What Tool, When?

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It’s a familiar story.  You hire a consulting firm to train your staff in the latest methodology that is going to turn the business world upside down.  You’re going to be cutting edge with this knowledge and it will catapult you above the competition.  If you don’t do it, you’re doomed.

After a few weeks or months, the training is ready.  Courses are scheduled, participants are invited.  They have a great time, giving the instructors very good reviews. They all pass the test.  Everyone is happy, especially you. 

The following Monday, the staff is back at work, doing the same things they did before the training course.  You think it’s really cool that your employees use phrases like “the high bar on the Pareto”… 

Not to spoil your mood, but I have to ask: How is all that knowledge gained in training being applied to improve your business metrics? 

Chances are that a lot of time is being spent on data collection and chart-drawing.  The tools taught in last week’s training are driving the data and graphs this week.  If you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail. 

What should be happening is that you and your employees, armed with a bit of knowledge, can determine if you need a hammer or a screwdriver, a Pareto chart or an FMEA.  Most business process improvement tools are simple to understand in examples; most are not so simple to apply in the real world. 

The purpose of this blog is to help you find the right tool for your situation; one that will help you make more money, reduce risk, reduce angst, make people happier…whatever you really want and your business really needs.  I know your objective is something more than a pretty graph! 

The first thing to do is ask yourself (and answer) these few “simple” questions: 

  • What do you want to know?
  • What is the problem that you need to fix or the opportunity you want to explore?
  • What type of data do you have; what can you get without expending all your resources?
  • Is there a tool to give you the answers that you want, with the data you have (or can get easily)?  If not, you should avoid trying to use that hammer to drive in the screw.  In many cases, it is better to not use the tool than to use it incorrectly.

What Tool and What Data for What Purpose?

Here is a table that you can use to find the best tool, given what you want to know and what you know already:

I’ll be posting on each of these tools in more detail; how to create them, how to interpret them, and what actions to take based on those interpretations. Follow me on Twitter and Facebook to keep up with the latest posts. Glad to have you onboard!

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