January - February, 2013

Volume 3, Number 1

In This Issue

·    2013 is off to a Solid Start

·    The Fishbone Turns 70!

·    Are Number-Crunchers Changing Your Behavior?

·    The Power of a Note

·    Link of the Month

·    BoBs and WoWs

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2013 is off to a Solid Start!

There are a lot of great things to be said about 2013 so far.  At this writing the Dow is bumping up against 14,000 again and the Mayans were wrong and we’re still here.  Assuming we avoid the next fiscal cliff (and the ones after that…) it will bode well for a healthy environment in which to drive Operational Excellence to new levels.

Whatever your plans are for this year I hope they are off to a great start as well.  The year is ripe with opportunities.  Some are hidden and others are obvious.  With enough effort we can find those, leverage them and turn this into a record-breaking year.

I hope you enjoy this issue wherein we feature several quick tools and techniques to help you along your journey.

Have an excellent month!


Jeff Cole


JCG Management Consulting

The Fishbone Turns 70!

If you are in the Operational Excellence field more than a week, you are sure to bump into the ever-present Fishbone Diagram.  This simple and effective tool for root cause determination is celebrating its 70th birthday this summer!   In 1943, University of Tokyo professor Kaoru

Ishikawa picked up a piece of chalk, went to the blackboard, created a diagram, and promptly named it after himself!   Called the Ishikawa Diagram or more commonly a Cause/Effect Diagram or Fishbone Diagram, it is a staple of the basic quality improvement toolbox.  First used at the Kawasaki Steel Works, this tool allows you to brainstorm and visually organize potential causes to a problem.  Authors vary in how they are built and what the main causal categories are, but many agree on this:  If anything goes wrong in your process it’s often something in one or more of these categories:  Machines, Materials, Methods, Mother Nature, Measurement Systems, or People.  The Fishbone Diagram allows you to focus your brainstorming efforts and uncover a root cause faster.   For a brief video on Fishbone Diagrams, click here.

Are Number Crunchers Changing Your Behavior?

Big Data is a big topic these days.  Every keystroke you make on your favorite website is captured, stored and analyzed.  Credit card purchases?  Ditto.  Same for purchases you make using any loyalty cards.   Are you on any social media?  A member of any organization or club?  It’s big business these days to corral all that

information, run psycho-demographic and purchase-pattern analysis on it and come up with customer profiles.  Armed with that analysis, retailers and others figure out how to surgically extract more money from your wallet – often without you having any idea that this is going on behind the scenes.

It’s not just reactive either.  Many retailers proactively conduct experiments on how to alter your behavior and subtly encourage you to buy more.  It may sound odd, but they experiment with all forms of variables such as lighting, music, store temperature, the color of the walls, etc.   On a daily basis you may be subjected to these experiments and never know!  One simple supermarket experiment generated a 7x increase in sales of a specific brand of soup! 

To find out how organizations from Supermarkets to TV producers are using our data to drive behavior changes, click here for a short article and several fascinating video clips.

The Power of a Note

Is it time to declare fundamental business etiquette dead? Emails, calls and letters routinely go unacknowledged or unreturned.  Tweets and texts now take the place of face to face communication.  It seems as if an entire generation is growing up in a virtual world with little or no skills in how to properly

behave in a live business setting.  One way to stand out from the crowd is to go “old school” – send out a note.  Not an email. Not a computer-generated note, but an old-fashioned, pick-up-a-pen-and-write-it-yourself note.  How many handwritten notes have you received in the past year or two?  (“while you were out” and post-it notes don’t count…)

Thank you notes may seem old-fashioned in our über-techno culture, but they cut through the white noise of everyday cluttered communication and help your message stand out.  Many of our greatest leaders have sworn by them.  Start this week by “catching somebody doing something right” and send them a note!

Link of the Month

Infographics are quickly becoming the 21st century standard for presenting information.  What are they? Information expressed graphically through drawings, maps, charts, diagrams, pictures, etc.  Gone are the

boring black and white text descriptions or stark, utilitarian pie charts.   Finding creative and entertaining ways of getting your points across becomes the challenge.  Fortunately, there are many resources out there for people wanting to create do-it-yourself Infographs.  One such site is Piktochart, which offers free and paid infographics tools with many professionally designed templates. 

BoBs and WoWs

Life is like a bell-shaped curve – much of what we experience is right down the middle, but the really interesting stories are in the tails of the curve.  Same goes for process performance.  That is where this month’s technique comes into play.  BoBs and WoWs are a great way to examine process outcomes in a

high-contrast way.  BoB stands for Best of the Best and WoW stands for Worst of the Worst.  BoBs are your best practices – where things worked beyond your expectations.  WoWs are where things really crashed and burned.  By comparing and contrasting your process output this way you can often learn a great deal.  Find the BoBs and determine ways in which to replicate those results.  Study the WoWs to find root causes and keep them from ever happening again!


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