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The Difference Between Data and Information with Jesse DePriest

Episode Overview

“If we pick the one critical measurable, and we drive improvement to the process to achieve that, more often than not, the other metrics are going to get better, too.”

How do you figure out the difference between data and information? What is going to drive change in your organization? Jesse DePriest, a Lean Transformation Coach, Certified Process Optimizer, and Director of Operational Excellence at First National Bank of Omaha, tackles these questions and more.

There is such a thing as too much data, and it becomes overwhelming and complex. Data needs to become valuable information to support the common objective throughout the company. But, how?

Jesse DePriest tackles that exact question, and a topic most manufacturers are all too familiar with – data, information, and goal setting.

Then, we dive into the subject of defining excellence in a manufacturing organization. He explains how you define, measure, and solve challenges through good leadership and a problem-solving mentality. He demystifies and pushes aside all of the well-known terminologies for a straightforward look at what it takes to continuously improve, no gimmicks.

“That’s magic. We’re creating that environment where people are asking for help to solve these obstacles. Now we’ve got an environment for learning ripe for process improvement.”

Key Takeaways

The difference between data and information

“Data is simply measuring what is. Give me a process, and we’ll figure out a way to measure it. That’s fine, and that’s good. We need that, but we need to transform that data into intelligent information,” Jesse explains.

“But, how do we translate the data into useful information for leaders to use?”

It’s a valid point. All of the best manufacturers in the world can collect endless amounts of data, but what they do with that data is the differentiator. When data becomes valuable information, decisions can be made that impact the business positively. (And shameless plug, this is exactly what we preach at Mingo. Endless amounts of data aren’t going to help you, but when key metrics are collected and contextualized, you have the ability to make transformation happen.)

Back to the difference between data and information. Jesse explains that you can use the 7 quality tools to begin basic data translation methods.

How do you know which metrics are important?

This is a great question and one we tackle throughout the entirety of Jesse’s episode. “With the tyranny of metrics, you can become overwhelmed with data and things to measure. If we don’t have some filter or mechanism to sort out what’s important, we don’t measure anything because it becomes too noisy or too complex,” he says.

And, he’s right. You need to know which metrics are important in order to break through the noise and transform the plant. But, how?

Jesse explains how this can be done with three levels of understanding data – mega, macro, and micro. By creating a tiered structure (and associating those with daily production meetings), each level will evaluate different metrics that matter to the people at that particular level.

Mega – This is the top level. Often, this is the manufacturing production management team and supervisors, probably even the plant or general manager, with a focus on high-level weekly performance metrics.

Macro – At this level, supervisors and leads look at planned versus actual production. Are you on schedule or behind? What can be done to meet demand if currently behind?

Micro – These are the daily metrics often discussed during a daily production meeting. Did we meet the goals? If not, why? What can be done today to meet the goal?

“The thing we’re measuring at the micro and macro supports the common shared objective at the enterprise [mega],” Jesse says, “What are we trying to do as a company? Do we have metrics throughout the company that supports that objective?”

It’s important to set the right, critical few metrics to focus on that align the entire company throughout the micro, macro, and mega tiers.

And, it’s not always easy. Think about it this way Jesse says, “Sometimes we have to experiment our way through the right measurables that support thinking and the best behaviors that support continuous improvement.” But, think hard about what those metrics are. You want to concentrate on leading indicators of good performance. “Most businesses can and will measure performance with lagging indicators, but it’s the worst way to drive a car or drive a company is through the rear-view mirror,” he explains.

The importance of leadership

“The spirit of continuous improvement is leaders are engaged efficiently in micro and macro levels,” Jesse says of leadership.

We’ve touched on this topic again and again, and for good reason. Leadership is so very important to the success of a manufacturing company. Without great leadership, a great culture will never take root, and lagging indicators of success will falter.

“A mature lean organization will have leadership practices and behaviors that support and say, “We’re here to solve problems with you.”, he says. We couldn’t agree more. Instead of repeating ourselves over and over, we’ll simply refer you to a few other great resources on the topic:

If you never remember anything else from this blog post, remember this, “Your office a terrible place to run a company or department,” Jesse says.

What is manufacturing excellence?

Manufacturing excellence is crucial to the development of a great manufacturing organization.

Jesse explains what this looks like in great detail, “Define the process. Decide how to measure that. State that challenge in measurable terms for what excellence would be. Now we can go about the business of framing the problem and target setting and obstacles for that. But if the team doesn’t have an idea of excellence then we have training and coaching to do because I want everyone striving for that next level.”

