Problem Management Strategy

I’ve written, deployed, delivered and managed problem management strategies before for various clients. I’m evolving a new formulation now to bring in a new era of IT service management for a more challenging and demanding technological landscape.

A bit of demand driven research has captured this framework that is going to evolve towards delivering exactly what ITSM should be in an ideal techno world.

A problem management strategy is implemented in the overall continual service improvement element of the ITIL framework that underpins operations:

Figure 1 Intwgration across the service lifecycle

The steps of the continual service improvement include:

  • What is the vision? Improvement opportunities are validated in comparison to the business and IT vision, mission, goals and objectives.
  • Where are we now? In order to be able to track and measure improvement, it is important to create an initial baseline of how services are currently being delivered and how effective and efficient service management processes are, as well as the effectiveness of the service lifecycle itself.
  • Where do we want to be? Defining targets for services such as availability and reliability, and key performance indicators (KPIs) for service management processes, provides a means for a service organisation to track progress from the baseline to the defined targets. Setting targets should follow the SMART concept: Specific, Measureable, (achievable), Realistic and Time-bound.
  • How do we get there? The difference between where we want to be and where we are today is a performance gap that should be addressed through a dedicated effort such as a project. The gap is closed by means of an improvement project team that is managing work on a core set of deliverables to produce the expected results.
  • Did we get there? To measure whether the gap is closed requires ongoing validation measurements and assessment. Were the desired outcomes achieved?
  • How do we keep the momentum going? Ensuring that changes are embedded in the organisation.

The aim is to minimize the adverse impact of incidents and problems on the client’s business and reduce the overall number of incidents reported. Problem control, error control and proactive problem management all lead towards removing errors from the IT infrastructure that interrupt the human element of a business. This is the end goal and overall strategy.


Six Sigma suggests a set of well-integrated statistical and management tools to achieve business goals with strategies that are best formed by defining business problem statements. The so called “Voice of the Customer” (VOC).

Synergy between ITIL and Six Sigma appears as ITIL provides the work-flows which are analysed as processes with Six Sigma methodology. The methodology includes deployment of a new process and knowledge transfer. Both initiatives combine for the key goal of customer satisfaction.

Improvement efforts are based on the VOC. This concept provides a lens through which a quality initiative can be directed. Quality improvement efforts address those quality issues, and only those issues, that impact the customer.

Six Sigma drives successful reactive problem management through its DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control) methodology. There will be sufficient data available for analysis from the incident management process. It identifies critical IT areas for improvement. It is also a proactive form of CSI by anticipating service-related issues and addressing them before they become an issue for the customer.

The DMAIC practice is applied to focus on a specific problem, identify the sources of error, and eliminate them.

DMAIC and Connection to ITIL Service Management Practices
Six Sigma


Six Sigma

Process Steps

Six Sigma


Service Management


Define > Identify problem

> Define scope

> Select team


> Brainstorming

> Interviews

> Inputs from incident management

> Analysis

> Problem identification and recording

Measure > Identify measurement system

> Measure current process performance

> Gage R&R

> Cost of poor quality

> Problem classification and allocation
Analyze > Identify root causes of problems > Process analysis

> Fishbone diagram

> Pareto chart

> Problem investigation and diagnosis
Improve > Recommend/implement solutions > FMEA

> Benchmarking

> Piloting

> Request for change
Control > Implement process control

> Determine process capability

> Sustain improvement

> Control charts


> Cost of port quality

> Problem evaluation review

> Closure

  • Define: Apply Six Sigma to a specific customer-impacting problem that will be solved via a Six Sigma project through a set of improvement or performance requirements to achieve an established goal
  • Measure: Collect the relevant CTQ data about the process or process performance resulting in defects
  • Analyse: Apply analytical techniques to identify (prioritize) the root cause of the defects
  • Improve: Determine and implement solutions to remove the defects and improve the customer’s experience
  • Control: Continuously monitor the improved process.

The life cycle of a diagnostic study includes the following steps:

  • Identify key stakeholders
  • Identify process handoffs
  • Validate project CTQs (critical to quality)
  • Collect data
  • Baseline process performance
  • Perform causal analysis and failure mode and effects analysis
  • Identify variation sources
  • Prioritize improvement opportunities
  • Implement process control plan

The tasks to complete when using Six Sigma for problem management are

  • Monitor a process or service against established expectations
  • Evaluate performance variances
  • Take corrective action as needed to meet performance goals or to improve performance over time.

Six Sigma and its application to ITIL processes rely on processes which can be measured, analysed, controlled and improved. (focus on the analysis)

As Six Sigma relies extensively on process measurements it slots in with ITIL where there should be agreed and documented service management metrics and measurements that are accurate and consistently reported. Processes can be measured across four dimensions: value, quality, performance and compliance.

This Six Sigma methodology applied to problem management will improve an ITIL process by aligning it closer to the business goals.


Next step: Implementation and evidence….

work life balance

Written by logicscience1

Husband, father, brother, spiritual philosopher, techno leader, drum n bass DJ, long distance runner and sometimes human.

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