The farm is where I learned that to keep things running at peak performance you had to listen carefully for squeaks, grinding or other out of place sounds that signaled adjustments and repairs were needed before things got worse. The same goes for business. Here’s what to do about the sounds coming from your business model.
Distinguish – Our farm equipment was very noisy even when everything was running perfectly. Likewise, in business the ups and downs of sales, market share or production can be just noise. Don’t drive non-value added work by trying to explain statistically insignificant shifts in results (common causes). Instead, listen for the unusual sounds that signal something isn’t right (special causes).
Diagnose – There were lots of moving parts on an old corn picker. Finding the source of the unusual noise required experience and skill. Once a business has a true signal something is not performing up to its peak, the next step is to diagnose the source of the special cause. That way you don’t end up treating the symptoms and not the true problem.
Decide – Ignoring the grinding noise coming from a wheel or a gear was never a good strategy. It always got worse and cost more to fix. Likewise, ignoring special causes affecting business performance will only make things worse. Instead, decide to take action now, fix the problem and get things back to peak performance.
These three steps – Distinguish, Diagnose, Decide – will help you listen to the sounds of your business and take action to keep things running at peak performance. Just like that tractor back on the farm.
This post was first published in March, 2010.