Operational Excellence Blog

Learn, Earn & Share with Digital Badges
Learn, Earn & Share with Digital Badges

“Three little letters after my name.” That’s how a friend described the master’s of public administration she earned after years of juggling family, career, and education. I immediately wished that her MPA came with a digital badge. I wanted to give her the power to...

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Exciting Things on the Horizon
Exciting Things on the Horizon

2021 is full swing and with it, expectations for what lies ahead. There are exciting things on the horizon for Acuity Institute. I recently interviewed Chris Edwards, SVP at MindEdge, about their acquisition of Acuity Institute and the opportunities it will provide...

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Giving Thanks
Giving Thanks

In the crazy year of 2020, many organizational leaders have tremendous gratitude for their teams. They have seen their team members rapidly pivot their processes and plans. And as we near the end of the year, we want to show our appreciation and further incentivize...

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Establishing a Foundation of Change
Establishing a Foundation of Change

Successful workplace changes require a foundation that provides direction, sets expectations and establishes accountability for results. To achieve adoption, the focus has to be about the people—not the dollars. It’s the employees and impacted departments or business...

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System Factors for Managing Resistance to Change
System Factors for Managing Resistance to Change

There’s nothing worse: You’ve implemented an improvement and it is running into resistance. This unwillingness to adopt the new way (resistance to change) is like a tug of war – who will win out? As the project leader, you may feel that resistance represents the...

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Setting Up Your Project Team For Success
Setting Up Your Project Team For Success

Teamwork plays a vital role in the success of any organization. Specifically, being able to work as a team contributes to the success of Lean Six Sigma projects and continuous improvement efforts. Team performance is about reaching the potential of each individual as...

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Getting the Miles out of Design of Experiments
Getting the Miles out of Design of Experiments

One of our Master Black Belt candidates recently submitted her Design of Experiments for her Applied Statistics assignment. It was such a great story that I wanted to share it with you. What is Design of Experiments (DOE)? Design of Experiments is a useful tool in...

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Lean vs Agile
Lean vs Agile

Lean vs Agile When teaching our Lean Professional class, I am often asked, “How is Lean different from Agile?” Lean and Agile are both operational excellence methodologies, and they both have the common goal of efficiently delivering the client’s most important...

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Improvement Opportunities for Lean Six Sigma
Improvement Opportunities for Lean Six Sigma

2020 has arrived! It is time to start initiating strategic plans and operational goals for the new year and beyond. You might be wondering whether Lean Six Sigma might be beneficial. Can it really work on the challenges you are facing? The answer is most likely, yes!...

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Lean for Service
Lean for Service

Last week, I was on the plane heading out to facilitate for one of our Financial Service clients.  The gentlemen sitting next to me asked about my trip.  When I said I was going to teach Lean to a financial service team, he replied, “Lean for a Bank?”  My response was...

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What Does a 10X Return on Investment Look Like?
What Does a 10X Return on Investment Look Like?

When you think of increasing anything by tenfold, it can be overwhelming and intimidating. Maybe you were having one person over for dinner, but now you are having 10 people. It certainly changes things and can seem like a difficult task, however in Operational...

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Operational Excellence vs. Continuous Improvement
Operational Excellence vs. Continuous Improvement

The word improvement in operations means different things to different people, some define it as lower operating cost or reduced inventory while others describe it in terms of increased efficiency or better quality. The process of achieving improvement in an...

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Using Process Maps and Value Stream Maps
Using Process Maps and Value Stream Maps

I am often asked about the difference between value stream mapping and process mapping.  Which is better? Which one should I use? Your project may benefit from either or both tools.  So, let’s look at each of them and their benefits to your next project. Process...

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Applying the Y=f(x) Formula to your Lean Six Sigma Project
Applying the Y=f(x) Formula to your Lean Six Sigma Project

I was recently meeting with one of Acuity Institute’s Lean Six Sigma Black Belt students. Her workplace project was heading into the measure phase and she was looking for some guidance on how to approach it. Our conversation led us to the formula Y=f(x), it is a...

