Beating the odds is of course statistically irrational; however in this
edition we’ll look at ways of changing things so the new odds are more
Remember Captain Kirk in the Wrath of Kahn, he was trapped in the middle of some
planet having a conversation about the “no win scenario”. Kirk was the only Star Fleet Cadet to ever
beat “The Kobayashi Maru”, a test where there was absolutely no way to
win. Asked how, and Kirk replied that
he “reprogrammed the computer so he could win”. “You Cheated” was the reaction, and Kirk
replied, “I changed the condition of the test!” Beating the odds is all about
changing the condition that created the odds. Here is how …
How can you
improve the accuracy and quality of performed tasks? Examples include: billing; delivering what
was ordered; software quality; reducing re-work based on mistakes and errors;
accounting; technical support, to name a few.
Calculate the odds: Probabilities is a math
calculation, it’s a non-negotiable equation.
Let’s say that there are 50 steps to produce a result. Each step has a 99.9% accuracy level. That’s 999 out of 1000 accurate. (Not a great number in an automated
manufacturing environment, but pretty good in a software environment or
manual order entry). With 50 steps
however, the overall accuracy is only 95.12 %. That’s 1 out of 20 in error; poor results
Usually the next step is to pound the desk, and declare that results need to
get 10 times more accurate. i.e. 99.99 percent accuracy for each step. (Try typing 10,000 words and make only 1
error). Even if this goal can be achieved,
collectively it only gets you to 99.5 percent or 1 error in 200, much better,
but still not that great. Of course,
you should look to improve the steps.
Pick the low hanging fruit, the steps that are really troublesome. Look to automation and make it virtually
impossible to error on some of the steps.
Create smart data entry scripts that will do real-time look ups and
consistency checks while information is being entered. These will get you incremental
improvements … but for innovative improvements, here are a few other ways.
Beat the Odds by Changing the Odds. If you change the equation then the odds will change as
well … its math. One way to change
the equation is to eliminate some of the steps, reduce the handoffs, and
combine steps. Another way to change
the equation is to build in redundancy or failover for breaks in the
Expect the Error. People make errors, equipment
fails, it’s going to happen. So
instead of continuously spending resources to prevent every error, put in
checks during the process to catch and fix the errors midstream and real-time. Assume something is going to go wrong and
put in the process to fix it when it does.
How much to invest in this is a calculation on the cost of a net error
at the end, verses catching and repairing it during the process. In almost all cases, catching an error
early is an order of magnitude better (cheaper, efficient, etc), then
catching it at the end.
The Takeaway: All processes have
steps with measurable failure rates.
Do the math, and understand the equation that guides the
odds. Once done, change the
equation. This approach will improve
accuracy and yields, as well as performance, product development, time to
market, and profitability. Improving
the process will yield better results, but changing the process, i.e. the
equation, is where the breakthrough will occur.
Thinking Techniques for Innovative Solutions
We enhance the
problem solving skills of people, resulting in more innovative and
successful solutions. We do this by
combining the cognitive skills that people already possess, with building
blocks such as logic, invention and leadership. We specialize in the application of this
process towards Product, Services and Operational challenges and partner with
you to solve these business Headscratchers.
Contact us at www.headscratchers.com.
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