The old adage of “the whole is equal to the sum of the parts,” might work for physics but not for groups. In groups the “sum is always greater than the parts,” for in groups you can learn and feed on each others ideas. You can ask people individually to solve a problem and look at the results or put people into a room together, with a large wall chart, give them a powerful tool like CEDAC and watch how each person can build on another person’s ideas.
CEDAC is cause and effect diagram with the addition of cards developed by Dr. Ryuji Fukuda. You ask a group of people to address a problem, “How to give better telephone customer service!” Give each person a pad of post-it-notes and have them write out the causes of the problem. “1. The telephone rings more than two times without being picked up.” “2. The customer is kept on hold without someone getting back to them.” “3. The customer is furious with the quality of the product.” “4. I can’t answer the customer’s question.” “5. I don’t have the authority to give back a refund.” “Etc.”
On the large chart major categories are written: People – Equipment – Material – Authority – Quality, etc. using a “tree diagram.” On the left side of the diagram under the appropriate category you post your slip. For example: item 1. above might go on the left side of Equipment.
After a period of brainstorming where everyone participates by writing out slips, talking about their ideas and posting them on the large chart, you then attempt to find solutions, effects, to each of the causes. The slips add a very powerful dimension to the old cause and effect diagram used in quality circles.
This process allows ideas to come from every group member and to address those actual and hidden causes to problems. Of course, a “no blame,” atmosphere must exist within the group, and every idea is treated with respect as a good idea.
As you address each concern and recommend solutions over time, when you have had a chance to implement the new ideas, you are actually creating a new standard of how the work should be done. In this case you are creating a new standard on how to answer the telephone to give better customer service.
Other bloggers participating are:
Bill Waddell at Evolving Excellence
Chuck Frey at Innovation Weblog
Hal Macomber at Reforming Project Management
Joe Ely at Learning about Lean
John Miller at Panta Rei
Mark Graban at Lean Manufacturing Blog