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Do you want results, or a process? Differentiate the tools and the objectives

Remember the old adage, a person whose only tool is a hammer tends to see all problems as a nail. Yet for most of us, results are more important than a shiny bright smooth process, yes? If you don't think so, skip this article.

Thanks to WRC. Results Count.

Your Purpose

Your primary corporate purpose is probably akin to the basic Toyota objective, "making a profit, and satisfying the customer with the highest possible quality at the lowest cost in the shortest lead-time, while developing the talents and skills of its workforce through rigorous improvement routines and problem solving disciplines." Toyota did not set out to invent just in time, or kaizan events, or value stream mapping; such tools helped along the way but were not the primary focus.

Keep your eye on results that advance the broad purpose, not just the tool.
Define the desired result first, then utilize whatever tool will provide that result most cost effectively. Resist the temptation to make the tool, or process, or proprietary system into the centerpiece. Results count.

These Particulars

offer examples to understand results, rather than the process, as your centerpiece.

1. The recruiting process
My friend Joe, a successful corporate recruiter, tells of the potential client who asked him how he recorded the contacts he made, the conversations, the diverse characteristics of the candidates, the reports he generated. Joe pointed out that he delivered results, candidates to the criteria requested, not paperwork. He would have been glad to recruit them a director of common sense, but that was not on their list.

Joe also is pressed sometimes about how he (as a recruiter) participates in committee meetings; he literally is confounded by that kind of thinking, to serve a group-think system instead of accountably producing results.

2. The data set
My friend Ralph, who knows his way around a manufacturing floor, believes that any reporting system that does not quickly deliver information that helps the front line supervisor is useless. Expand that thought to the reports at other levels of line and staff functions; if they do not quickly deliver information to inform the people who can act to correct problems, they may be fine examples of programming but they are useless.

3. What is the question?
A client once wanted a reporting mechanism from his field superintendents responsible for commercial and residential construction; he also wanted an incentive for management and tradesmen. I gave him a process, an ingenious and cutting edge work measurement system, but not the result he really wanted. Fortunately we finally achieved what he wanted, after a couple of extra months had elapsed.

4. Goals and tools
If your goal is to eliminate waste, and cut out non-value added effort, you will have a variety of possible tools at your disposal. As you differentiate the tools and the objectives,
a. Don't confuse a list of possible concepts with a prioritized action list, task assignments and due dates.
b. Your preferred process may not be technically able to achieve your intended result. For instance don't choose an MRP system to reach a goal of Just in Time.
c. A tool is meant to be a means to an end, not the end itself.

5. First things first
A checklist for improvement of a particular job or task may include flow process, layout, methods, hand tools, automation, computer assistance, time study. But please start with the basic question, is this job necessary? Next, can it be combined with another? Only then consider the value added elements that are necessary.

6. MIL-TS 41
Which means, Make it like the spec, for once. Here is one process you had better respect, product requirements. Now, requirements can certainly be changed and should be reviewed continually, but while they are in effect, meet them.

7. Best way and better way
My first job was with U. S. Steel who at the time had two tenets in manufacturing;
a) "There is one best way", and b) "There is always a better way". That combination is still an effective way to balance control while seeking continuous improvement. Know, record, instruct and enforce the approved techniques but at the same time encourage employees to innovate; install a new technique formally when it is proven to be better.

In some cases (such as pharmaceutical manufacture and hospitals) standardized methods and techniques can literally affect lives and it is a serious error to ad lib. Those procedures must be cast in stone, but even they can be modified after review and approval.

Thanks for the time, I hope the article was useful. JPR welcomes the opportunity to discuss your particular application. After all, Productivity is Our Middle Name.

Jack Greene, Jackson Productivity Research Inc.

What's Next?

You have searched the web to understand how the principals of productivity can benefit your organization, but maybe don't know quite how to proceed. I'll be glad to share what I know about the subject, and will welcome your call or email. Tell me as much as you'd like, confidentially, about your organization's situation and objectives, timetable and budget, and I'll describe some practical actions to accomplish your scope. You will have a better understanding of the options.


There's no cost or obligation to contact Jack Greene at 843-422-1298