There’s a story I heard – and I don’t know if it’s true – about the process of capturing monkeys in the wild. The story goes that the hunter will mount a jar with a narrow opening, and drop some of the monkeys favorite fruit or nuts into the bottom of the jar. The opening is just large enough for the monkey to put his hand in, but once he’s grabbed the food, he can’t remove his clenched fist. When the hunters approach, the monkey is so intent on not losing the tasty morsel that they are easily captured. They simply can’t bring themselves to let it go, so they end up in a net.
I’ve known people like this. These were folks who are so convinced that they are right that they’ll let everything else fall apart before they would ever admit a mistake. These are the people who see no value in process improve-ment, relying more on their own (often misguided) opinions on how things work.
There’s a reason that every process improvement methodology has a phase or step for establishing a baseline measurement. I have always believed that this is one of the most critical parts of any improvement program. After all, you have to know where you’ve been, or where you are, before you can determine if any changes you’ve made resulted in something positive.
Yes, it means that the project may need to be slowed down a bit. In most cases, these measures will already exist, it is just a matter of identifying them. When they don’t, the key indicators need to be identified and then a time frame needs to be established for gathering that baseline data prior to moving ahead with the planned improvement.
It seems like a lot of extra work, but it’s absolutely worth it. Especially when the time comes to justify what you’ve done – or when the job evaluation season rolls around and you need something clear and concrete to show what you’ve accomplished. Even negative results are good – it tells you you’re on the wrong track and need to try a different approach. With no baseline data, a situation can go from bad to worse very quickly.
So don’t get your hand caught in the jar by being unwilling to have an open mind. It will prevent you from getting caught in the net of a bad process.