March - April, 2013

Volume 3, Number 2

In This Issue

·    Spring into Action with OpEx

·    Be a “Whys” Guy

·    What do Magicians Know that You Don’t?

·    Punctuation Trivia

·    Link of the Month

·    The Advantages of Being a B- Student

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Spring into Action with OpEx

Spring has arrived.  I know that because I am typing this with one eye closed and the other barely able to open due to allergy season.   Symptoms aside, this is a great time of year – a time of renewal and freshness.

It’s a perfect time to freshen up your Operational Excellence efforts.   Many organizations are great at starting new things, but not so great at “spring cleaning” their roster of projects. 

What things out there can you stop doing to free up bandwidth for some fresh efforts?  What new things are most important to start – those one or two things you absolutely commit to knocking out of the park?  Will you attempt to do several things with excellence or try doing dozens of things in a half-way manner?   Are there any specific OpEx tools you’ve never tried but hope to check out this year?   There is no time like the present to revisit and shake up your portfolio of projects.

Enjoy your Spring and I’ll check back with you when it’s time to fire up our grills and check our progress.


Have an excellent month!


Jeff Cole


JCG Management Consulting

Be a “Whys” Guy

Some of the best tools in Operational Excellence are the simple ones you can learn quickly and always have with you.  Such is the case with the Technique of Five Whys. As it turns out – much like a small child, asking “Why?” over and over again is actually a legitimate quality technique.   

Invented and first used at Toyota, the technique involves asking “Why?” multiple times until you drill down past symptoms to the true root cause of an issue.   There is no magic to the number five.  You may ask “Why?” three times, eight times, or 13 times.  Eventually you’ll come to a terminal point.   A classic example lies in Shakespeare, who wrote “For want of a nail the kingdom was lost”.   

  • Why did we lose the kingdom?  We lost the battle.
  • Why did we lose the battle?  We were short one knight.
  • Why were we short one knight?  We were short one horse.
  • Why were we short one horse?  We were short one horse shoe.
  • Why were we short one horse shoe?  We were short one nail.


If you keep asking “Why?” you’ll eventually reach an actionable root cause.  You’ll know you have it when you turn the cause on and off and the problem goes away and comes back!   For a short article on the technique, click here.

What do Magicians Know that You Don’t?

Magicians can be an annoying bunch.  Especially the good ones that keep you up at night trying to figure out how they did an illusion that flat out violated every known law of physics.  What is it these folks know that we don’t and what can we learn from them when it comes to driving process change?  This involves some very out-of-the-box benchmarking!

There are actually four lessons we can learn from magicians.   One of these is Practice, Practice, Practice.  In one of his books, magician Penn Jillette speaks of the countless hundreds of hours he has invested in trying to make one simple movement look natural to an audience. Author Peter Senge has noted that one of the things American businesses seem to lack is practicing. Sports teams practice. Bands rehearse. Military teams do drills. Business people tend to slam a group of workers into a conference room, label them a team, and expect them to perform with the precision and skill of the Navy Seals. People who can’t even play their scales properly are trying to play Beethoven. Finding a safe place to pilot and hone your process change skills and continually trying to improve those skills is vital.

To find out more on all four lessons we can learn and how they impact process change, click here for a short article.

Punctuation Trivia

Once referred to as a “bang”, the popular exclamation point was not always resting comfortably above the “1” on your keyboard.   Prior to 1970, people using typewriters didn’t have that as an option, according to a recent article in Spirit magazine.  Today, Shift+1 lets people know you are excited.  Prior to 1970, typists had to work harder. 

They would type an apostrophe, then back space and type a period.  Quite the effort.  This year marks its 43rd anniversary of the exclamation point appearing on our keyboards!

Link of the Month

Have you ever been in a meeting that went on too long, or where people were late coming back from breaks?  One simple way to help time-manage your meetings or classes is to use a countdown-timer.

There are many styles available that can be broadcast on the screen.  Places like Trainer’s Warehouse sell CDs full of various timers.  However, there are many Shareware versions out there as well, including Cool Timer, which has received high marks.   Find one you like and use it today – you’ll be glad you did! 

The Advantages of Being a B- Student

Success in process change is pretty simple – you make the change on time, on budget and when the dust settles, there’s not a lot of dead bodies lying around – meaning you didn’t use “brute force implementation” to steam-roll over the organization with your implementation.

How important is it to have some form of change management methodology to help in your rollout?  After all – change books are like diet books – every author tells you to do something a little different that the other.   As it turns out there is no one best change method to use, but it is pretty important to find one you like and use it.  

In a study by ProSci on change management methods, they found that simply moving from being “fair” to “good” at change management netted you a 30% increase in meeting objectives and another 30% increase in being on time.  Moving from “good” to “excellent” improved even more but at a lower rate. 

The lesson learned?  You don’t need to be an A+ student to get benefits from change management.   Just being willing to select a method and experiment with it can lead to impressive gains!


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© 2013 The Jeff Cole Group , Ltd.