What Would Sherlock Do?

Sherlock with PipeSherlock Holmes, though fictional, was an innovator in crime scene investigation. Rather than relying on witnesses like typical London policemen of the day, he got out his magnifying glass and carefully examined the scene. Through Sherlock, Arthur Conan Doyle brought “the art of deduction” to the foreground in crime solving.

Many of my clients refer to me as the Sherlock Holmes of operations and supply chain because I’ve developed an uncanny knack for observation and deduction, and I use those skills to move companies into the fast lane, dramatically improving their performance.

How Does Sherlock Do It?

Here’s how the investigation begins, not at a crime scene, but in examining a company’s operations and supply chain functions:

  • Go to the Gemba, or point of work in Lean parlance.
  • Invite managers and workers to share ideas and input. They often have great suggestions that no one has listened to.
  • Use data analytics to dig deep. In God We Trust – all others bring data!
  • Use a wide-angle lens to view the scene and look for root causes, not just symptoms, to discover Operational Blind Spots.
  • Obey the rules of evidence, don’t respond to rumors, and investigate thoroughly.

Many leaders in middle market companies try to solve all of their problems themselves, yet they often don’t reach their goals because they aren’t able to conduct an objective investigation. Olympic athletes, championship sports teams, successful executives and many professionals have coaches and mentors who help them see what they need to change to achieve world-class performance.

What the Investigator and the Coach Have in Common

In her book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Angela Duckworth discusses what it takes to be a champion in sports, work and life. One of the elements she talks about is perfect practice, which includes:

  1. A clearly defined stretch goal
  2. Full concentration and effort
  3. Immediate and informative feedback
  4. Repetition with reflection and refinement

The coach is essential in helping set stretch but achievable goals (the vision), developing the strategy to get there, and figuring out the next steps. This is where the power of seeing comes into play. Like the manager who is occupied with the day-to-day activities of their work, the athlete in the pool swimming isn’t able to devote attention to self-assessment. Using their outside perspective and expertise, the coach works with the athlete to identify weaknesses and build on strengths. Duckworth calls this deliberate practice.

Sherlock and Dr. WatsonRecently I was working with a client on a Forensic Operations Assessment™, a program I’ve developed which quickly identifies key priorities in operations and supply chain and helps drive the business toward profit and growth. The client knew going in that their “problem” was too much obsolete inventory. The clues they missed, however, were the root causes, which enabled us to crack the case, setting priorities for improvement and accelerating profit and cash flow. Management estimates that implementing these priorities could triple profit and cut inventory by at least a third in the next 18 months.

You can’t expect to see everything. Companies often need outside help to craft a clear vision for the future and a strategy for getting there. That’s why they bring in Sherlock Holmes to observe, deduce and solve business problems and move the company to new levels of success.

© 2016 – Rick Pay – All Rights Reserved