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Reality charting is a problem-solving method. It is essentially a visual tool to manage a problem-solving process.


Reality charting is a problem-solving method. Beyond a simple 7-step process, it is essentially a visual tool for managing a problem-solving process and allowing:

  • Improve communication and consensus building among the members of the resolution team
  • Facilitate
  • Synthesize the data in one “place”.
  • facilitate knowledge sharing with the extended team

To do this, the method is based on the use of software to build, visualize and synthesize the logical sequence of problem solving. The software is used throughout the seven steps.

Step 1: Define the problem

Define the problem in a simple way by answering the following questions:

  • What: the main effect of the problem.
  • When: it happened.
  • Where: it appeared.
  • The occurrence of the problem.

In order not to disperse into the problems, the method asks to justify the why are we going to deal with the defined problem. To do this, the project manager must meet with the sector managers to answer the following questions:

  • Why do you want to solve this problem?
  • Is there an impact on security?
  • Is there an impact on the environment?
  • What are the expected gains?
  • What are the expected costs?

Step 2: Build a first version of the reality chart

Of the initial problem, the reality chart is built. This is in the shape of a tree representing the logical ” cause/Effect ” pattern to the root cause of the problem.

Thus one asks itself a first time “why” the problem arose. Two options appear:

  • Either this is a condition: the problem arose because the manufacturing conditions were too humid for example.
  • Either action: The problem has arisen because something has happened.

The software asks for the obvious differences that justify our choices. If we do not put it, then a question mark will appear.

We then need to iterate this step as many times as possible until we no longer have an answer to the question “why”. Therefore, we can “close” the branch by putting a STOP according to the following conditions:

  • Desired condition: This is the root cause, one cannot go further.
  • Lack of control: This is a cause that we know has enough control to solve. Example of the regulatory requirements.
  • New Primary effect: This is a cause that needs to open another branch of resolution. This may be the case when the cause is at the supplier for example.
  • Other cause paths more productive: this is a cause being too costly to solve or not enough explaining the problem.

Step 3: Finalize the Representation

Take over the reality chart as a group. Discuss its construction, check together the different “Stop” and provide answers to all the questions posed during its construction. The goal here is to finalize it by getting the consensus of the team on the causal chain of the problem.

Step 4: Provide the evidence

For each condition, action… the method asks to bring evidence. They can be of 4 types:

  • Sensory: The proof is brought by our touch, the sight…
  • Infer: The evidence itself comes from a causal relationship. Example, if an action is water vapor, the proof can be taken by the water temperature.
  • Intuition/Emotional: These are evidences related to reasoning, to emotions and therefore are not factual.
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