Two ways to sequence a findings presentation

Observation #36

carpedia-observation-36We’ve written frequently about the need to look at operating problems from three vantage points: the actual process of how things get done; the management system that is used to control the process; and actual management behaviors (what people do to control the process). So if you’re presenting your findings to an executive group, where do you actually start? What is the right order or sequence to make your points?

There are different schools of thought on this. Historically we’ve always started with a detailed study of the process, showing where problems manifest. Executives tend to find this very interesting because it depicts reality — and deeply resonates with anyone who’s worked within the process before. Following this, we’ve presented a study of what managers were doing while these problems were occurring. Finally we’ve recapped by illustrating the gaps in the management system that helped create the management behaviors we observed.

A more recent school of thought is that you should start with the management system, because it is effectively the intelligence of the operation. If the management system is broken or “disconnected,” as we often find, it’s virtually impossible for a manager to actually manage a process. All they can do is follow up and provide oversight or some type of after-the-fact quality control. They can’t identify when a process is off-plan in real time. Therefore problems like rework and “workarounds” can become the norm and eventually become part of the actual process. So, from this angle, it becomes clear that the management system allows problems to reside in the process and gives no support or direction to guide management behavior.

The two camps remain somewhat divided. Process studies are generally more interesting, whereas management system studies tend to be a little more academic. Both camps will advise, however, that whatever order you settle on, the first study you discuss needs to grab people’s attention — or you may spend the rest of the meeting watching people checking their email.