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Project Tollgates – They’re Worth It!
Project Tollgates – They’re Worth It!

Summertime is here, at least for those of us in the northern hemisphere, and with summer comes the summer driving season! Families load up in the car to head to vacation destinations and along the way they might come upon a toll road or two. Times have certainly...

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Assessing Your Response to Change
Assessing Your Response to Change

You have probably experienced some level of change (personally or professionally) in the not-so-distant past. In fact, most of us experience change every day, maybe there is construction on your regular route to work so you have to drive on unfamiliar roads. Maybe it...

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Sustainability for the Long Term
Sustainability for the Long Term

One of the biggest challenges that Continuous Improvement Programs face is sustaining the program long term. How do you keep everyone from the front-line team members to the Senior Leadership committed to a culture of continuous improvement over the next 30 years?...

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A Look into Lean Six Sigma for Healthcare
A Look into Lean Six Sigma for Healthcare

People and process are still the main components in customer satisfaction and overall quality business performance. Many healthcare operations have turned to the continuous improvement methodologies of Lean and Lean Six Sigma to make a difference. And the good news?...

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The Master Black Belt World is Your Oyster!!
The Master Black Belt World is Your Oyster!!

“So, what is it that you do?” This is a classic cliché we’ve all heard a zillion times in business social settings. I find it interesting to watch the reactions of people and listen to their responses, particularly those less familiar with Lean and Six Sigma, when I...

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What kind of Power and Influence Do You Have?
What kind of Power and Influence Do You Have?

Most of us have heard the quote, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely”.  However, as a root cause analysis kind of guy, there’s something deeper than that and that’s why I ascribe more to the notion brought forth by the late 20th-century...

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Silly Rabbit Field Trips Are for… Adults!
Silly Rabbit Field Trips Are for… Adults!

George Bernard Shaw, the legendary Irish playwright, is credited with the quote, “Education is wasted on the young”.  Sadly, Shaw’s sagacious statement seems to be becoming increasingly prevalent in today’s culture. As educators, we must find ways to engage adults and...

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Maximizing the SIPOC for your Lean Six Sigma Projects
Maximizing the SIPOC for your Lean Six Sigma Projects

One of my favorite lean Six Sigma tools is called a SIPOC diagram. The SIPOC is one of the most valuable tools in the Operational Excellence toolbox. It typically can be completed in less than an hour and helps us understand who our customer is and how the value flows...

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Data Collection and Lean Six Sigma Projects
Data Collection and Lean Six Sigma Projects

A critical component to Lean Six Sigma’s success is data collection.  In today’s business environment, data is easily accessible, but you may find that when it comes to your project, you are data rich and information poor. I have worked with project leaders that have...

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Selecting candidates to lead your Lean Six Sigma Projects
Selecting candidates to lead your Lean Six Sigma Projects

Selecting candidates to lead your Lean Six Sigma projects is a critical step in ensuring that your projects provide the benefits they are intended to provide. Overlooking the importance of this step can lead to slow progress and incomplete results. Candidate selection...

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How does mindset fit into the work of Change Leaders?
How does mindset fit into the work of Change Leaders?

Recently Laura Goodrich attended a webinar hosted by HFS Research.  The webinar discussed Robotic Process Automation (RPA). “HFS introduced research done with 100 C-suite executives. It was encouraging to see research supporting that a widespread displacement of...

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Making the Change Mindset Connection
Making the Change Mindset Connection

I recently sat down with Laura Goodrich to discuss the impact that an organization’s change mindset has on the change curve was discussed. This blog post summarizes the discussion and examines change mindset and the correlation between managing change and your...

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Creating a Mindset for Change
Creating a Mindset for Change

As we kick off a new year we are excited to introduce changes to Acuity and our blog. After 15 years, Brent Drever is transitioning his role here at AI. He said: “I am transitioning my role to Stephanie Herman, who is now Acuity’s Managing Director. Stephanie has been...

