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Update Sept 8 2007 - Untangling a bowl of Spaghetti

by Robinson Roe September 8, 2007

Progress has been slow this week but thankfully still going in the right direction. We are hitting lots and lots and lots of little obstacles which make it feel like we are wading through knee deep mud.

The seemoredata folks have mapped out the data sources they need to get to. They have also discovered that the documentation around these data sources is woefully lacking, that is a data dictionary. The next challenge is getting them access to these data sources. If we set them up as a contractor, albeit unpaid, we still need sign off from three of the CEO's direct reports. There is strong control over hiring contractors at the moment.  We have created a workaround which avoids having to hire them as a contractor. The next step is requesting "read only" access to each of the data sources and so far so good on that front. The old adage of "it's who you know, and not what you know" is working well here.

The actual presentation layer is well under way and they plan to show me the first version on Monday. As mentioned before we want to use the presentation layout to reinforce the message that you need to focus on the inputs - customer, operatons and people, to achieve the financial outcomes we want. The layout also needs to demonstrate the linkages between cause and effect. Given these objectives I am very interested in seeing how it looks on Monday. I also have a meeting with my manager on Tuesday and will get his reaction to the blanaced scorecard. He knows we are working on it but has had very little involvement.

Untangling the bowl of spaghetti part.

In parallel we are using Lean Thinking to improve our ordering process and hopefully this will provide an observable difference, for the better, in our balanced scorecard. Everyone agrees that our ordering process (a term we use loosely) is a mess. We have hired an outside programmer (don't ask me how) to create a prototype front end to turn a very unfriendly 4.5mb spreadsheet (our ordering tool) into something that is user friendly. This week we met with Infosys, to whom we have outsourced the management of our "ordering spreadsheet". They also make any changes to the spreadsheet to accomodate product or downstream process modifications. Our IT department pays Infosys for these changes.

The snag is that although this new user friendly front end may signifcantly reduce our ordering errors and subsequent rework and I do mean significantly, the IT department do not see the benefit of this in their budgets. In fact what they see is an increase in cost because Infosys will charge them more to manage the user friendly front end as well as the spreadsheet. The IT manager we were talking to pointed out that he had just had his performance review and for the new year will be closely measured on staying under his opex budget. There was also dicussion on reducing the scope of what we wanted to do to only new orders and not changes to existing orders, I am not sure how this simplfies things but will wait and see.

To the IT Manager's credit he has instructed Infosys (and agreed to pay them) to spend half a day with our programmer to look at the structure our programmer is putting around the front end tool and how he is simplfying the spreadsheet. This is to occur next week but they did spend some time together yesterday and the initial response from Infosys is that this will actually reduce their workload in managing and modifying the spreadsheet and therefore save the IT department some opex.

We are slowly working our way across the organisation like a delegation from the UN. Meetings here, meetings there, side agreements here, a little bit of pressure there. Please stay tuned.