A common-sense approach for addressing everyday problems


SOLVE is a 5-step framework that uses Lean concepts and employee know-how to efficiently solve problems related to process flow, service quality, and capacity.

This simple SOLVE approach is appropriate for smaller issues and those that are within your control.


  1. Identify a waste-based issue or problem to address by reviewing the next page.
  2. Utilize the template on page 12 to follow the 5-step SOLVE approach, starting by defining the problem.
  3. Use the checklist on page 13 to:
    • Confirm you’ve met the intent of each SOLVE step
    • Identify some potential tools to help you along the way
  4. If you are unsure of how to proceed, contact your department Lean Champion.

Some Better Practices

  • Determine who your customer is and engage with them.
  • Talk to the operational leader over the area to confirm the issue is meaningful to the operation and to get their take on potential solutions.
  • Ensure that you clearly define the problem and keep to those things within your control—no “boil the ocean” problems.
  • Reduce large problems into smaller, actionable problems to solve.
  • Balance rigor with a bias for action—don’t let perfect get in the way of better.
  • Work with your co-workers and your manager to pragmatically define the solutions before implementing them.
  • Use this framework to guide your decisions and verify that you are making meaningful improvements.
  • Recognize that success is improving the core measure(s), not using a bunch of tools.

Where Should You Start?

Knowing where to start can be challenging. Below are three sources of Simple SOLVE opportunities. You can use these questions to identify places to start:

  • Engage with your customers: What do your customers want from you and what gets in the way of you serving them?
  • Observe your process: When you follow the process, what wastes do you see (errors, handoffs, waiting, etc.) that you can address today?
  • Take a hard look at your workplace: What changes can you make to set up the environment for success by reducing or eliminating waste?

WASTEFUL is a device that helps you identify 8 of the most common inefficiencies in state government operations. Do you recognize any of these wastes from your workflow?


What you might observe:
What you might hear:


When the process stops

“I know it’s urgent, but I’m waiting on…”


Approvals or inspections that don’t improve the product or service

“We have checkers checking the checkers.”


Handoffs between people and organizations

“I don’t know how the whole process works, only my piece.”


Any movement of paper or people (motion)

“I spend a lot of my time walking just to get my job done.”


Things not done right the first time; requires rework

“I find mistakes all the time, and sometimes our customers do.”

Failure to Prioritize

Working in crisis mode because

“everything is important”

“It’s hard to know what needs to be done first.”

Underutilized Talents

Not using all of an employee’s skills

“We’ve always done it this way, but we could find a better way.”

Lack of Standards

The absence of standard methods and targets

“Everyone does it differently so it’s hard to improve.”

Process Name:
SOLVE Owner:

Scope the Opportunity

Define the problem to be solved

Organize the Resources

Make a plan and engage the right people

Lean it!

Apply Lean tools to define potential solutions

Verify the Impact

Test to make sure our fixes work

Ensure Sustainment

Make it stick


Agreement to Test Potential Solutions

Sponsoring ManagerDate

Agreement to Implement Improvements

Sponsoring ManagerDate

Activity Checklist and Helpful Tools
Scope the Opportunity

o  I know who the customer (end user) is for the process and where the process begins and ends.

Need help? See Boundary Map (SIPOC) on page 39.

o  I have clearly stated the situation and why this opportunity is important to the organization and our customer.

Need help? See Problem Definition on page 32.

o  I know what measurement we are trying to improve and have data showing how we are performing now.

Need help? See Lean Measures on page 34.

Organize the Resources

o  I know whose help I will need to solve the problem, what roles they will play

o  (data gathering, management support, etc), and how much time I’ll need.

Need help? See Lean Roles on page 43.

o  I have a plan for raising awareness of the effort among the people involved.

Need help? See Communication Plan on page 47.

Lean it!

o  I have documented the process steps and who executes them.

Need help? See Process Map on page 51.

o  I have identified waste in the process and know how to eliminate/reduce it. Need help? See 8 Wastes on page 53.

o  I know the factors that are affecting the measurement and which factors are significant (will make the greatest impact).

Need help? See Root Cause Analysis on page 57 or Pareto Analysis on page 61.

Verify the Impact

o  I have developed solution options and know which one(s) I would like to test.

Need help? See Option Evaluation on page 67.

o  I have tested my potential solution(s) and gathered data to measure the impact (before v. after).

Need help? See Pilot (or Test) Plan on page 69.

o  I have defined the improvement to implement and the actions to be completed.

Need help? See Implementation Plan on page 71.

o  I have a plan to update affected people on the change AND a plan for managing any resistance to the change.

Need help? See Communication Plan on page 47 and Resistance Management on page 73.

Ensure Sustainment

o  I have documented the new method.

Need help? See Standard Work on page 77.

o  I know what actions we must take to ensure that the changes last.

Need help? See Sustainment Checklist on page 81.

o  I have documented my lessons learned and identified other areas we could work on to continue improving.

Need help? See After Action Review on page 83.