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How do you improve efficiency in Lean Six Sigma projects?
How do you improve efficiency in Lean Six Sigma projects?

Many of the Lean Six Sigma projects that we work on focus on improving efficiency within an organization. To improve efficiency, we must understand what is inefficient. Through Operational Excellence methodologies like Lean and Lean Six Sigma, we can determine how...

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How do YOU start a Lean Six Sigma project?
How do YOU start a Lean Six Sigma project?

I’ll be honest – from time to time I struggle with starting Lean Six Sigma projects. Most people are surprised to hear this. After all, I have made my career by working with thousands of Lean Six Sigma Green Belt and Lean Six Sigma Black Belt project leaders in Lean...

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Beware of Over-The-Shoulder Customer Service
Beware of Over-The-Shoulder Customer Service

In Lean Six Sigma, one thing we always practice is making connections. Customers are the foundation of a successful business so it’s important to treat them well. Good follow through with our customers that makes real connections is the key to success. Unfortunately,...

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Are you the bottleneck on the project?
Are you the bottleneck on the project?

A common challenge that every Lean Six Sigma project faces is unexpected obstacles along the way that can destroy project deadlines, increase cost, and reduce return on investment. Now the question is: why do Lean Six Sigma projects get delayed? As Lean Six Sigma...

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Yes, United Airlines can deliver exceptional customer service
Yes, United Airlines can deliver exceptional customer service

Over the past 20 years, my career has taken me all over the world, I’ve flown hundreds of thousands of miles. I have used stories that I have from traveling with airlines, and United Airlines in particular, to teach thousands of Lean Six Sigma practitioners, such as...

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The #1 Communication Killer
The #1 Communication Killer

A significant challenge that Lean Six Sigma project leaders face is managing key stakeholders. Stakeholders fall into two categories: stakeholders that influence our work and stakeholders that are impacted by our work. The first set of stakeholders is often made up of...

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Top 3 Drivers to a 100x Return on your Lean Six Sigma Projects
Top 3 Drivers to a 100x Return on your Lean Six Sigma Projects

With Operational Excellence our goal is often targeted at a 10x return on investment of the training and coaching services provided to our project leaders such as Lean Six Sigma Black Belts, Lean Six Sigma Green Belts, Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belts, Lean Professionals,...

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Can you Implement Operational Excellence like your Competitors?
Can you Implement Operational Excellence like your Competitors?

Operational Excellence - The process of adopting Lean Six Sigma within an organization usually starts with one question, “Who has made Lean Six Sigma work for them?” Whether we’re talking about benefits realization, cost savings, or coming up with unique solutions to...

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Is Your Way of Teaching Lean Six Sigma Outdated?
Is Your Way of Teaching Lean Six Sigma Outdated?

Benefits of Lean Six Sigma Online Training and Classroom Training - Blended Learning Those of you old enough to remember, think about the time when we had perfectly good working land lines and phones available on every street corner. They served their purpose well and...

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It is Time to Get Unstuck
It is Time to Get Unstuck

In working with Operational Excellence Project leaders such as Lean Six Sigma Black Belts or Lean Practitioners, I have observed many that were moving along in their Lean Six Sigma projects quite well, then one day they find that they are stuck. It may be that they...

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Is Change Personal in Business?
Is Change Personal in Business?

Resistance to Change When discussing, business people often advise others to “not take it personally”, however when dealing with change in business it may be worth taking a second look to see if in fact the issues with change resistance are indeed personal. What you...

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What is the Cost of World-Class?
What is the Cost of World-Class?

Occasionally I get requests from clients who want the best Lean Six Sigma training course available and won’t take anything less. When I then ask how they plan to use the Lean Six Sigma tools and techniques, they aren’t sure because they don’t really understand what...

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Looking to Champion a Lean Implementation?
Looking to Champion a Lean Implementation?

