Plan vs. Actual- Part 1
A common tool in Lean is to talk about “Plan vs. Actual.” While not exclusive to Lean, it is the simple concept of stating, ahead of time, what you think the outcome of a particular action or improvement will be. Then, you compare the actual with the plan. It is a great tool for learning, if used properly.
And I botched this in the last few weeks. Royally. Twice.
Earlier this fall, we ran into an unexpected production problem. (Come to think of it, that problem was the result of someone else NOT doing plan vs. actual…but that’s another story.) Fixing it required some new capital equipment. We worked very quickly through the specs of the equipment, got approval to spend the money, ordered it, pushed the vendor, set up the equipment, and started using it.
And it didn’t fix the problem.
The ultimate solution turned out to be in our hands already. It was a different, though lower-cost, capital improvement. We could have had THAT solution in hand weeks earlier. But we didn’t.
All because I didn’t force the plan vs. actual discussion early on.
This is a common story. You could say “Yeah, Joe, big deal, welcome to the real world.” But if every mistake is an opportunity to learn, we have to learn from this one.
In this case, I allowed others to force a technical assumption about the solution. In a spot where we needed some very specific technical information about an input to this piece of capital equipment, I accepted a vague statement. I did not press, asking “You say that input is fast enough. Just how many furlongs per fortnight can it go?” Had I demanded specificity about the one crucial parameter, we might have avoided the expense and loss of time and all the scrap we made in the interim.
Good leaders have an ability to distill a complex issue down to a few important questions. THEN, they actually ask those questions, to the right person, at the right time.
At least I learned from it.