/Taylor & Francis Group, 2018.

In order to do the above, try using a scientific approach to problem solving. In healthcare, my current industry, many of my stakeholders and end users are clinicians. They are familiar with the scientific method. By implementing this method to problem solving in product management, I’m able to approach work in a more lean way as well as relate to my end users’ thought process.

The scientific method is defined in the book cited above,
The Lean Electronic Health Record, as:

Step 1

  • Ask a question
  • Define the current situation

Step 2

  • Define the target condition
  • Describe the desired outcome

Step 3

  • Gap analysis
  • Quantify the gap between current and target and get to the root cause of the sources of problems

Step 4

  • Countermeasures
  • Develop solutions (formulate hypothesis) for the root causes of problems

Step 5

  • Experiments
  • Test the hypothesis

Step 6

  • Analyze the results
  • Confirm if the hypothesis was true

Step 7

  • Draw conclusions
  • Report and share results

By doing the above, it helps to avoid what the book, The Lean Electronic Health Record, defines as

Not many organizations operate repeatedly in this manner. Frequently, organizations and teams rush to solutions and deployment of solutions without any robust structure to generate solutions, leading to subpar results or results that require a lot of massaging and rework in the deployment stage.

There are some things that may inhibit the ability to do this well including long release cycles and manual efforts across teams. However, using this approach in your thinking may help improve outcomes over the course of time for your product(s) and customer(s).

Have you tried this approach to your work? How does your organization approach problem solving? What have you tried in your approach to problem solving?

Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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