Wednesday, August 25, 2010

See - Hear - Paint by Numbers

Those of us who work in automation of process often are asked to take a “look” and “see” what could be done better. Which is really the basics of what we do – visually obtain information and document it so that it can be assessed. However, you may not want to judge a book by its cover.

Several years ago my Dad went to buy a Cadillac. He showed up to the dealership on a Saturday in his old blue jeans, flannel shirt, and his post card which said if he test drove a Cadillac he could get a free pull over. The dealership was empty – not a customer in sight. He entered – found a sales person – and was promptly told that he would need to make an appointment to test drive a Cadillac. Dad persisted showing the card he had received in the mail for a free pull over with a test drive but the sales person made an assumption that he was not someone who would buy a Cadillac and turned him away. Ironically, two weeks later Dad found the model he wanted online with every feature available at a dealership in Minnesota, went there, purchased the car, and drove it home. Based on what the sales person saw he made an assumption and lost the sale. In the same way we may be looking at a process and seeing each interaction but not make the connection on what is occurring.

In the story above the sales person was focused on how Dad was dressed. Sometimes consultants are focused on what they see and don’t balance it out with what they hear. The verbal interaction with staff – explaining why an observed process had a specific method is critical. The trick is asking the right questions – in the right sequence – to elicit the honest response. Questioning people on how and why they do specific workflows is really an art blended with a science. (Anyone who tells you different is selling you something) The science is the sequence and the information needed to be gathered that provides patterns. The art is the phrasing and interaction. It’s the way you respect their environment and their specific personality.

The final point in workflow modeling is being able to develop a picture of what is occurring without looking or hearing anything. I heard a story on the radio of a woman who had lost her sight. She described how she could see objects with her hands. The form, the texture, the edges all became data points in her mind and she was able to create a picture of what she was holding. In the same way that you can look at the data that comes out of devices, integration software, systems, etc and begin to build a pretty extensive picture of what is occurring on the unit. It’s basically paint by numbers for geeks – a series of “If and Then” statements that when you put them together in the right order create a very in depth picture.  Just like when a doctor looks at a patients chart – the data creates a picture.

We have had a pretty busy month at Sphere3 - which means the blog has taken last place.  Topics are always welcome please send them through to

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Kourtney Govro