The practice of eliminating waste in products or processes is something that many organizations are looking to implement. Commonly known as Lean, when you “lean” or eliminate waste in a product or service, you are not only making the product or service better, you are...

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Is Preparation Overrated?
Is Preparation Overrated?

The Power of Preparation People of all ages and across all industries are getting one constant message – preparation is important. It is a clear message that great minds have agreed is valuable advice, but why is preparation still not practiced routinely? For some,...

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Are you ready to be a Lean Six Sigma Champion?
Are you ready to be a Lean Six Sigma Champion?

Organizations of every size, in almost every industry, are beginning to focus on how they can become better at applying Continuous Improvement methodologies. Why? Because organizations have the potential for incredible value and savings, employees have the chance to...

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What does a good Lean Six Sigma Black Belt candidate look like?
What does a good Lean Six Sigma Black Belt candidate look like?

One of the most common questions I am asked is “Who is the right person to go through Black Belt training (or any other continuous improvement leader program)?” Sometimes it comes from corporations that are looking to find the right employees to train, and other times...

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Who would you want to help you build a shed?
Who would you want to help you build a shed?

I have worked in the Continuous Improvement space for more than 2 decades and while many methodologies may peak with the trends in a global economy, one need has always been universal – quality project managers. Regardless of what methodology you are using, being an...

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How to get an ROI from your Master Black Belt Certification
How to get an ROI from your Master Black Belt Certification

At first glance, asking an organization to invest thousands of dollars into a Master Black Belt program for one individual may seem like a stretch, unless you know how to get a return on investment for your Master Black Belt training and certification. New Continuous...

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A Good, Better, and Best Approach for Project Selection
A Good, Better, and Best Approach for Project Selection

When organizations are implementing a Operational Excellence program, it is common for everyone to be excited and want to be involved in project selection – and while there is no bad way to use Lean Six Sigma and Lean – there are approaches that are good, better and...

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Cultivating your Lean Six Sigma Ecosystem thru Training
Cultivating your Lean Six Sigma Ecosystem thru Training

Lean Six Sigma is a powerful methodology, but it cannot sustain an entire organization on its own. Organizations that have a robust operational excellence mindset tend to think of Lean Six Sigma as an entire ecosystem, one in which each person inside the organization...

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Is Change Throwing you a Curveball?
Is Change Throwing you a Curveball?

It is no secret that everyone goes through change, but what is often missed is that everyone follows a similar path. While some may be more adaptable and willing to change than others, they will all follow the same roadmap on their journey through change. As...

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Data Overload – What should I do with all this data?
Data Overload – What should I do with all this data?

The image of someone drowning in a mass of data is something many of us can relate to because we may have found ourselves on a project and there is so much data coming at us that it is easy to become overwhelmed. Take a step back and remember that just a few years...

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Black Belt vs Green Belt – Which one is better?
Black Belt vs Green Belt – Which one is better?

Black Belt vs Green Belt Within companies that are implementing Lean Six Sigma, a common issue they face is trying to determine if they should train employees as Black Belts or Green Belts. Even for individuals seeking out their own training, it can be confusing to...

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Stop Falling in Love with your Data
Stop Falling in Love with your Data

In today’s world, people have a tendency to fall in love with data that isn’t overly meaningful. Take for instance the focus on people to measure themselves with likes, views, clicks or other metrics. Do these numbers really tell you the true value of a person – no....

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Embracing the Value of Patience
Embracing the Value of Patience

In an era of instant gratification, we lose sight of the importance of patience. Patience is simply understanding that things will happen over time. In the continuous improvement space, it is easy for a project leader to want to solve the problem immediately. They can...

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Is Your Customer Service Metric a Recipe for Disaster?
Is Your Customer Service Metric a Recipe for Disaster?

We all dread the call center with phone prompts because you find yourself in the space of never ending menu options. Why do companies do this? Well for one, they are attempting to get you to the right person because they are likely measuring how quickly that person...

