My Favorite Tools

Well, maybe I have more than one favorite tool – but there are 2 that arefun to use with a group.

One is sticky-note brainstorming. It avoids the perils of the regular “everybody call out their ideas” brainstorming, because (a) you get 100% participation; (b) you can get LOTS of ideas in just a few minutes; (c) you don’t need a scribe to try to capture everything as multiple people are speaking quickly; (d) you avoid people being worried about “what will my boss think” about an idea; (e) it’s anonymous so people are braver; (f) you can put duplicates on top of one another and categorize with ease, just by moving them around. Also (g) you can use colorful sticky-notes and make a cheerful impression rather than a boring one!

Secondly, if I’m using thegroup’s ideas to capture possible solutions, I really like to use an Impact/Effort Matrix. You may have heard of this under another name – it’s a 2×2 matrix with Impact along one axis (High, Low) and Effort along the other (Easy, Hard). I ask the group members to place the sticky notes in the appropriate category – if there’s doubt they can place them on the dividing line. Then I can facilitate the group to ask, “Does this idea belong here? Do we all agree that it’s High Impact (or whatever) and Easy to do?” If not, we have a good discussion and end up with consensus. It’s amazing how this helps to prioritize the efforts – we will definitely pursue the “High Impact, Easy” ideas; think about a plan for the “High Impact, Hard” ideas; see if we can catch some low hanging fruit with the “Low Impact, Easy” ideas; and forget about the “Low Impact, Hard” ideas.

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These ideas can then be turned into action plans or placed in a parking lot as appropriate. Using the sticky-note brainstorming to get 100% participation, and the Impact/Effort Matrix to prioritize ideas, results in better decision-making and better buy-in to the resulting plans.

What are your favorite change management / process improvement tools?

Comments 5

  1. Gary

    My favorite is the one needed at the time to accomplish the task.

    This isn’t the playground, it’s process improvment.

  2. Sue Kozlowski

    Gary, you have a very pragmatic answer! I hope, though, that we can acknowledge that some tools seem to come easier to us, or are more fun to use, than others.
    Sue K.

  3. Geert

    My favorite one is the affinity diagram. It’s amazing how this gives “structure” to the brainstorming of ideas.

  4. Russell D. Ollie Sr.

    As a proponent of ’jyotaika’ I too like to use the tool that best works for the situation. That said I do have a few favored tools / techniques (my current Top 5 if you will):

    -Analytic Hierarchic Process (AHP): great for getting consensus view of prioritization with rating of all factors relative to each other

    -Surveygold: I like this software package for surveys because it’s easy and flexible but also because it’s the only one I’ve found that generate AHP matrix format questions.

    -Affinitization: there’s just something satisfying about starting with many verbatim statements and being able to boil them down to an exhaustive yet concise representation.

    -QFDNavi: this is one of my all-time favorites. It will do N-levels of nested QFDs; incorporates and builds everything from a C&E to a concept selection matrix; and provides an outstanding cost-worth view of rated factors that facilitates optimization of an improvement or design for a process, product, or service. It also can pull in the results from the affinitization tool I use for the customer importance ratings of whatever you are trying to correlate.

    -FMEA: just a great tool for qualitatively narrowing in on potential big Xs based on SME inputs. In many situations where I can justify or interest a team in thinking about Continuous Improvement I can start them on a FMEA exercise and back them into the rest of the toolkit as needed based on their enthusiasm generated from the FMEA.

    My old reliable standbys include regression analysis, DOE (which is increasingly too expensive to justify on some of our continuous production processes in my current environment else it would have made my Top 5), and the good old project charter which is so pivotal to setting up a project for success early on.

  5. Sue Kozlowski

    Thanks Geert and Russell for your comments! I agree that the affinity diagram is a great way to help teams covert from the many into the vital few ideas or items. Russell shares some software packages that help, rhather than hinder, analysis. And the charter surely helps "set up for success" so that the other tools can be used as appropriate.

    The comment about backing up from the FMEA is a great point as well – especially since so many people are so good at identifying what can go wrong, and we can turn that enthusiasm into what preventive or corrective actions need to be built into the process.

    Thanks again for sharing some of your favorite tools!
    Sue K.

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