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When adding no value adds value!
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When adding no value adds value!

As business improvement practitioners one of our biggest challenges is securing the commitment of resource to support the project. A good dedicated Business Analyst to extract and compile data is invaluable but much of the analysis work we do can be perceived as adding no value. It’s not unusual to put forward complex data requests or time consuming manual data gathering only for the outcomes to be flippantly dismissed following a very quick look. “Well that was a complete waste of time” thinks the Business Analyst or their manager.

Business improvement projects are like police investigations. An investigator might have a hunch or a tip, which has to be investigated. Sometimes it goes places and other times it goes nowhere. A complete dead end. We rarely get it right first time, despite what we preach, and business improvement can be a very ‘un-Lean’ process by very nature.

But it is just as important to cancel out theories or peoples beliefs as it is to find the real root cause. In fact if we get to the root cause or best solution too quickly or too easily we question whether it really is the root cause or the best solution.

It’s not unusual for there to be lots of enthusiasm and resource being made available at the beginning of a project only to see this rapidly drop off. Is this because staff and management see lots of work being done with what seems to be very little results? Is this because all that time spent in workshops or meetings or developing reports bears no immediate fruit? Is this because we seemingly ignore people’s views and keep jumping down the proverbial “rabbit holes”?

It’s about how we communicate and express our thoughts and opinions. Keeping people enthusiastically engaged is a skill in itself. Making sure little diamonds are continuously found, the low hanging fruit, the quick wins. When dead ends are inevitably visited explaining how this has benefitted the project overall.

Leaving no stone unturned is a characteristic of a skilful business improvement practitioner. Not being distracted by senior stakeholders or opinionated team members who, let’s be honest, know much more about the business and the problem than us; having the confidence to accept criticism but being able to convincingly justify our decisions (or that of the group as a result of effective facilitation); recognising frustrated team members and turning them into your best advocates are all part of the challenge and what makes doing this so rewarding.

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