Do you practice insanity?

Author – Tim Smith

Albert Einstein is widely credited with saying, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.” (Though he didn’t but that’s not important)

While I do not view that choice as insane, I do see it as a common trap that most of us fall into. Why? We are humans.

Human beings are creatures of routine. Even the most spontaneous among us stick to a lot of routines and habits surrounding our jobs, roles, and functions within the enterprise. For us, it is challenging to try different approaches to our day-to-day problems.

Yet, that phrase still holds true. If you want different results than what you are getting, you have to try different approaches.

The intellectual bars making up the cage of routines we employ is solely based upon a few presumptions. Let me try to describe the bars of the cell we confine our action to.

Our experiences can prove to be the first bar in the cell that restricts us from growing. If we had a modicum of success in solving an issue which could be deemed as similar, then let’s employ the process again. If there is a note of uncertainty or ambiguity to the source, symptoms or state, we will happily re-employ again and again the same routine to try to affect the outcome. The attitude by which we approach a problem can either tie us to our experiences or free us from them.

Our rationale is another bar in the cell. If, as an engineer you were trained to use a hammer then every problem resembles a nail. Or at least you look for the nail like qualities in the problem and then happily pound away. If we are not willing to embrace new methods of triage, investigation, or assessment, then we will fail to grow.

Lack of insight is the third bar in the cell. The term insight means an understanding of relationships that sheds light on or helps solve a problem. The key is to understand relationships. If your scope within the company does not span more than the department, team or group you move in, then you are ill-equipped to understand the relationships surrounding a specific constraint, issue or task. We walk in preconceptions toward any issue and ignore or discount evidence outside of our comfort zone. That’s right, our comfort zone. Attempting to understand relationships means we need to step back into a different perspective to assess all aspects surrounding a constraint, or process, or issue, etc.

The last bar in the cell is what I call the Musketeer syndrome. Athos, Porthos and Aramis were the three musketeers. The fictional characters were a tight knit group, a fighting unit, fiercely loyal to each other and their mandate. What tends to develop on the shop floor are tight teams with similar focuses. Just like the ranks of the Musketeers could not be penetrated, most teams are averse to any kind of change. They develop a methodology and rarely deviate from it, even if it is not the most effective process.

How then does an individual remove the bars to the cell they have created and embraced?

The first and most enabling approach is seeking out or adding to your team individuals with different experiences, insights, and rationale. Whether that is creating a cross-departmental focus group to periodically review and assess constraints and results and thereby benefit from a multitude of counselors, or add permanently to your department, team or group new individuals with completely different perspectives. This approach builds a wealth of new insight and from there new experiences thus developing new rationale.

The second approach is to apply new methodology. There is a vast number of documented methodologies which can be assessed, and the promising approaches adopted and tested. The challenge is to get past the bars that limit us in the first place. If an individual can approach the search and assessment of methodologies without prejudices, then he may well unlock the cell and gain new insight, experiences, and rationale.

The third approach is to employ a system to perform much of the work for you. If a facility employs a system which generates all of the critical metrics required to fuel the tools used for constraint triage, assessment and identification then the ability to formulate a resolution happens above the normal floor of human routine and habit. In fact, if the system employs methodologies to garner results critical to problem resolution, then the insanity cycle is broken because an outside influence, much like the previous two remedies above, disrupts the routine.

Therefore, save yourself from doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result. Employ one, if not all the remedies mentioned and change the game. Eliminate insanity.