Don’t Just Restart. Rethink!

by | Jul 9, 2020


Welcome to article #3 in my “Climbing the Reopen Mountain” series on using OpEx methods to help you face pandemic-driven changes. For more articles on this topic, see my blog list.


Don't Just Start Rethink man opening box of light bulbs

“Today isn’t a restart. It’s a rethink.” 

I love this line from an IBM ad. It perfectly describes the opportunity you have before you right now to reimagine your business and operations. 

Using this time to experiment with new operations ideas is just plain smart. Not only will it allow you to survive the immediate challenges of the pandemic but you can also get rid of bureaucracy and outdated practices that have shackled your business for years.

I heard about a great example of this from my cousin in Rhode Island, where the state’s Dept. of Motor Vehicles replaced their widely despised show-up-and-take-a-number system with a new appointment system designed to avoid crowded waiting rooms. 

It’s working so well that everyone is asking “why would we ever go back to the old take-a-number-system?


Sounds Great, But What Happens When They Ramp Back Up to Full Capacity?

All successful operations rest on a solid foundation of standard work (meaning processes and procedures that consistently and reliably deliver results over a specific duration).

Did the Rhode Island DMV create solid standard work for their new appointment system? Or is it simply working because there are fewer people seeking their services? Maybe people with complex requests are waiting to get them fulfilled until after the immediate pandemic danger has passed.

How will they know? Well, they can cross their fingers, ramp up and see whether they’ve got a waiting room full of frustrated customers again. Or they can apply OpEx methods beforehand and know for sure. 


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Use OpEx Methods to Make Your “Rethink” a Success

During this shutdown, you’ve likely had new ideas or experimented with new methods. And like the DMV, I’ll bet some of them are working really well and you’re going to continue doing them. 

My question to you is, will they work when you ramp back up to higher volume? Or will they collapse as they become stressed?

Here are three things to consider.


#1 – Did you create standard work that supports your new strategy?

As I said earlier, successfully executing a new operations strategy (like the DMV moving from a queue system to an appointment system) requires a solid foundation of standard work. 

You have to carefully analyze work processes, remove existing wastes, and anticipate stuff that could happen with the intent of preventing it. The goal is to create work processes with predictable performance in terms of time, quality and costs.

Training, which I wrote about last time, is a key part of deploying standard work.

#2 – Are you using ALL the great OpEx tools available?

Use today’s rethink to also rethink your methods. OpEx has many great tools to help create standard work that delivers outstanding customer value, for example:

  • Set-up reduction (SMED)
  • Mistake-proofing (poka yoke)
  • Monte Carlo simulations
  • Designed experiments
  • Statistical process control

Don’t fall prey to the old adage “If the only tool you have is a hammer, the whole world looks like a nail.” In your case that tool could be Excel, time studies, value stream mapping, SWAT analysis or whatever. Don’t be misled by your previous successes. Every tool has its limits and this pandemic is going to test them thoroughly.


#3 – Are you collecting and analyzing operations data?

This one is so basic I wondered if I should even include it, but I still see organizations that don’t make decisions based on good, solid data. Without it, you could end up in a world of pain as you ramp back up. 

Data is the key to catching problems and knowing what to change. Make sure you identify key performance indicators, collect data that support them and, then, analyze and publish results to a dashboard where everyone can closely monitor how your new processes are working and whether your customers are satisfied. 


Watch Carefully As Volume Increases

Remember, what works now with low volumes may not scale well. Don’t wait until you have an embarrassing meltdown to make changes! If you catch problems early, you can often quickly make small improvements and keep right on ramping up.

Are you rethinking operations for a new biz model or process? Let’s make an appointment to talk. I promise I won’t keep you waiting.

Todd Hudson, Head Maverick