Current Thoughts from Past Days
Updated: Apr 21, 2018
Deming has said that everybody doing their best isn’t enough (Deming 1986). We must know what to do, have or develop the skills to do it, and be willing to invest in what it takes to improve, continuously. Creating a culture of true learning, where there is an expectation of constant improvement, has a topography of reflective practices (measurement of process and practice that is widely shared, clear goals and strategies), innovative engagement that extends beyond involvement, and results that continue to show growth and insight.
Back in the late Eighties, before we were introduced to what we now call Lean principles, I had the opportunity to meet and learn from a couple of bright and accomplished industrial engineers who spoke at one of the NASA symposiums on Quality and Productivity, and later published a book on planning and measurement that’s still relevant today. In it, Drs. D. Scott Sink and Thomas C. Tuttle introduced a technique they called RIART – road block identification, analysis and removal technique. They noted from their case study on this technique – conducted at NASA – key findings that are foundational principles for process improvement and measurement principles today. These included:
That most managers know they need and want better information to make decisions, solve problems and plan, but that, at the same time, many are drowning in data, and don’t have time to do anything with the data, systems and situation they have. (Remember – this case study was done in the mid- 1980’s. It fits almost every public sector client I can name today.)
Secondly, managers choose to hire people to improve their management information systems who have not been trained to be customer-driven. Hence, they just add more data. Little information comes from the data to support decision-making, problem-solving, and planning.
Third, in the absence of quality, customer-driven information, most managers would rather act on intuition, impulse, and experience rather than work to improve the quality of their system.
And finally, lacking a general theory of measurement, and few subject matter experts in measurement, rarely is progress made. Hence, we see two decades later, government organizations with systems largely disconnected from customers, still trying to understand Lean concepts, and still lacking a useful theory for measurement.
Sink and Tuttle introduced their model of the organizational system as a measurement framework tool for ensuring strategy is implemented. Akin to Lean’s SIPOC diagram (Supplier, Inputs, Process, Outputs, Customer), I have used this Organizational system diagram to help my government clients define and describe who their customers (and stakeholders) are at times when they would tell me they “don’t have customers.”
The model has proven to be a valuable tool for illustrating the unique structure of the public sector organizational system where every person, organization, customer, and stakeholder group identified in the downstream system also appears in the upstream system. In the public sector, customers and stakeholders are drivers of requirements (inputs) because they vote, serve on advisory councils, complain, submit poor applications, break laws and regulations, and conversely do the opposite of all those things.
The ways in which we design business processes to respond to these requirements (Transformation processes in the diagram) and finally deliver (and measure) services and products (outputs) to those customers and stakeholders in that downstream system defines how the upstream system will act to create new requirements.
Sink and Tuttle used this tool as a framework for better understanding “what we’re supposed to be doing;” e.g., the purpose of the business, or operationally defining performance in more technical terms. Outcomes of this work typically result in identification of the need to build improved customer focus, improved supplier/vendor/upstream system relationships, and a solid foundation or source of a measurement system.
Other models, used by Sink and Tuttle in their early work, and now commonly found in Lean principles, include the following Input/Output Analysis (the variation of the previously mentioned Lean SIPOC), and the systems diagram. Both are powerful tools for defining customer requirements, understanding what’s important to improve, to measure and to prioritize in process improvement.
Contact Demarche Consulting Group at info.demarcheconsulting.com for more information about how we can help! i Deming, W.E. (1986). Out of the Crisis. MIT Press. Cambridge, Mass. ii D. Scott Sink and Thomas C. Tuttle (1989) . Planning and Measurement in Your Organization of the Future. Industrial Engineering and Management Press. Institute of Industrial Engineers. Norcross, GA iii D. Scott Sink and Thomas C. Tuttle, S.K. Das (1986). Measuring and Improving White Collar Productivity. A NASA Case Study. Productivity Management Frontiers-I. Edited by David Sumanth. Elsevier. Amsterdam, Holland. iv D. Scott Sink and Thomas C. Tuttle (1989) . Planning and Measurement in Your Organization of the Future. Industrial Engineering and Management Press. Institute of Industrial Engineers. Norcross, GA. Page 166. v IBID. Page 167.