Since being introduced to Appreciative Inquiry by Ankit Patel principal partner with The Lean Way Consulting, I have used it quite extensively. Starting with visioning positive outcomes and working backwards to find a way to achieve these many times uncovers root causes of existing problems. I find conflicting viewpoints of this process with many Lean and Six Sigma practitioners but I could safely say the majority are very skeptical.
In a recent podcast with Matt Wrye, Developing a Learning A3 I uncovered that he was a a certified Shainin Red X Journeyman. If you are not familiar with Shainan, don’t feel alone. Shainin is probably one of the least known structured problem solving methodology. It has always intrigued me because of its approach of focusing on the Effect to find the Cause (Y to X) versus the traditional X to Y. The traditional way of problem solving (X to Y) list potential causes or variables (Xs or CTQs) through brainstorming and engineering judgment then test to see if the Xs have an effect on the Y.
Dorian Shainin’s development of the “Red X” concept originated from his association with Joseph Juran. In the 1940s Juran coined and popularized the notion of “the vital few and trivial many,” also known as “The Pareto Principle. Shainin recognized that the Pareto principle could be applied effectively to the solving of variation problems. Shainin concluded that, amongst the thousands of variables that could cause a change in the value of an output, one cause-effect relationship had to be stronger than the others. Shainin called this primary cause the “Big Red X”.
Shainin asserted that his application of statistical methods was more cost-effective and simpler than Taguchi methods. In order to determine the "Red X," Shainin would swap pairs of parts between functional and faulty equipment until the one part responsible for the failure is discovered. Shainin would claim that he could often find the primary defective part within a dozen paired swaps.
Shainin’s policy of "talking to the parts" was the primary distinguishing factor that set his methods apart from Taguchi’s. In classical or Taguchi DOE (Design of Experiments), engineers would brainstorm to form hypotheses regarding possible causes of a problem. Shainin’s methods postpone this theoretical step, requiring first the diagnosis of causes via one or more of four clue generation techniques designed to determine, through the empirical testing of the actual parts in question, the root cause, or "Red X".
Matt offered me a brief overview of Shainin in this interview;
Matt Wrye can be found at his blog Beyond Lean.
I find the Shainin approach very closely resembling an Appreciative Inquiry approach. However, it is backed with a much stronger statistical analysis that may be better suited for some. Shainin’s approach offers the bridge needed in the rapid changing world we live in. Shainin’s policy of "talking to the parts” could be the statistical alternative needed for Lean Sales and Marketing. “playing in the customer’s playground.”
P.S. In Shainin DOE, it is said: “We talk to the parts. The parts and process are smarter than the engineers.” In Lean Sales and Marketing via SD-Logic (The Service-Dominant Logic of Marketing by Stephen Vargo and Robert Lusch); we must co-create value with a customer through use. There is no value from our product or service till they are used.