Content By Akhilesh Gulati

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By: Akhilesh Gulati

The big data revolution is requiring a seismic shift inside organizations, both in the way we build relationships and the way we make decisions. Each is now driven by data rather than intuition.

In general, decision making is accomplished via a thought process of selecting a logical choice from the available options. In a technical sense, when one makes a decision, all of the positives and negatives of each option are weighed against each other and/or a set of criteria, as well as all other considered alternatives. This process can be rational or irrational, and is often influenced by the decision maker’s utility and attitude toward risk.

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By: Akhilesh Gulati

Convenience stores are located on most street corners the world over. These small enterprises offer customers a wide variety of items and often have gas pumps outside as well. Considering how long convenience stores have been around and the quantity of items they carry, you’d expect them to use some type of software to keep track of all of their inventory. However, that's not always the case.

Many of these stores use point-of-sales systems to ensure correct pricing for products sold and to track sales taxes, and provide end-of-day and monthly accounting reports. Often these systems are integrated with various payment modes. Larger stores also use their systems to track inventory and manage their respective supply chains. Why smaller convenience stores don’t do the same, given the declining cost of technology and the the availability of inexpensive data capture tools, is surprising. 

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By: Akhilesh Gulati

The dynamics of the healthcare environment are changing rapidly. Small primary care practices are confronting a host of regulatory, technological, and practice challenges, not the least of which is patient expectation and evaluation. The challenges are all exaggerated by social media, where patients are quick to share their experiences.

Some of the common complaints heard repeatedly include:
• Why do they make an appointment for 8:30 and see me at 9:30? Why even make an appointment?
• Can’t the doctor spend more than 5 minutes with me?
• Why do I have to fill out all these forms every time I see a new doctor?

There are hundreds of answers for these questions, but fortunately technology lends itself to analytics to better understand scheduling and service nuances. Perhaps most important, technology can help provide solutions that will enable doctors to do the thing they love the most—practice medicine. However, this requires a change in mindsets and initiative on the part of physician offices.

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By: Akhilesh Gulati

Regression equations, fitted lines, and sampling are familiar terms to people in the quality field. There are tools that we use (i.e., planning matrixes, tree diagrams, and flowcharts) to help our organizations optimize processes. These tools aren’t new, and their use isn’t limited to the quality profession. They’re being employed more frequently as the popularity of Six Sigma increases.

However, organizations are not exploiting their talent pool by utilizing the increased knowledge and skills of their trained Six Sigma professionals in other areas, e.g., profit optimization planning. As organizations are improving their operational processes, assessing their key performance indicators (KPI) and other factors, they should also consider using these same tools for profit optimization planning.

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By: Akhilesh Gulati

Design of experiments (DOE) is a term familiar to most quality professionals. Some use it on a regular basis and others try their best to avoid it. Most of those who employ this problem-solving tool have done so mainly on behalf of quality improvement projects. Limiting DOE to just these areas or types of initiatives results in huge lost opportunities for these organizations, not even considering more personal missed opportunities such as the failure to expand the professionals’ own skill sets.

Consider that organizations spend a fair amount of labor and financial resources on advertising, specifically as it relates to its timing, media usage, channel selection, and so forth. The assumptions that go into the rationale for many of these decisions can be costly and significantly inhibit their effectiveness. Why not apply this experiment-based methodology to understand these relationships? It would illuminate not only their complexity and counter-intuitiveness, but also help determine the effect that advertising, timing, product pricing, and more might have on sales.

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By: Akhilesh Gulati

In today’s world, it’s almost expected that product or service innovation will yield competitive advantage. So how does one innovate? One approach is to hire genius employees and to combine the attributes of a number of tools (e.g., theory of constraints or experimentation), or use specific methodologies such as TRIZ (innovative problem solving).

Surprisingly, your weakness itself may be a source of competitive advantage. To cite an example from many years ago, Thomas Edison was deaf, and he used his limitation to solve problems as well as develop new inventions. On one occasion, he was called to New York to help solve noise problems associated with the newly elevated trains in the city. Many had tried to reduce noise levels, but they could never identify the exact source. Due to his deafness, Edison could hear only the worst of the noise. This allowed him to more quickly pinpoint the problem area, rather than be distracted and sidetracked by other noises made by the elevated trains. Ultimately, the noise was due to structural problems with the elevated tracks, and not the steam engines that ran the trains. Although most observers couldn’t hear past the engine, Edison could hear the heart of the problem due to his so-called disadvantage.

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By: Akhilesh Gulati

An important concept within TRIZ is that someone, somewhere, has already solved your current problem. In other words, they have “been there, done that.” Or course, the problem has to be clearly stated, in a generic sense, to enable the recognition of existing valid solutions.

TRIZ is not alone in recognizing this need. “Stating the problem clearly” was recognized by the formulators of the Six Sigma structure when they developed the DMAIC methodology. Apparently they recognized that people often start working on a solution before they have even defined the problem. This is perhaps because of a bias toward a preconceived solution. The “define” stage of the DMAIC problem-solving approach recognizes that, to get to a valid solution, the problem must be stated clearly, simply, and concisely. Incorrect problem definition leads to useless or ineffective “solutions,” which can lead to a considerable amount of time wasted in solving the wrong problem.

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By: Akhilesh Gulati

Editor’s note: This article continues the series exploring structured innovation using the TRIZ methodology, a problem solving, analysis, and forecasting tool derived from studying patterns of invention found in global patent data.

The TRIZ executive council group had taken a break during summer and were now meeting after almost three months. There were the usual exchanges about vacations and work challenges, but Joel was excited and wanted to share something he believed would be of benefit to every member of the council.

Akhilesh Gulati’s picture

By: Akhilesh Gulati

Editor’s note: This article continues the series exploring structured innovation using the TRIZ methodology, a problem solving, analysis, and forecasting tool derived from studying patterns of invention found in global patent data.

A special meeting of the TRIZ executive committee had been called because Dwain McMullin was in town, and Henrietta, the committee facilitator, had arranged for him to share a case study with the group.

McMullin was one of the TRIZ coaches at a center of radiological research and nuclear fuel fabrication called Washington Hanford Closure in Richland, Washington. The work performed there had created highly contaminated facilities and waste sites as well as a large inventory of radioactive material. McMullin agreed to share his team’s process in coming up with an inventive solution to resolve the problems encountered during the cleanup project.

At the outset Henrietta told the committee that McMullin was not prepared to share the project outcome at this short notice, but the important thing for them was to understand how the Hanford team got to the recommendation stage.

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By: Akhilesh Gulati

By electing President Obama in 2008, the people of the United States opted for change. In the May 2014 elections in India, the people of India opted for change by nominating N. Modi for Prime Minister after a long run by the Congress Party. The recent surges in polls and a realignment of leadership throughout the world are a clear indicator that people are not only wanting “change”, they are aggressively embracing change. Change is, however, being resisted by those who perceive change as a threat to their power position, be that as a leader, a manager, or as a skilled person.

As a practitioner of process excellence, using lean, Six Sigma, Theory of Constraints, TRIZ or any combination of a number of methodologies, one of the biggest challenges cited in implementing change is overcoming resistance to it.

As noted above, people seek outside change often, but they don't like being personally changed or having change imposed upon them.

Peter Drucker said it more eloquently, “People are not stressed because there’s too much change in organizations, but because of the way change is made.”