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Tollgate Review with the Lean Six Sigma Project Sponsor
Tollgate Review with the Lean Six Sigma Project Sponsor

When you run a Lean Six Sigma project, you generally have regularly scheduled Lean Six Sigma project sponsor meetings. In the Operational Excellence community, we typically call these Tollgate Reviews however you may know them as Stage Gate Reviews or Milestone...

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What is the Optimal Size of your Lean Six Sigma Project Team?
What is the Optimal Size of your Lean Six Sigma Project Team?

A common question from people who are new to Lean Six Sigma, or even from seasoned Lean Six Sigma Black Belts tackling a problem in uncharted territory, is how many people should be involved in the project? There has been a lot of research on this topic and the...

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The Dreaded “B” Word
The Dreaded “B” Word

We all know that person, who when asked how they are, their first response is “I’m so busy!” Then they launch into a list of all the things they have on their plate or complain about how they just can’t seem to get anything done simply because they are always so busy....

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Is Your Product or Process Simple to Use?
Is Your Product or Process Simple to Use?

It’s no secret that the shortest distance from A to B is a straight line, and that’s because it’s simple. However, when designing a new product or process, the tendency is to create complexity in the design. This isn’t intentional as no one needs a more complicated...

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Can You Answer This Question About Your Lean Six Sigma Project
Can You Answer This Question About Your Lean Six Sigma Project

The biggest and most important question for a Lean Six Sigma project team (or really any project team) is a very simple one – What problem is the project looking to solve? Sounds like an elementary question to ask, especially for experienced teams who have handled...

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Benefits of Learning Outside of your Comfort Zone
Benefits of Learning Outside of your Comfort Zone

Have you ever looked at a book, article or video and thought that you would never dive into something like that because it’s so far outside of what you do in your daily life? Before you dismiss them, ask yourself if they can actually help you become better. As...

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The 3 Methods to Increase Profitability
The 3 Methods to Increase Profitability

Almost every business has the same goal – to increase profitability, however many organizations find this to be the most challenging aspect of business simply because there isn’t one answer. They tend to either over-complicate or over-simplify their approach when in...

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3 Lessons from Delivering a TED Talk
3 Lessons from Delivering a TED Talk

I recently delivered a TED Talk and afterward I asked myself “What did I learn from the experience?” It was a reflective question and it reminded me that even as a presenter, it’s easy to be so focused on delivering our content that we forget that no matter what side...

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Are you a dinosaur leading your company to extinction?
Are you a dinosaur leading your company to extinction?

First, let me start off by saying that your age (thankfully) has nothing to do with being a dinosaur in the workplace – it’s all about your attitude. Recently I attended a seminar about the future of online learning. The seminar included several speakers from...

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Are you a tourist, amateur or expert?
Are you a tourist, amateur or expert?

When I evaluate an individual’s skill level, I find that they fall into one of three categories: a tourist, amateur or expert. Like many things in life, it may be tempting to want to be an expert in everything, but each of these are vastly different and it is...

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Can simple Lean tools solve big business problems?
Can simple Lean tools solve big business problems?

If you are trying to solve a big business problem, you likely know there are numerous methodologies that you can use but sometimes it may be helpful to take a step back to a more simplistic level and see if a tool is all that you really need. A great example of this...

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What is Change Management?
What is Change Management?

A significant challenge that Change Management practitioners face is how to quantify what they do. As recently as a few years ago, managing change was considered to be abstract and because of that practitioners struggled to sell their services. Today however, Change...

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Are shiny objects draining your productivity?
Are shiny objects draining your productivity?

Have you ever looked at the clock and realized that it’s nearly the end of the day and you still haven’t completed anything? Many people can be prone to what I like to call “chasing shiny objects” and very little gets done when you find yourself on this winding road....

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Tackling a Big Hairy Project
Tackling a Big Hairy Project

Every organization has large problems to solve which are managed by Project Leaders and their teams who work hard to come up with impressive solutions. What they often find however, is their proposed solution has turned into a “big, hairy project”.

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