Manufacturing excellence encompasses a lot of elements, but at the end of the day, comes down to selecting metrics that drive good habits and behaviors that lead to success.

“If we pick the one critical measurable, and we drive improvement to the process to achieve that, more often than not, the other metrics are going to get better, too,” Jesse explains.

For additional resources on manufacturing excellence, we’ve broken down manufacturing excellence in great detail in this blog post and have outlined the top metrics to track in a manufacturing environment.

Communicating metrics and goals with everyone in the company

Success in driving new initiatives is communicating with everyone in the plant to enable complete transparency. When new metrics and goals are introduced, there should be a clear understanding of why these are being introduced.

“It brings meaning,” Jesse says, “Employees know why this is important and what we’re trying to do.”

And, once you’ve communicated, you need to be truthful. Jesse explains, “Be really honest about where you are. Go measure what is and all of its gory details. Just be honest. No assumptions or feelings. It’s not a reflection of the people.” “We’re just trying to understand the current state of reality for this process.”

The goal isn’t to punish, but to improve. Everyone needs to be involved in that process to create employee engagement.

Breaking down goals to make them achievable leading to process improvements

It should come as no surprise, but when goals are too big, people become defeated and believe they can’t accomplish the goals. But, there’s often a gap between what’s currently happening in the plant and where you need to get to. This is a challenge. It freaks people out because the problem is too big so you need to break it down.

Jesse has a great way to tackle that gap. “Ask your team, “What do you think would be a reasonable, feasible target for us to hit in the next 30 days in the direction of the challenge? Let the team pick that.”

Then, based on the list of obstacles, which should be worked on first? Maybe it’s 2-3 obstacles, but never more. “You can’t boil the whole ocean,” he explains.

The goal isn’t to achieve the big goal all at once, but instead, to break down each obstacle on a step-by-step basis that allows for quick wins. “The point is we create an environment where it’s an agile, problem-solving environment,” Jesse says. Not only are you beginning to solve problems and work towards the goal, but you’re creating a problem-solving environment supportive of lean initiatives. It’s a true win-win situation.

“That’s magic. We’re creating that environment where people are asking for help to solve these obstacles. Now we’ve got an environment for learning ripe for process improvement.”

The steps of KATA

Much of this podcast focuses on the steps of KATA, without really explicitly saying that.Jesse breaks down this problem-solving methodology towards the end of the episode.

“What’s the next step? If I take that next step, what do I expect to happen? I make a prediction about what that step will do. Then, I go do it and I come back and say what actually happened. Did we do that step and did we get the output that we expected from taking that step?”

“An obstacle may require dozens of steps to get rid of that obstacle. Once that obstacle is no longer relevant, we go to the next obstacle. The whole point is that we are creating the habit of problem-solving and scientific thinking in the world of work, every day. We’re taking crazy small steps, every day. And I think that is far more effective than our traditional project management approach.”

It’s important to not get tripped up on the terminology. If you’re faced with a problem, push aside the manufacturing definitions and terms and simply ask yourself, “What are the next steps in solving this problem? What’s the first, small step?”

Unpacking a fear-based environment with problem solving initiatives

Jesse explains this one best. “As a result of our traditional leadership DNA, they’ve been so influenced by firefighting leadership behavior, getting in trouble when the process doesn’t perform well. It’s a lack of trust. It’s a fear-based environment.”

“We are unpacking that fear-based environment with these methods, and that’s why it’s hard. People aren’t sure that this new way of making improvements and leaders showing up and asking questions is helpful.”

But over time, these changes become better habits and behaviors that transform an organization. When you get down to it, so much a great culture and problem-solving environment revolve around the people feeling appreciated and value.

“The ultimate form of respect is to give people a problem to solve,” he says.

Connect and Share

Jesse DePriest is a Lean Transformation Coach, Certified Process Optimizer, and Director of Operational Excellence at First National Bank of Omaha. If you would like to learn more about the topics discussed in this podcast, you can email Jesse at [email protected] or via LinkedIn.

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Picture of Bryan Sapot
Bryan Sapot
Bryan Sapot is a lifelong entrepreneur, speaker, CEO, and founder of Mingo. With more than 24 years of experience in manufacturing technology, Bryan is known for his deep manufacturing industry insights. Throughout his career, he’s built products and started companies that leveraged technology to solve problems to make the lives of manufacturers easier. Follow Bryan on LinkedIn here.