28 Jul Where is Your Focus?
It is not revolutionary to point out that we live in a results-oriented society where we’re expected to achieve new levels of success in our professional and personal lives on a regular basis. In this article, I’m going to step back a bit and examine the elements that contribute to success. Why? Because I believe that if we spend more time focusing on these inputs and making adjustments to get them right, then the outputs or results will be even stronger.
One way I do this is by distilling results into this simple formula:
Y=f(X) or Y is the result of the function of X
In other words:
Y is the output or the result.
It usually represents the symptoms or the effect of any problem; Y is also known as a dependent variable because it cannot exist without X, which is the input or independent variable.
X usually represents a problem or the cause of a problem. It can exist without Y (or without any other X, for that matter). Finally, f indicates “function”.
Here’s what it means: If you can identify the root causes to any problem, you can control or manage the input (or the “X”) so that you will change the output (the “Y”), thus alleviating said problem.
This formula is just one of many pieces of jargon that quickly become normal when you familiarize yourself with Lean Six Sigma (LSS) practices and the Define/Measure/Analyse/Improve/Control (DMAIC) methodology. It’s powerful because as a process-oriented approach it considers every task as a process. Even the simplest of tasks, such as performing your morning workout or getting ready to go to the office (or even your own relationship!), is boiled down to the process of Y=f(X).
For example, let’s say your Y is that you want to get to the office by 8am every day. There are a number of Xs whose function will contribute to that output, including:
- Setting the alarm for the right time in the morning
- Getting out of bed when the alarm goes off
- Organising yourself so you can get dressed, eat breakfast, prep your kids for school, etc before you head out for work
- Having enough petrol in your car to avoid a stop on your way to the office
- Traffic jams
- Finding a place to park
See what I mean? When you start to think about your results as the output of a process, it becomes a lot easier to identify not only the desired element of performance, but also which inputs are needed to produce the desired results.
As managers, we all are expected to deliver results and to achieve a new level of performance for service, production, quality, etc. I would argue, however, that in order to accomplish this in the most effective way possible, a smart process manager will focus on identifying Xs that impact the output performance measure in order to achieve the desired level of performance.