First 4 Principles
I operate my consulting practice by the following four principles. In addition, I try to teach them to my students and clients as well.
1 – WHY You have to know WHY things work and why they do not work. Not only you, but everyone that works for you and around you need to be learning why things work. You need to be aware that not everyone wants to know WHY. Many just want to know how. If you only know how and not WHY, you can be sold a bill of goods. You can be, in short, lied to and you will not know the difference. (That is a whole discussion in and of itself!).
You do not have to know WHY up front. You do have to be learning WHY as you go along. The same applies to those around you and to your subordinates. When you know WHY, you can judge between dozens and dozens of “how-tos.” This is most applicable in selecting which projects to advance your organization. For example, which projects will have the greatest impact, or will reduce the greatest impediments for the given amount of work on them. You will receive urgent project requests from all over your organization – from those wanting to advance their own agenda or to fix their problem or what they perceive as their problem first – and, if you do not know WHY, you will not know which direction to go. (Note: you’re going to receive these urgent project requests from all over the place anyway. Knowing WHY just lets you filter the flak. The reason that there is so much confusion in a given system is because no one can see how to improve it systematically, although most people do wish to improve it.)
2 – Steady Improvement Versus Instant Perfection I have found gradual, steady improvement, very much along the lines of the Continuous Process Improvement movement, to be much more effective than the expectation of “perfect in one shot.” (See the Helix article) The expectation that something is going to be perfect the first time you do it merely freezes individuals, departments, and organizations. The risk is so high of not getting it perfect that they either plan it forever or, on the other hand, and just as bad, they do it once, label it perfect, and never look at it again! Both of these situations are undesirable within organizations because that organization is going to be passed by another organization that is steadily pursuing Continuous Process Improvement.
3 – Mistake Classification There Is No Such Thing As Instant Perfection. The whole point of Lean Manufacturing and Six Sigma is to DO improvements in organizations and processes, whether in physical flow or in informational flow or in the creation of either of these flows. Improvements are necessarily going to involve missteps and mistakes. When an organization or a department or even an individual makes a mistake, but learns WHY, it is not called a mistake. It is called “process improvement”, or “product improvement or development”, or “staff development”, or “research and development.” The reason we call it these things is because when organizations or departments or individuals learn “WHY”, they become self-governing and managers do not have to govern them in those things anymore.
4 – The System Is Never Done You can’t work on everything all at the same time. This site will go over tools regarding how to select, or at least how to select most of the time, the constraints that are truly impeding your organization – continually selecting the biggest ones first. As you improve processes, whether it’s physical processes, or informational processes or problem-solving processes in your organization, you are necessarily going to switch from one area of your organization to another. For any given item that you progressively improve, you are going to have to eventually, 12 or 24 months later, come back to that item because you will have changed a number of the inputs as well as the required outputs from that item that you are presently improving. If you never return to it, it will gradually become a large problem again. Whereas at any given time, you may have improved it as much as you can, don’t lose sight of it all together. Come back again… at a later time.