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There is Rarely Just One Solution

During a business improvement project there comes a point where we need to choose what solutions we will implement to achieve the desired results that we are seeking. In many cases the solution is pre-determined before we start an improvement project. Whether this is a decree from a higher authority within the business, or an expectation of the people involved, there is usually a benefit in generating and selecting other options prior to making the improvement a reality.

I have been involved in many projects where there is only one course of action laid out. After some probing I can often find that this course of action is not the definitive course of action, but the first course of action that was thought up. This article looks at generating and selecting solutions for your improvement projects.

As you embark upon an area of your business that needs to be improved there is likely to be a number of factors that you could include in your potential solutions. Factors could include physical shape or size, methods of production (flow, pull, push etc...), use of machinery or technology, expansion in the future, simplification, cost, speed and whatever else you can think of. It is likely that there will be a number of factors that are dear to you and you can use these perspectives to generate new and varied options.

Another problem experienced by people who follow this route of idea generation is how to select an optimal solution for their business. Again, a simple method for doing this is to define some criteria of what an optimal solution would be like and use it as a guide. Returning to the factors you have already determined as being important will allow you to check off whether your designs for the improvement would meet all of the various factors. It is likely that some will meet just one or two of the factors you have added to your wish list, whilst others will be far more embracing of a wider range of your desired characteristics.

A step up from this approach is to rank the various factors, identifying which ones are more important to the business and then applying a ‘weight’ to each factor. The more important the factor the higher the value associated. This would give you a fairly crude, but effective, tool to evaluate the various options you have generated and pin point which option is the best fit for your business’ goals. The highest score wins.

When we have done this work and come up with our proposed solution for the improvement we also have some form of rationale that we can use when presenting the idea to others within our business. Whilst there may be a degree of subjectivity around the choice there will also be a solid back up of objectivity. If your projects aren’t living up to their promises once implemented, or aren’t getting off the starting blocks due to decision makers, then trying out the basic steps outlined in this article may help you move in the right direction.

Giles Johnston
Author of Business Process Re-Engineering

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