Once we know what we need to do, have agreed how to do it and we all commit to that agreement, we might be tempted to sit back and wait for the good times to roll.
But we can’t. Our competitors are innovating, start-ups are starting, and our customers are getting more demanding.
Quality is like a tube of crisps, once you start, you can’t stop. Now you must consider the Quality of the process as well as its outputs. We call this efficiency, and you may need some new tools.
One new, shiny tool is data aka big data or business intelligence. To be honest, it is not that new, but the tools to use it are becoming more accessible and prettier.
Whenever we design a new way of working (do you mind if I call it a process?), we should build in ways of making sure we are successful and, if we are clever, further improving our processes.
So, whenever we act we should produce data. Since the diagram above was drummed into me, producing data has become easier. Though we still have to think to produce the right data. If the data you produce can’t lead to action, then it is the wrong data. If the data you produce is a fair and accurate representation of the performance of a process, then it is the right data. If the data you produce allows you to find opportunities for improvement (be that better quality or more sales), then it is the right data.
Recording the data seems obvious, but often systems produce ‘information’ – an analysis of the data and destroy the data. Recording analysis limits your options when you are looking for improvements. When you are setting up a process, build data recording directly into the process and resist the temptation to second-guess how your customers will use the output.
Analysis is fun; you can produce acres of material, dashboards with details and funky traffic light charts. Don’t. Remember action should come out of data, and no-one wants that action to be ‘rebuild the dashboard’. Work with the people who will use the data to make decisions and find out what they need to know. Present the data clearly, emphasise highlights and identify problems. Let your customers drill down, change parameters and find other data when they need it.
Now take action.
To be honest, all that data comes at a price, as drawing the right conclusions takes time and puts smaller improvements out of scope – we are all looking for the biggest bang for our buck. But smaller improvements give a quicker return on investment, they can engage the entire workforce and they can resolve the little niggles that damage relationships.