In Lean Thinking, how something gets done is more important than the results. Anathema you say, let me explain.
With an over-zealous focus on results, we forget that processes lead to results. So, a near-sighted focus on just the results, ignores the fact of how one got to those results.
Let me illustrate:
So, given the matrix above, we get the following results:
- A Controlled process with good results is expected
- A process not in control with bad results is expected
- A Controlled process with bad results needs to be investigated through PDCA
- A process not in control with good results is luck
By control, I do not necessarily mean statistical process control, though that would apply for some processes in manufacturing, fulfillment, healthcare, etc. Even as simple and as basic as Standard Work is good enough for most companies.
Here’s the point, regardless of business process: predictibility, repeatibility, reproducibility – that’s what we aim for in most business processes. For the more creative business processes or process within the innovation space, we need to approach those a little differently, but some principles do apply.
It’s Your Turn
Do you agree or disagree? If what I claim is right, do you get the sense, like I do, that most companies are awfully lucky?
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Dennis Ashendorf says
In a related field, decisions are based on the quality of decision-making, not results. Results are/can be random, but decisions are under one’s control. Buying a Lotto ticket is stupid. If it wins, the FACT that you were stupid when you bought it doesn’t change.
Nice article. I very much enjoy these.
I totallly agree. It’s very hard to get somewhere (i.e. a quality product) if you do not have a good road map. The art of our job is to define those areas where we must standardize and where we can allow ourselves to be a little lucky sometimes.
Scott Edwards says
Nice summary. Process is necessary but not sufficient. I’ve been part of groups where process was excellent but there were no meaningful results. Likewise results are necessary but not sufficient. Your post is important because I think the general mindset is focus on results without much thought to process. Both are needed for success now and in the future.
Steve Moore says
Regarding “Process Control and Luck”: Another point that should be made is that when in the “Not Controlled” state, the results often move back and forth between “got lucky” and “as expected” in an unpredictable way.
Steve Moore says
Scott, I would suggest that if there were no maeningful results, then your process could not be excellent. Every system is perfectly designed to get the results that it gets.
Colin Gare says
This item really resonates with me and it makes the point very simply, which is useful when many of us are working with people who have had little real exposure to the fundamentals. Once people get this point, I think we then need to lead them to realise that ‘control’ generally requires more than just noting results.
When people talk about measurement and data, I find they often jump from input measures [eg volumes] to output/results measures [eg cost, timeliness], without any consideration of what is needed IN the process to enable its operators to effectively manage it as it happens. I prefer to call these “process indicators”. The analogy would be trying to reliably drive a car at a set speed without a speedometer.
Without appropriate process indicators, even if they are not quantitative, the people actually doing or controlling the work/process can do nothing to assure the desired outcome in an environment of variables outside of their control. Of course, in many simple cases, adherance to standard work may be a sufficient process indicator. But it is surprising how often even this most basic form of control is missing. Frequently, the standard process itself will not even have been defined!