Friday, May 15, 2009

Questions Lead – Answers Follow

One of the fundamental mistakes I have seen repeatedly that leads to the loss of expected impact of improvement to a business process is making changes based on individual observations, education, and experience alone. What is missing is asking questions of all the people impacted by a proposed change. The people that operate, support, audit, and reap the benefits of a process, collectively referred to as stakeholders for the purposes of this post, often have valuable knowledge about a process.
Processes are used to complete a task, or multiple tasks, repeatedly in a consistent manner. The nature of the repetition gives the local stakeholders many observations with which to build a mental repository of data about a process. There is one tool (often under-utilized) at everyone’s disposal that allows the harvesting of that valuable data. Asking questions will yield valuable insight about exceptional conditions, frequencies and probabilities of occurrences, pareto of key information, historical perspective, and trends. The information may not appear as reliable as data from a sophisticated electronic data collection device, but undervaluing it will certainly reduce the effectiveness of an “improvement”.