Monday, May 14, 2012

Going from "Oh-oh" to "Ta-da" Faster

As young children, we learn from our experiences through relentless trial and error. It does not take us long to figure out if we touch something hot, for instance fire or a hot skillet, it burns us and we quickly jerk our hand back. This is an example of a fast feedback loop thanks in large part to our central nervous system.

Fast feedback loops are critical to be effective at problem solving. With fast feedback loops we can better link cause and effect. Fast feedback loops within a structured experimental or problem solving process helps us arrive at a solution quicker as we cycle through multiple experiments. Think repetitive, quick PDCA cycles.

One of the obstacles we face in business is slow or disconnected feedback loops. An action takes place and we don’t see the results for a lengthy period of time or sometimes not at all. For example, how long does it take for a quality defect to occur and when it gets detected? We can better solve the problem if it is detected by the operator at the source versus months later by the customer.

Another slow feedback loop typically occurs with many of our metrics and KPIs. How long does it take from the point of process performance till the time it shows up on the chart of graph?

In kaizen, faster feedback loops helps to see quicker if our countermeasure we put into place actually made a positive impact or not. If our countermeasure does not work, we can adjust and try something else quicker.

A great example of the impact in using faster feedback loops can be seen in the Marshmallow challenge. Tom Wujec provides some interesting results when conducting this seeming simple construction challenge. In addition to faster feedback loops, the marshmallow challenge has great insight to team collaboration.

Tom stated “So there are a number of people who have a lot more “oh-oh” moments than others and among the worst are recent graduates of business school. […] An of course, there are teams that have a lot more “ta-da” structures and among the best are recent graduates of kindergarten. […] And that’s pretty amazing. […] not only do they produce the tallest structures, but they’re the most interesting structures of them all.”

When we kaizen, are we more like recent graduates of business school with one PDCA cycle or are we more like recent kindergarten graduates with multiple PDCA cycles?

Where are the opportunities in your business to put in faster feedback loops to quickly move from “oh-oh” to “ta-da”?

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