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I misplaced my keys, again

There are some tasks that we hate to do.  So much so that we don’t really do them correctly.  We do the minimum and hope the problem will go away.  One of my favorite television shows is The Profit, hosted by Marcus Lemonis. Each episode he interacts with a business in trouble.  Quite often he will enter into a business agreements with them and help them get on the right track. His mantra is People, Process and Product.  To have a successful business you must be doing the right thing with all three.
Today I want to focus on the Process.  It does not matter if you are an entrepreneur, an engineer or the CEO of a billion dollar a year company, you must have a well-structured Process.  When you don’t, you have chaos and that wastes time, and time is money.  How many times have you or someone you know been in a frenzy trying to find your keys?  I’ve been there and I hate the feeling.  I fixed the problem years ago by installing a key rack in our kitchen and now I almost never have to deal with the problem.  I say almost, because if I don’t follow the Process the problem returns.

Why shouldn’t we re-invent the wheel?
It can be as simple as that. And it is not just about keys.  In business, we run into things every day that we have done before and will have to do again.  If we streamlinethe Process we will be more efficient at getting the task done, it will be less stressful and we can get on to doing something more challenging, more profitable.
Imagine each time you needed to create a fabrication drawing you had to start from scratch.  You would locate the company logo, decide what information needed to be included.  You would open a word document and create the header and footer.  That would be ridiculous and no one would really do it.  That is why we have templates.
But imagine a situation where your engineers debug a circuit or program firmware at their desk but have to get up and walk 200 yards and down two flights of stairs to change a resistor.  When they get to the shared workstation someone has flux spilled on the desk, the resistors are in little boxes and were not put back in the correct place and the soldering tips are scattered over three desks and the temperature ratings are worn off so finding the right tip for the solder you need to use is a battle each time.  This is a situation that lacks a process and it is common among many companies.
As a manager, you will look at this situation and ask, “How much time is wasted… by not having a Processthat allows my engineers to be as productive as they could be?  How many missed opportunities do I have because my staff is resolving a problem that has been solved before?  How much money am I giving awaybecause I don’t want to address the real problem, The Process!

But Master which is the correct path?
Whether you use Six Sigma, Kaizen or Lean is not as important as solving the problem.  Companies spend a great deal of time learning and relearning the next great system that will solve all their problems.  This in and of itself is a disruption to the Process.  We are all looking for an edge, a magic solution.   In fact, all of these systems are tools that are designed to streamline the Process.  Each one has benefits but no one is a magic solution.  I have found that companies are like people, we learn and work in different was.  What works great for one company will not work for another.  As managers, we must find which one of the myriad of solutions works for our company.  There is some trial and error associated with doing that. You might find that none of them work the way you need, but can adopt parts from all of them to design a solution that works for your company.

Want a crystal ball? Read a history book
Too often companies spend effort on finding the magic beans.  If there is a way to gain an advantage over our competitors we would be foolish not to look for it, try it. Often the biggest gains are simple to the point of being obvious.  The Process is the business.  If you are being creative, and designing something new is an act of creativity, you are using much more resources than if you are following a known good path.  This is the key that Ford discovered in 1913 when he installed the first moving assembly line.  He made the Process better.  We have only to look at our own histories, yesterday, last week, last month to find the things that we are doing over and over that can be fixed by not reinventingeach new time but rather figuring out the best way to do something once and repeating.

Final thoughts
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