One of the fundamental concepts of lean is continuous improvement – the organization must always strive for advancement. However, implementing this is far from easy, and some companies tend to fall for some relatively common mistakes that can be easily avoided with some forethought. If you want to make sure that you’re always moving forward in your efforts for continuous improvement, one of the most important points is that you’re always using fresh data.
This matters for multiple reasons, and the importance of the concept should be obvious to anyone with sufficient experience in the lean field. If you can’t trust the data you’re working with, you simply can’t make an adequate decision for the future. This is a simple enough concept – but what if you’re working with data which is technically new, but not actually adjusted to a recent event on the market?
Know the Critical Factors in Your Data
There are multiple factors that go into determining how fresh your data is, and most of those will be highly individual for your particular company. Working with lean methodologies properly will require you to first take a careful look at the way you’re conducting your day to day operations, and figuring out what data points are critical for the regular decision-making process.
You must also make the data collection process a standardized one. You have to be sure that the data was gathered the same way every time, otherwise you’re going to encounter deviations that aren’t the result of any real problems with the input itself, but are rather indicative of problems with your data collection process.
Modern technology can be very helpful in ensuring that you’re always working with up-to-date data. Use Excel sheets as much as you can throughout the organization, and make sure that they’re interconnected and pull fresh data from live sources whenever possible. Also, automate as much as you can from those processes and leave little to the hands of actual humans, as that’s where most of the mistakes tend to happen.
Keep Track of the Past
Keeping an archive of your old data sets is just as important as gathering new, fresh ones. You must always be able to compare your latest findings with as much historic data as possible, not just from the last several months but beyond that as well. Ideally, you should have records dating back to the establishment of the company, but of course that’s not always feasible depending on when the company was founded, and when it adopted lean methodologies in its operations.
It’s also important that you can access the data you need in this large archive, especially as time goes by and it grows in size correspondingly. This is where modern technology can come into play, as it can facilitate that process quite a lot from start to finish. You can easily digitize your entire archives and streamline the procedure for accessing them and searching through them. In some organizations, this change can result in significant improvements in the overall work of the organization.
Once you know you can trust the data you’re working with, you’ll see a shift in the attitude of the whole company. It makes a huge difference to be certain in the validity of your work, and to know that you’re basing your every decision on information that’s not only up to date, but also compared against old records for extra validity.
And if this is all a significant change in the way you’ve been doing things so far, be prepared to see some results almost immediately. Patterns will start to arise that you never even suspected could exist within your company’s records, and you’ll be able to move much more confidently towards the future.
It might take some time to see all processes in your company converted in a way that allows you to work with fresh data, but it will be a huge transformation that brings many other changes with it. Once your organization has adjusted to the new situation, you’ll see yourself making more informed decisions in every aspect of your work, and moving more steadily towards the ultimate goal of constant improvement. Of course, that also assumes that the rest of your organization is run in a lean way as well.