Asking the right questions is part of the art of great problem solving. By avoiding question substitution, a dangerous cognitive bias where we subconsciously simplify the questions we answer, we can focus our efforts in the right place and start solving your organisation's hardest problems.
Getting off-track while solving a hard problem is to be expected. Getting back on track quickly is part of the art of great problem solving. Knowing how to spot when you’re going off track, and knowing what to do, can be the difference between rapid results and weeks, months, or years of frustration. Heed these four warning signs and you're more likely to right the ship before you veer too far off course.
In McKinsey’s recent article “Pushing manufacturing productivity to the max,” Robert Feldman et. al. suggests that the manufacturer’s dream should be a continuous, real-time data stream. He paints a picture of operators referencing data dashboards that flash alarms when a metric is out of spec, with “profit per hour” at the forefront of these metrics. If you asked McKinsey’s Feldman if there was ever a limit to how much data is helpful, it seems he would say no. But is there such a limit?
When organizations run into problems they don’t know how to solve - really tough problems - the first step is often to call in a subject matter expert. Subject matter experts, be it the OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) or a local resource, will lean on their experience to try and draw out a solution. If the problem falls outside of their abilities, they’ll often proclaim the problem impossible.
As capital project development has become increasingly structured and formulaic--to enable scalability and consistency--many projects have become devoid of the entrepreneurial thinking and behavior required to minimize costs and maximize returns.
To break out of this formulaic trance and unleash the creative potential of their organizations, capital project leaders must enable their employees to consider creative alternatives in design and execution, and critically examine opportunities to improve based on their merits.
Think about the most valuable challenges your organization is facing. These are the really tough, messy problems that keep you up at night. If they weren’t so difficult, you most likely would have already solved them! What if it turned out that these problems were not complex, but instead were all surprisingly easy to solve? How would you approach the problems differently?
While more NPV is better (all else being equal) this calculation is only meaningful relative to the cost of acquiring the operation in the first place or the price for which it could be sold. So in this article (Part 2 of 3) we have segmented the landscape into four quadrants each with a distinct ownership philosophy and set of implications for operational improvement...
The ongoing price war between Amazon, Walmart, and other consumer goods retailers is great for the consumer, but tough for the Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) industry. If you are a CPG company, you have already spent the past few decades constantly pushing prices down. And yet the price war will demand even more savings from you in the years to come. There are some more obvious places to look for these savings, as well as a hidden one that you might not initially consider, and which may hold the greatest promise. Let’s go through all the options together, as more opportunities on your plate will give you more options to respond.
Congress is considering using a Border Adjustment Tax to increase the financial incentives to produce goods in the United States. If successful, demand would significantly increase for US-made products.. Most US manufacturers would likely benefit in some way over the long term, but some would win much more than others. The biggest winners will be those that are able to find and utilize excess capacity in their existing operations.
If you are an investor, where should you look to find those manufacturers who are best positioned to tap into excess capacity and become the biggest winners?
Our info grahic displays the various stages of maturity for a Management Operating System. Knowing where you lie on the curve is the first step in furthering your improvement capabilities. Each category lays out four characteristics that will help you assess where your organization lies on the curve. Once you know where you are on the curve and what lies ahead, you can begin to create a plan for how to shift to the right on the diagram.
Congress is considering using a Border Adjustment Tax to increase the financial incentives to produce goods in the United States. If successful, demand for US-made products will increase significantly. Most US manufacturers would likely benefit in some way over the long term, but some would win much more than others. The biggest winners will be those that are able to find and utilize excess capacity in their existing operations.
If you are a manufacturer, how do you find this excess capacity?
For irregular manufacturing processes, inspiring productivity through performance measurement can be very difficult because a single, meaningful unit of output is much more challenging to devise. As the combination of production activities constantly changes, no consistent baseline emerges against which improvements can be measured. As such, the full creative potential of workers may be left untapped. How can leaders in irregular manufacturing create comprehensive and meaningful metrics to track progress?
A Border Adjustment Tax (BAT) in any proposed new United States tax code has the potential to create significant winners and losers in a rapidly-changing domestic manufacturing market. Its proponents claim that the border adjustment tax will help rebuild US manufacturing--and hopefully the jobs that go with it--by creating pricing incentives to build products in (and export from) the US rather than import them.
How can a manufacturing business get the most out of a Border Adjustment Tax, and who will the biggest winners be?
Integrated mine planning consumes tremendous amounts of organizational resources and management attention. Yet the resulting plans often fail to provide complete confidence that the ore body is being extracted optimally.
By creating a Mine Plan Radar for your operation you will have a clear, visual representation of the alternatives in front of you, allowing you to simplify a complex reality and provide confidence in your operational plans and allocation of capital.
When you help businesses to solve their operations challenges for a living, you experience all the highs and lows of organizational problem solving culture. For a sampling of the lows, check out our playful tongue-in-cheek infographic below. To learn more about finding the simple, elegant solutions hidden within your operations, join one of our Stop Guessing Workshops.
When we’re brought into an organization to help it solve a hard problem, we’re often introduced to the situation like this: “Oh, the solution to this one is easy: we just need to build a whole new second well — or plant — or warehouse.” Then comes the next part of that statement: “And good luck getting capital approval for that.” The translation, to us, is that the people we’re talking to already know this problem can’t be solved, and so we’re either going to have to live with it, or throw a lot of money at it.