Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Ghosts, Goblins, and Monsters – The Power (and Danger) of Visibility

As a father of three young boys, I am consistently bombarded by requests. “Can we play outside?”, “Can we go to Grandpa and Grandma’s?” and “Can we buy a toy?” are familiar questions for my wife and I.

One popular request recently has been, “Can we watch Scooby Doo?” For those of you unfamiliar with Scooby Doo – it’s a cartoon that features a group of teenagers and their dog who investigate paranormal occurrences. Recently, our 3 year-old asked to watch an episode of Scooby Doo. With its ghosts, goblins and monsters, my wife and I were initially reluctant to let him watch an episode fearing nightmares. However, after much lobbying from him and his older brothers, we relented. Needless to say, he only ended up watching about 2 minutes before his eyes were shut tight due to fear.

Undoubtedly, some of you must be wondering, what does this have to do with Manufacturing Operations Management (MOM) and the issue of visibility? It turns out that many who undertake a process improvement effort in the MOM space want visibility into the goblins that lurk within their operation. Whether they’re the ghosts of process improvement efforts past or the “waste” monster, project sponsors and team members enter a process improvement project ready to take on whatever is uncovered.

However, an interesting phenomenon occurs once they see these “villains”. Often, much like my 3-year old son, they shut their eyes. Statements like, “we can’t change that process step” or “the data must be wrong” become common place as the Team and, ultimately, the broader organization loses the courage to act upon the trends that have been exposed by the project.

There are some actions we’d recommend taking to maintain and build the organizational courage to follow through on improvement efforts:

·        Arm yourself with Data. Provide open access to data and use case studies to demonstrate its accuracy (read a few of ours here).  This will help build confidence and consensus within the organization that decisions are being made on fundamentally good data.  You will also likely find that providing easy access to good data promotes more data-driven decision making.

·        Know your Nemesis. Use good analytical techniques to rigorously quantify the “villains”- these are the events that define poor performance, waste, poor quality, yield loss, etc. - publish the definitions and make them common knowledge. You’ll likely need to be able to capture and analyze both time series process and event-based context data.  Be sure to check out the capabilities of Catalyst PDC, our historian, and watch for more on Level3 regarding Event Detection and Complex Event Processing.

·        Plan your Attack.  Define the right response (a business process) that you will take when an event occurs. Start simply, iterate often and know that your business process will evolve as you learn more about your adversary.  Remember, perfection is the enemy of done!

·        Take Action.  Ensure you are diligently executing every time an event occurs – automating business processes with workflows is a great way to ensure 100% compliance and guaranteed execution.  If you want to learn more about workflow automation, read this great case study.

·        Promote your Wins.  Many people overlook the importance of promoting successes, don’t be one of them.  Make sure you promote the actions being taken with data regarding savings, frequency of occurrence, duration, etc.  
Taking these steps will help ensure that you have the courage to keep your eyes open and take the appropriate action no matter how scary the monster.

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