As managers, we want to be able to show progress, improvement, advancement, savings, or ROI. We tend to collect ‘numbers,’ look for trends, set goals, compare and contrast, etc. But we cannot forget to step back once in a while and try to see the big picture, which involves ‘them and us.’
Our innately-human side features our own biases. We may measure many aspects, but are we measuring what we really need? Are we measuring after the fact? Are we thinking ahead instead of behind? Are the numbers providing a broad enough spectrum of information, or are we so narrowly focused and totally fixated that we are not seeing the big picture?
Statistics is a wonderful form of number manipulation. It’s intrinsically accurate and faulty at the same time. Statistics are used to support both strong and weak arguments; hailed as revolutionary or frowned on by the accused. One well-know statistician of the last century was quick to point out that you cannot just measure the results after the fact. F. Edwards Deming believed, and constantly promoted the idea, that you should blame the process before the people. If your management team does not empower the employees, does not rely on after-the-fact statistics, or provides the best tools and support to the employees, then the best job cannot be done. It does not matter who the hero or heroine is, they are or were set up to fail.
5 of Deming’s 14 points are specific to statistics, and he was a statistician:
- Cease dependence on mass inspections (after the fact)
- Eliminate slogans and posters
- Eliminate numerical quotas and goals
- Establish right of pride in workmanship
- Encourage self-improvement in everyone
There are a list of process improvement gurus, like Kaizan and Ishikawa, who believe that if there is a problem at the end of a set of processes, it is better to start analyzing at the beginning of the process or processes, and add small improvements consistently throughout. One should not just measure the end point result as definitive of the entire process. One should not ignore all preceding processes/steps required. Surprise your team by getting them involved with your process improvement. Your staff and team members are your face to the client – empower them!