From Davis Balestracci – Data Sanity...or Else!

Published: Mon, 02/13/17

From Davis Balestracci – Data Sanity...or Else!
(Data Sanity: Part 5 (Conclusion))
How much longer are we going to tolerate the consistent failure rate of 70 to 95 percent for overall improvement efforts, including the 50 to 70 percent rate for the many marginal 1-1/2 to 2 year alleged successes that fade?
~1000 words:  take 4- to 5 minutes to read over a break or lunch  (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4)

Step back:  Have you ever considered improving your "implementation of 'an implementation of improvement' ” process? 

Hi, Folks,

Many talk about reducing variation to improve quality.  Does that include the human variation in which everyone tries to improve the quality of their overall improvement process and its practice differently?  

What would happen if this variation were reduced?  

Would some of you Lean folks be interested in spearheading an effort to standardize "the implementation of ‘an implementation of improvement’ ” process? Lean and non-lean practitioners would be so grateful and thank you effusively (I can hear you all: "Davis,what planet are you on?"). Nah, probably not a good idea.

But could we all possibly agree that a good initial strategy might be to address "the routine organizational use of data" process? 

Consider: by reducing the data insanity chaos inherent in the daily variation of using routine data, wouldn’t you find that the consequence of less tampering (treating common cause as special) can be a catalyst to boost the credibility of your more formal efforts, regardless of the approach?  Think how much that liberated time and reduced chaos would increase your effectiveness.

One of Dr. Deming’s quotes made a lasting impression on me when I first heard it over 30 years ago:

A good organization will take five years to turn around. Most will take ten.


...what's the hurry?  

Many of you have been using a bolt-on "push" strategy.  Its guaranteed result is dealing with an ongoing relentless frustration that never seems to show signs of abating...and almost guarantees "vague" results (or gains that seem to eventually evaporate).   

Do you realize that your current actions and results have already created a perception of the value you and your organization's improvement philosophy offer?

Maybe it's time to rewind and reconsider an "improvement as built-in to DNA" approach:

  • What if you began to facilitate several key results using everyday data? –  a "pull" strategy of letting results(rather than you) do the talking.

  • Simultaneously, reduce cultural human variation by creating a common improvement language for everyone – a basic understanding of process, variation, "plot the dots!", and common/special causes.   

    • Careful:  A lecture about "quality" could be perceived as patronizing.  It was a lesson I learned the hard way:  people are very proud of how hard they already work and, to them, that's "quality."  

    • What if part of the education involved them in getting or implementing some results that will make their work lives easier?

    • Goal – What would it be like to have a culture that would routinely ask in its daily work:

      • “Are we ‘perfectly designed’ to get this result?”
      • “What would plotting the dots tell us?”
      • “Is this a common or special cause?”
      • “This is awfully vague. How can we find and focus on the vital 20 percent?”

Deming adherents, especially:  Don't let "uneducated enthusiasm" sabotage you!  

  • Declare a temporary moratorium on the phrases "Dr. Deming says..." and "profound knowledge" as well as any general one-off demonstrations of the red bead experiment or quincunx until you have personally facilitated some eye-opening results (with the data to show for it)

  • If you can't restrain yourself from giving a red bead experiment demonstration, be sure you have the competence and confidence to schedule a post-demonstration dialogue with each person or workgroup in the demonstration.

    • Your purpose for this post-seminar consultation should be neither to teach nor lecture.

    • Its sole purpose is for you and the people to understand their daily "red beads" – with an ultimate objective of helping improve a situation on a number that makes them “sweat.” 

 Lao Tzu:  The journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step*

* #64 Tao te Ching

Step 1:  Simply plot over time an important number to (1) increase your understanding of variation and (2) help you change conversations about data.

Step 2:  Recognize and solve invisible opportunities currently surrounding and quietly screaming at your organization in its everyday work.  Realize they will probably have nothing to do with current formal project work (or that your project work is merely symptomatic of their manifestations).

  • Use the Pareto Principle: What are the 20 percent of the routine numbers that cause 80 percent of the organizational perspiration?  

Step 3:  Demonstrate competence.

  • Get results first, quietly and without any fanfare, before you exhort everyone (else) to do it.

  • Get a reputation for being a competent practitioner – and that you let your colleagues get all the credit for any results.

Given:  Top and middle management will initially fight you every step of the way. Lecture, logic, and one-off demonstrations won't even begin to make a dent in this and could actually backfire.

You must develop the competence and confidence to facilitate any situation while on your feet.  Who are the 20 percent of the leadership that could possibly account for 80 percent of your success? 

Short term strategy:  Create a critical mass of 25 to 30 percent of your leadership interested in and consistently practicing data sanity to help them get results that move their C-suite "big dots" – and let them have all the credit while encouraging them to educate your culture.

Make this your daily mantra to avoid an ulcer: I need to swallow my ego ten times before breakfast and another dozen more times before lunch.

Realize that your culture isn't stupid. They will know you were responsible for the results and deeply respect you because you let other people get the credit.

A huge bonus.  If any of these initial results involved the front-line in the solution and ultimately made their lives easier, you've made a pure gold investment in your improvement process and earned a ton of credibility in their eyes. They will be especially appreciative when you have seriously reduced the number of tantrums thrown at them to "get better numbers."

For Lean practitioners, the synergy of all this could create an open door to begin to consider kaizen. 

  • How many statistical tools have I used?

  • How many of Dr. Deming's 14 points does this process address? (all of them). Have I formally referred to any?

Dr. Deming:  If you stay in this world, you will never learn another one

Are you ready to go beyond "Cro-Magnon quality" now?

Until next time...

Kind regards,
  • The 10 examples of real leadership situational data in Chapter 2 of Data Sanity suggest alternatives for YOU to do – initially behind your own closed doors.

  • Chapters 3 and 4 will help you with the leadership skills to stay the course on your 1,000-mile journey

  • Chapter 9 lays out an innovative educational process designed for transformation.

It's not a matter of if, but when you will make a huge impact on an organizational "big dot."
Data Sanity: A Quantum Leap to Unprecedented Results is a unique synthesis of the sane use of data, culture change, and leadership principles to create a road map for excellence.

One of its major goal is to create a common organizational language for healthier dialogue about reducing ongoing confusion, conflict, complexity, and chaos. ​​​​​​​
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GREAT NEWS for UK readers who want a hard copy.  It is now available on Amazon UK for £ 69 with free shipping.]

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