Building a Plan to Change a Lightbulb
Suppose you are sitting in your home, reading your favourite book when there's a bit of a bang and the light above you goes out. Now you are sitting there trying to read in the dark, what do you do? Obviously, there are options, you can just get up and move to somewhere that has a working light, you could go to the cupboard you keep the spare bulbs in, get a new one and change the bulb then get back to the reading the book. If, like my 10-year-old daughter, you don't feel you can change the build you get your helpful dad to do it for you, it's all pretty simple right? We just got it done because we knew the issue and what needed to be done, we were able to do it, it's sorted.
Why then is it in organisations that this isn't happening? When something doesn't work or something needs done and it's obvious what has to happen, why can't it just get done?
Procrastination by Analysis
Part of the issue may be that there are so many 'tools' out there and organisations latch on to them as the silver bullet, this is how we do things. We run projects using the Prince 2 processes, every project needs to have a multifaceted RACI matrix set up, we use 6 sigma to analyse what needs to be done and so on. The result is that things get stuck, we research, plan, analyse the various angles and options before making a decision (after we have spoken to all the stakeholders) and then, perhaps something will happen. This is called Procrastination by Analysis, it's avoidance of doing anything while you go away and analyse things. Meanwhile you are still trying to read in the dark.
Pick your Hammer
There are of course times when you need a full project plan and a project charter and stakeholder engagement sessions for what you are doing, There are times, I suppose when the right answer is a full 6 sigma green or black belt project (I to be fair do struggle a little with that thinking) but I'm going to suggest that for a great number of times the answer is just go and get it done. We didn't need to document a plan, we didn't do 5 whys, fishbones or anything else we should just do what needs doing.
Picking the right approach for the task is so important and will dramatically improve the ability of your organisation to improve, to evolve and engage your people that it is probably one of the most important initial conversations I have with clients.
Suppose you have 3 operations that feed each other, one is constantly waiting on work, one is busy all the time but keeping up and the other has a pile of WIP in front of it waiting to be processed. Do I need to do a full project plan or a 6-sigma project with its scope and budget set ups here to figure out what's gong on? No, I just use my eyes, go to the operation with all the WIP and talk with the person running that operation. I can watch it a little bit but it's going to be one of a very few issues, it's a set up duration problem (SMED) or it's Run time problem (Load balancing) or it's a Quality problem. I can check the quality with my eyes and any tools to understand that so now I'm left with two things to figure out. I can whip out a stop watch and time the cycle of the 3 operations but actually I could just stand for a few cycles and figure that out as well, even quicker I could just ask the operator, what's going on, they will know instantly and we can get going on a fix.
If we wanted to really fine tune the process to the tightest tolerances then maybe you would pull out the statistical methodology but even then, how much would you really need? A few run charts, maybe some CP, Cpk.
Keep It Simple
I love Einstein's Quote, Things should be as simple as possible, but no simpler. If you want to unleash the improvements or the processes in your organisation then step one is keeping it simple, don't over complicate it, don't implement barrier that stop people getting things done or getting involved.
The three biggest, most potent weapons against waste and to drive continuous improvement in your organisation are, in my opinion in the following order 1. Your eyes, 2. Your ears, 3. Your collective brain.
Go to the gemba and look, just look and take note of what you see, listen to what people are telling you, ask questions with the full intention of listening and valuing the answer you get, not forming the next question while the person is answering your 1st. Use the knowledge of those dong the actual work and your knowledge of things to come up with a solution together than you be implemented quickly and simply to give you the solution.
Don't Stay in the Dark
When the lightbulb goes out you have a choice, fix it, illuminate the area and move on doing what you want to be doing, reading a book, service a client or making a part. Or you can scratch around in the dark to find your pen and paper or electronic device to let you start building a plan to analyse the problem. Just remember, even while building your plan to change the lightbulb, you are still in the dark.
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