Although this is not specifically a Lean term, ‘issue’ is a starting point for many forms of Lean problem solving. An issue is much like a ‘problem’. It looks like a problem. It smells like a problem. It feels like a problem. Only, it’s not a problem. It’s an issue.
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An issue is a politically correct way of calling a problem something that doesn’t hold the same negative tone that the word ‘problem’ carries.
There seems to be three likely sources for this effort to rebrand the word problem.
It is more politically correct. With the term ‘problem’, people often leap to the finger-pointing step. With the softer word ‘issue’ people are less likely to find blame.
It is more positive. ‘Problem’ has a negative connotation that ‘issue’ does not have.
Litigation. People in business are (rightfully) scared of being sued. There seems to be a belief that if you call something a problem, it raises liability. Is this true? Only a lawyer can answer that, but it never hurts to be careful. A better plan, though, is to resolve the ‘issue’ as quickly as possible, and correct the issue for any customer that might be affected.