Our previous post described the pitfall of “theory blindness,” and explained how, with good intentions, people can fall prey to it.
A sure way to avoid this pitfall is to adhere to a defined improvement methodology — one that goes well beyond the common (most often ineffective) two-step approach of:
- Someone in a position of authority comes up with an improvement idea
- The idea is immediately implemented
Instead, a more elaborate improvement process or plan will incorporate a systematic search for new knowledge and understanding in order to arrive at a solution that addresses the root cause of whatever problem we are hoping to solve or whatever process we’re hoping to improve.
Take, for example, the first six steps of the 8-step methodology we apply:
- First, we identify and quantify what to work on. After gathering a lot of ideas and opinions about opportunities, we prioritize and then quantify. Quantification helps us in two ways: it helps us set aside our pet ideas for improvement (theories) that simply are not supported by the facts, and it helps us proceed with appropriate urgency on the highest impact opportunities.
- Next, we put together a team of people who can study the opportunity for improvement from a variety of perspectives. We include input from both customers and suppliers of the process (internal and, when possible, external) which helps us overcome theory-blindness, because people who can see the process from different perspectives can help us spot the flaws in our theory.
- Third, we gather facts and data about the current situation. This step can be difficult for those who entered the project with a preconceived solution – but when a sufficient number of relevant facts and data are surfaced, they most often serve as effective treatments for theory blindness.
- Fourth, we analyze root causes: thinking expansively and systematically about possible causes and then critically examining each possibility.
- The fifth step is to implement, but we’re not finished yet!
- Step six is to study the results. Because we started the process with a good baseline measurement, when we study the results, we will either confirm a successful improvement or not. We can then complete the final steps and move on to the next project!