18 Jul “We’ve eliminated five layers of bullshit in the company”
A Capventis customer who has deployed Qlik across a large food processing business uses this phrase to highlight the achievement of his team. “We’ve eliminated five layers of bullshit” he proclaims proudly, before proceeding to tell his story.
The story resonated with me, because it applies to most businesses, and is essentially part of the human condition. We all need to explain the unexplained and find answers to puzzling questions, but oftentimes we clutch at the first compelling reason, and stick to it without sufficient evidence. Daniel Kahnemann explains this very well in his recent bestseller, “Thinking Fast and Slow”.
Our customer was trying to understand how the yield in his factories varied significantly from day to day. He explained how previously the accepted causes were generally anecdotal, and were often driven by the strongest personality, or by the views of the first person in the office the next day. “I see the yield was down yesterday, it must be because the mix of inputs was skewed down” said Martin at 8 AM, and by 10.30 it was being written in a report, without any substantiating evidence. The next time yield was down, Pat might say, first thing, “Yield was down yesterday because John’s team was working and they’re known to be rubbish at monitoring performance”. The official explanation would then be down to staff failings.
Real data, covering a process from start to finish, changes all this. Input measurements and monitoring performance at all points to the output should all contribute to a better understanding, with averages established, and deviations much easier to spot and investigate.
Our customer established that yield reduction was generally attributable to a variety of factors working in tandem. Lower yielding inputs, compounded by less experienced staff and a lack of oversight often contributed in parallel, but their impacts were measurable and addressable.
So how many other questions are we constantly answering wrongly?
What’s the best way of eliminating bullshit in your company?
Keep asking questions about the rationale behind assumptions. Look for the data which supports or negates the views. Don’t cave in too quickly to the standard responses. Follow the smell……