As managers, and especially as consultants, we thrive on information. Analysis is our bread and butter and we get very excited when we get new datasets and new ways to present and interpret it. Even if you’re not a data nerd, you know the importance of making decisions based on facts. Reliable up-to-date data is essential to our businesses.
Nowadays with broadband internet at home, we won’t make a big purchase, until we’ve done our online research. We read blogs and review sites for assessments on the latest and best TVs, washing machines and cars. We want to know we’re getting the best deal, and the best product, for our money. And why shouldn’t we?
Whenever we start a new engagement with a client, one of our first tasks is to gather all the available data. We need to establish a base level of performance in order to effectively measure the success of the project. In many instances, this is incomplete or poorly maintained, and we work with the client to get the data into shape.
However, just as dangerous to the wellbeing of a business, is too much data. We have experiences with clients who capture every available piece of data, no matter how valuable it actually is to the people making decisions. These colossal databases then sit there on a server barely touched, because the people who make the decisions don’t have the wherewithal or tools to get at it.
And when the collected data is used, there is often a shotgun approach to reporting, scattering the sheet with numbers, tables and graphs.
In our experience, continuous improvement is a journey. And at each stage of the journey you require different amounts, types and frequency of data. If you have a hundred SKUs in production, and line run rates are spiralling downward, you need to know your top-loss products – because this is where your valuable time is best spent. A graph with a hundred products may show the trend going the wrong way, but what your team needs to do is focus on the products where there is the biggest return on their investment of time and effort.
This is how we approach data and reporting. Yes, we need to know how we did yesterday, but more important is deriving value from the data for today and tomorrow’s activity. Such as which lines performed best, and how do we understand and interpret this performance to enable the other lines to reach and surpass this level? This requires daily cell reviews, communication and guidance, but equally fundamental is clear and useful data that points to what the teams need to do.
As teams mature in their development, as they progress along their journey, we can begin to slowly turn on the data taps, and allow them to widen their focus. We started with the low hanging fruit, and now we can go after the rest. Eventually when the fires have all been put out, we can start using the data to identify problems before they become critical, with predicative analysis tools that help managers avoid expensive problems.
The need to give our clients the right data, at the right time in their improvement journey, has driven us to develop powerful and clear reporting and analysis tools, that can be tailored to the challenges they face. We can plug these tools into any data-source, and work with managers and team leaders to gain real insight into the challenges and opportunities they face.
Are you and your team looking at the right data? Is the reporting you use at your meetings meaningful, clear and concise? Are you targeting your CI activity at the right issues? We know how useful brown paper exercises are in identifying and eradicating useless paperwork, maybe now is the time to look at your data too?