Hope is Not a Strategy

“Some” is not a number and “soon” is not a deadline. 

The best operations understand that the value in creating a strategy, setting a target, and committing to a deadline comes from the work put into the prediction. The value is the hypothesis. 

The beautiful thing about the scientific method is that it always fails forward by learning.  Helmuth Karl Bernhard Graf von Moltke once said, “No plan of operations extends with any certainty beyond the first contact with the main hostile force.” But without a plan or expectation, there is no learning.

A strategy that will deliver the value of learning — and likely succeed in delivering the results — starts with a specific prediction of the result and a logical path to get to the result. The two biggest challenges to creating an effective strategy are forming a valid hypothesis from a deep understanding of the current condition and making a logical connection to achieving the result.

Not Understanding the Current Condition

A strategy that reads: “We will reduce our injury rate by 50 percent by engaging more of the workforce in safer work practices” is not a strategy built on a strong understanding of the current condition. It lacks a hypothesis to learn and quickly adjust if injuries continue.

A better strategy would be based on a Pareto of past injuries and direct observations of work. From this effort might come a strategy that reads: “We will reduce our injury rate by 50 percent by introducing tools that separate hands from potential pinch points in our packing and filling station.” This type of a strategy might result from a chart of injuries by department. It would show the packaging and filling lines with the highest injury rate and direct observations highlighting the risk to hands from hazardous pinch points.

This type of strategy also creates a testable hypothesis. If the use of tools that separate hands from potential pinch points in packing and filling lines are introduced and audited, the injury rate will be reduced by four in 2018. This would reduce the overall injury rate by 50 percent.

No Logic Leading to the Result

A strategy avoids hope and flows logically, like the following: “We will reduce the number of tools stolen from our business by building a fence around the factory grounds to keep out thieves.” This strategy might work if in fact the theft is from outside culprits, but fails to make that logical link. These type of strategies are easy to spot because they feel more like opinion then fact. It is a result of the same problem – not having a solid understanding of the current condition.

It is equally important to use the current condition and logic when setting a target for a metric or making a deadline commitment. 

Help your organization avoid saying “We will get some to you soon,” because how will you know if they don’t?

Learn more in Patrick’s book, “Facilitating Effective Change,” available online through Amazon and Barnes & Noble. He is also the founder of UTV Advisors, a business consulting firm based in Pittsburgh, PA.

Patrick Putorti

Patrick Putorti

Patrick Putorti

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