Friday, September 23, 2011

Two Questions to Get You Unstuck

Had a perplexing and complex problem recently, which really had me up the proverbial creek sans paddle.  When I remembered something I had read some time ago from David Allen.  He suggested asking these two questions when in such a situation:
1.  What is our desired outcome?
2.  What is the next step?
And this helps.
The first question is a broad one.  Where do we want to end up?  What is the aim of this project, this set of tasks, the solution to this problem?  If we were planning a trip, we'd answer it by saying "We want to arrive in Denver by 5pm on the afternoon of the 15th." This question establishes the goal, the point at which you would say "There, did it, I'm satisfied." 
The second question is a very near-term, tactical question.  What is the very next step I need to take?  What is the single action I can take now which moves me closer to the outcome?  What specific, single thing must I do in the next hour?  For our trip, we'd answer it by saying "I need to get on-line an book a flight to Denver on the 15th and make my reservation today."  Or I might say "I need to compare the price and time of flying to the price and time of driving to Denver, this afternoon." 
I applied this to my perplexing problem.  The first question settled the nature of the tension I felt; two competing agendas were clashing and I stated how each could be satisfied.  The second question then became obvious; a conversation with stakeholders in each of the two competing agendas.  Suddenly, I was unstuck and moving.
Try this, as you keep learning.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Mistake Proofing--why we should love annoyances

A central element of Lean is developing processes which MUST produce a correct result.  Don't get distracted by the Japanese term jidoka; we simply mean by it "mistake proofing." 
Process excellence buddy Dan, a.k.a. "The Kaizeneer" recently posted a short video which is an excellent example.  It lasts a minute and illustrates years of expreience.

Several points of note:
-This is a non-manufacturing example.  You can mistatke-proof many processes.
-It is very simple.  This improvement required virtually no cost and very little time.
-It makes the process work, every time, with no special instructions. No emails or documents or posters required.
-It solves an annoyance.  The small things, the proverbial "pebbles in the shoe" are the source of many small improvements like this.
Look for some annoyances and see what you can go. 
Keep learning.