Keller, a great friend of Chief
Executive Boards International, suggested another idea that may be of
help to CEBI members and readers.
Razor (aka Ockham's razor) is a problem-solving principle attributed to a
Franciscan friar, William of Ocham, a 14th-century English logician. The
principle is that the explanation of any scenario, observation or problem
should be reduced to the simplest terms and simplest assumptions possible.
This is remarkably confirmed by Joe Busby,
another friend of mine who has applied incredibly sophisticated neural
network and pattern recognition tools to the analysis of massive arrays of
manufacturing process data. Know what Joe found? In several cases, an
amazing correlation between yield in continuous manufacturing process and
outdoor temperature and humidity! Think about it -- a production line
making plastic film is instrumented with hundreds expensive sensors and
quality measuring devices. Yet, Joe found that the primary factor in
making good film at high yields was ambient temperature and humidity.
So, how can we use this in a typical
business? It's the philosophical origin of the KISS principle
(keep it simple, stupid). In the category of problem solving:
- Look at all the asserted root causes of
the problem. Pick the simplest one -- likely to be the closest to
- Consider the proposed corrective
actions. Pick the simplest one -- likely to be the one most easily
implemented and the one most likely to solve the problem.
When looking for opportunities:
- Look at the proposed opportunities, and
the complexity of pursuing them. Pick the simplest course -- likely to
be the one most successful.
- Consider the simplest strategy to pursue
an opportunity as the preferred strategy.
- Ask really simple questions -- likely to
get the simplest answers
- What do my customers want from me?
- Am I delivering it?
- The way they want it?
- Are my costs in line?
- Action on a sub-optimal strategy
is preferred over inaction and further analysis in pursuit of
the "best" strategy.
Simply stated, when there are two competing
ideas or solutions, the one that is simpler is better.