Armin Cruz

Armin Cruz: 4 Steps to Business Problem Solving

A simplified approach using lean, agile, and operational excellence principles

About the Author:
Armin Cruz is an operational excellence practitioner specializing in the financial sector.  Armin has worked for a “big four” bank for nearly 10 years and conducted turn-around operations in mortgage sales, mortgage fulfillment, banking center and retail banking operations as well as process excellence.  Currently, Armin is tasked to drive the process enhancements at the division/business unit level.

Armin Cruz has a Master in Business Administration (MBA), as well as several industry certifications such as Business process management as well as in Six Sigma.  Armin is a LEAN Master Black Belt (MBB) that is passionate about enhancing and creating value through cost avoidance and process optimization.

4 Steps to Business Problem Solving
As one considers a strategy to solve business problems one is inundated with a plethora of methodologies and strategies.  Often times I am asked which is better? Is it LEAN, is it Six Sigma, is it AGILE, is it Operational Excellence or BPM or something else entirely? This presentation aims to simplify the approach and present a unified 4 step process to solve technology / people / or process issues plaguing a business unit.

Please note, this is the first in a series, and is the high level construction of an approach.  It is not intended to provide the low level detail needed to solve the issue, but rather ask one to re-examine the method in which one approaches business problems. In short, this is a framework not a detail design.

First, define the environment
Arguably, the second most important step is to have a clear and concise picture of the world around you as it applies to the problem.  Are you trying to reconcile a regulatory or compliance issue, is it also related to revenue or expense management? Does this have an impact to operational or credit risk? These are questions that must be answered up front, before any additional action is taken.

Items to consider:

  • What is the problem statement?
    • Should be able to convey this issue in no more than 3 sentences.
  • What is the business case for change?
    • Need a compelling reason to detract assets and resources from other projects to solve this issue.
  • What is the scope of the issue/problem?
  • What will your measurement of success look like?

Second, determine your objective

Now that you have identified the issue causing your business pain, you may determine what a future and target state environment should look and feel like.  Consider the business case from the previous slide and incorporate that to your business level team to define what you are targeting the change to accomplish.

Items to consider:

  • When defining what the goal and objective should be consider the 3 D’s.  Most problems are going to fall under one of the following categories, if not all.  What can you bring as an agent of change as it relates to:
    • Dollars – Cost Savings and/or Revenue Generation
    • Days – Time to market and / or Cycle Time
    • Defects – Getting it right the first time . . .EVERYTIME!

Third, create your avenues of approach

  • There is an old saying “One is none, and Two is One” when it comes to planning.  I am a firm believer that one should always, regardless of circumstance, have a back-up plan.  Consider creating at least two, but preferably three avenues of approach to meet your definitions of success.

Item to consider:

  • Just because you have three plans, does not mean all should be published.  This can cause confusion.  Rather have them documented and ready in the event something goes wrong and your Plan “A” is no longer feasible.
  • Always ensure that all your avenues of approach meet all minimum definitions of success.

Fourth, measure your success and create an after action report

  • The single most important aspect to solving a business problem is . . . That’s right, knowing if you solved the business problem!
  • Come up with metrics that define the solutions’ success and ensure you are meeting your defined targeted goals.

Items to consider:

  • Primary Metric
    • The main solution set – What you are trying to achieve
  • Secondary Metric
    • The unintended consequence of solution set – What you don’t want to offset because of your solution set
  • Critical to Quality
    • What is important to the solution or drives a Primary or Secondary Metric
  • Team Goal
    • Smaller task level goals and metrics that lead to one of the above.

1) Define the Environment
2) Define the Objective
3) Create at least 2-3 Avenues of Approach
4) Measure your success and document After Action Report

If you have any questions, please feel free to email me at