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 ago, data was hard to come by and project leaders were eager for as much data as possible. Today however, technology is so advanced that data is easy to mine, and is readily accessible – but here in lies the trap.
Anyone working in the continuous improvement field has a natural inclination to want to solve problems – which is a fantastic attribute. They however, can easily fall into the data overload trap because there is also a tendency to see other areas where a potential improvement exists and gather a bit of data on that, then they see an area over there and get a bit of data on that, and so on and so on. You can see how easy it is to fall down the rabbit hole of data overload and have no idea what to do with it all.
When working on a Lean Six Sigma project you need to remember one key word – Focus. Is your project on the entire process from end to end, or on a specific area in the process? Most often Lean Six Sigma improvement projects focus on a specific area, so don’t become distracted by other areas that need improvement. Continually ask yourself “What problem am I trying to solve” then ensure that you are asking very focused and relevant questions of your data. If this data cannot help answer that question, then it is irrelevant to this project. Remember, it is not a reflection on the data – because it may be very good data – just not for this project.
If you keep your focus on what you are trying to solve and ensure you surround yourself with information that is relevant and will help you understand and solve a particular problem, then you will find your Lean Six Sigma project will likely be on-time and will have better results. And for those continuous improvement leaders with an innate drive to improve, just remember that keeping your focus will not only help your project, but will also set the stage for the next team (and maybe your next project) to potentially address those issues in other parts of the process.