Sometimes the productive road to performance improvement is to just observe and ask questions. From observation, ideas emerge, issues pop out and you can take directed action to make positive change.

It is interesting how effective the powers of observation can be!

Take a step back and observe what is going on around you.  The Japanese are experts at this in lean manufacturing – they simply watch what is going on around them and ideas emerge.  I also asked an investment banker / turnaround expert for his top tips for success as he had a 99.9% hit ratio.  He said, “Walk around the facility, observe, and the issues will pop out at you”.  Talk about a multi-million dollar walk!

To hone in on your powers of observation, consider the following tips:

  • Focus: Distraction can be a deterrent to success.  Stay focused on a topic or a work process until you’ve seen how it works.  Eventually, ideas will emerge.
  • Pay attention to waste:  Similar to lean thinking, pay attention to waste of all sorts.  Just ask yourself common-sense questions.  Why are you performing this step?  Why are you checking?  Why is scrap piling up?
  • Look for the bottleneck: What is the weakest link in your chain?  If materials are moving through your facility, they cannot move faster than the slowest or weakest link.  Identify it.  How can you focus energies on just this step?
  • Watch trends:  If you watch often enough and/or look at key metrics, trends will form.  What is out of sync with the prior trend?  Did something change?  Is it an outlier?  I’ve found more million dollar solutions by noticing trends earlier than the competition than any other method I can think of.
  • Ask:  Business is not a solo act.  You can learn vast amounts by simply asking your employees, peers, manager/ Board, customers, suppliers, etc.  Collaboration is cornerstone to success.