Tuesday Toolkit 11/24/2020

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Tool of the Week
This week we are diving into a process improvement framework that originated inside of Six Sigma, known as DMAIC. 
As always, we’ll start by defining the letters and the 30,000 foot thumbnail; 


At a high level, the purpose of using the DMAIC framework is for improving something. It requires the proper definition of the goal at the outset, measuring what needs to be measured accurately, analyzing the data, finding ways to improve whatever needs improving, and finally implementing the controls that ensure any changes last. After all, there is no reason to pursue betterment if you’re not going to take the time to ensure changes stick. Let’s dive deeper! 

This is the step where the goal or problem being solved for needs to be defined in very specific terms. Clear communication is that which cannot be misinterpreted. The definition of the project needs to be so clear, there is no room for ambiguity. 

Things to define up front;
The goal
Who is involved
Scope and timeline
Metrics and how they will be captured 
What failure looks like (this is not always necessary, but spending some time thinking about what failing looks like will help define the project in more detail to ensure the avoidance of failure. No matter what tech start ups say, failure is not a goal)

This is where the current state is measured in its true (ugly) form. If the goal is improving employee tenure, an honest look at all employee tenure is necessary. The guy who didn’t show up on his first day is not an outlier to be ignored. It’s a data point to be used. The woman who bailed on their third day is not a one-off. It’s a story that needs to be considered. 

The measuring step needs to be raw, honest and unfiltered. 

How things are measured needs to be consistent. Measurements should look the exact same regardless of who is taking them. The CEO and the janitor should be able to get the same results when taking measurements.

Good data is required. It needs to be accurate and repeatable.

When following this technique in a Six Sigma project, the analyze phase is where the heavy statistics comes into play. Things like chi-square tests, analysis of variance, scatter plots, regression analysis and plenty of other tools can be applied. Those tools are outside the scope of this newsletter but you can learn more here.
The less technical tools that can be used to analyze the measurements are things like process maps, the 5 Whys (I wrote about them here), Ishikawa diagrams (I wrote about those here) and group discussions to figure out where in the process errors or problems are originating. Basic analyses can share a ton of insight as well. Averages, medians, modes, or pareto charts, for example,  can give plenty of insight without the need for overly complicated statistics. Collect data and use Excel to run tests before paying a consultant $6,000 an hour to do the same thing. 

This is the creative step where solutions to the identified problem get discussed. Early in this phase, the rule is that there are no bad ideas. All ideas need to be welcomed with no judgement. The reason being, seemingly bad ideas might not be helpful, but they might spark the great idea that is helpful. Be open to being inspired by the comedic serendipity of a terrible idea. So using things like six thinking hats (more here), value stream mapping, swim lane diagrams, spaghetti diagrams, or good old fashioned, low stakes conversations to identify potential solutions. Once there are a dozen plus ideas, start narrowing them down based on feasibility, probability of success, degree to which they solve the problem, etc.

In general, an idea that has consequences that are easily reversed is a better choice than an idea that cannot be reversed. When growing, breaking a lease and moving into a new building that is 5x bigger to accommodate growth is much harder to reverse than hiring a few contract employees that work remotely. Or, when contemplating more equipment, running a machine at night for a couple weeks is a better solution than outright buying more machines. Find a way to test the solution before fully implementing it.

This is the step in the process where everything has to become institutionalized. If a new process has been developed, the old process needs to disappear. Sure keep a record of it so future folks can understand the learning process. Any live documentation surrounding how to operate needs to be upgraded to reflect changes that have been made. New jigs, tools, uniforms, contracts or anything else that has been changed needs to be distributed and everyone involved needs to be brought up to speed. If, for some reason, someone missed the memo that a process has changed, there will be headaches. 

If an outsider is brought in, a hand off process is a piece of the control step. E.G. if a consulting company came in and delivered a report on how to improve something, a significant amount of time making sure all the receiving parties understand all the information needs to be provided. If not, all the work was for naught.

The DMAIC framework is a set of steps that can be applied in any industry to improve nearly anything. It does not guarantee any kind of 10x returns or the elimination of any issues. The way constraints provide structure and shape to problems, DMAIC provides structure and shape to solving those problems. 

What needs improving in your life? Let me know on Twitter: @Quinn_Hanson22
Now, the fun stuff

Quote of the Week
“One repays a teacher badly if one remains only a pupil”
 -Friedrich Nietzsche

Tweet of the Week
Peloton bikes (stationary, in door work out bikes) have been all the rage the last couple years and only grew more popular with the lock downs 2020 has brought. Enter, Peloton delivery.

Image description

Article of the Week 
How to be Successful by Sam Altman is a must read for anyone.

The article features 13 rules to follow if you want to become successful. Note, these apply no matter how you define success in your life, but at varying degrees. The whole article is about a 5 minute read.

Some of my favorite rules and comments below.  
1. Compound yourself. 
You don’t want to be in a career where people who have been doing it for two years can be as effective as people who have been doing it for twenty years. 
Most people get bogged down in linear opportunities. Be willing to let small opportunities go to focus on potential step changes.

4. Get good at “sales”
All great careers, to some degree, become sales jobs. You have to evangelize your plans to customers, prospective employees, the press, investors, etc.
My other big sales tip is to show up in person whenever it’s important. When I was first starting out, I was always willing to get on a plane. It was frequently unnecessary, but three times it led to career-making turning points for me that otherwise would have gone the other way.

8. Be bold
If you are making progress on an important problem, you will have a constant tailwind of people wanting to help you.

9. Be willful 
A big secret is that you can bend the world to your will a surprising percentage of the time.
People have an enormous capacity to make things happen.

10. Be hard to compete with
If what you do can be done by someone else, it eventually will be, and for less money.
Most people do whatever most people they hang out with do. This mimetic behavior is usually a mistake—if you’re doing the same thing everyone else is doing, you will not be hard to compete with.

Website of the week
Have you been dying to invest in start up companies but aren’t an accredited investor? Wefundr is the place to go.* Wefundr is platform that allows regular folks to invest in companies in exchange for a share in the company. Similar to Kickstarter or Gofundme, except by giving companies money, you get a piece of the company in exchange.

You can invest in business with legendary investors like Mark Cuban, Rob Dyrdek, and YCombinator. 

Investing in start up companies is risky and not for everyone, but if it’s something you’re interested in, shoot me an email. Let’s chat about some options on Wefundr! Thanks for tuning in this week! If you found value in this, please share it with your friends, colleagues, associates, acquaintances, family members, bowling leagues, partners, tinder dates and strangers. The larger we grow this audience, the more greatness can be shared. 
*Disclaimer- this is not financial or investment advice. Investing in startups is risky and there is no guarantee of making money. 
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