Unsolved Problem, Work in Progress and Improvement Techniques

Problem Time

Life and work isn’t always smooth sailing, which is why at Management 3.0 we recognize that it’s important to know what to do when problems arise.

While it’s common for organizations to focus on delivery times, they should be focusing on their queues and work-in-progress.


  • Because, problem time is different from queue size
  • Problem time can increase while queue size remains static, indicating a (possibly) growing frustration of clients who are waiting for their problem to be solved
  • Problem time is also different from lead and cycle time, which are measures of completed work – they are lagging indicators – while problem time has an exclusive focus on uncompleted work – a leading indicator

In a nutshell, by measuring total problem time and average problem time on improvement boards, workers can train themselves to keep solving problems, improve their work and make all clients and stakeholders happy

So what is so important about problem solving?

Problem Time
  1. Reported problems are better than unreported problems: No problem should be kept hidden. People should feel safe and incentivized to report any issue they find.
  2.  Young problems are better than old problems: Problems should be solved fast. They should not linger around on backlogs and boards for long because frustration grows with the age of problems.
  3. Non-recurring problems are better than recurring problems: Once solved, they should remain solved for good. Permanent fixes are preferable over short-term workarounds.

When an organization performs better, the employees’ sense of happiness and well-being increases.The issue is that sometimes many people have the talent to completely ignore the most obvious information.

Try measuring problem time within your teams:

  • Start with your existing improvement backlog, if you have one, or you can create a new one from scratch
  • Make sure your improvement board contains stakeholder problems, not just tasks
  • Check or estimate when each problem was added to the board, and calculate a problem time per issue.
  • Calculate the total and average problem time for the entire board, and communicate it to your team members
  • Make a recurring task in your task list to do this every week from now on
  • Start asking stakeholders “What can we do better?” on a regular basis