problem-recurrenceOK, quick recap: In part one we talked about definition; in part two we discussed data identification and collection, and interim containment; part three discussed identifying the root cause. Part four discussed fixing the true causes of the problem.

Now that we’ve implemented our chosen fix, we want to focus on how to ensure that we don’t have the problem recur.

This is often a misunderstood step in the process. If the prior step was “fix xyz”, I often see folks who document the step on prevent recurrence as “continue with xyz”.

Well geez, that’s brilliant! I’m guessing that it’s a bit more complicated than that, tho…

So, what does ‘prevent recurrence’ really mean?

Let’s start by expanding our thinking – we want to prevent recurrence not only for this defect, but for additional potential causes as well.

Additional potential causes??!?

Where am I supposed to get THAT info?

Ahh, that’s where the beauty of the tools we used in step three come in — we can go to our pareto diagram, our cause-and-effect (fishbone/Ishikawa) diagram, or other investigative tools.

Although we were able to eliminate the problem by focusing in on the root causes we identified, we can go back now and figure out what are probable causes of future defects – and prevent them before they occur.

For all you folks who have implemented ISO 9001 and have trouble identifying preventive actions, here’s a great place for it.

Now let’s be clear — if you find a defect on line 2 of a manufacturing plant that has three identical manufacturing lines, and you implement the fix on lines 1, 2, and 3, this is not corrective for line 2 and preventive for lines 1 and 3 – this is simply complete/comprehensive corrective action. But, if you also implement a ‘fix’ on something that hasn’t ‘broken’ yet [since you’re implementing and training anyway, you might as well do it for multiple as for one], you are doing true preventive action.