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Breakthrough Process 5 – OEs & FLP Teams Analyze Data

Step five in the Breakthrough Process focuses on analyzing and prioritizing data collected during the diagnosis phase. The concept of operational log jams, where a few key issues hinder progress, is key. Teams of consultants, having gathered information from various departments, return with data to be organized and prioritized. This is a two to three-day process, culminating in a simplified set of key issues. Consultants then revisit their clients, providing feedback and explaining the issues. Real-world examples are derived, allowing the organization to see the problems more concretely. This helps in recruiting volunteers for Breakthrough Action teams, which will work on specific recommendations. This process fosters respect and enthusiasm among participants, contributing to a fertile recruiting environment.


This is step five. Now that data has been gathered, it needs to be analyzed, and you have to operationalize and prioritize those log jams. This concept comes from my dear friend Tor Dahl, his idea of operational log jams. In a log jam (I’m from the northwest, where they float logs down the river), sometimes the logs get jammed up, and they can’t be moved. However, you don’t have to move all the logs. There are actually 1 or 2 key logs, which, if you can break that one log loose, the whole log jam breaks loose and flows. That’s kind of what it’s like here. We need to identify those two or three or four key logs in the blockages in the organization. If we can fix, reduce, or remove those particular log jams, then everything flows a lot better. Again, that’s the concept here.

Now, how do we do this? This is my favorite method. You’ve gone through the initial steps, preparing the organization and conducting the diagnosis. Now, you’re into prioritization; this is where we are now, step five. Remember that the team has gone out in pairs. The consulting pairs now go out to the organization and then come back into the team. All their colleagues return from their clients, bringing all that data back, and it starts to be collated and prioritized. It’s a messy process, taking two or three days, depending on the organization’s size. There’s newsprint and other materials around the walls, with subteams working and everybody prioritizing. The goal is to condense this large, complex dataset into something meaningful.

Next, this data gets simplified, and the consultants go back out to their clients again, feeding this data back. They say, “This is what happened. This is what the survey revealed.” They start with the boss, then move on to the team, seeking real-world examples. For instance, if the number for on-time delivery is 2.3, they explore factors contributing to this issue, perhaps using an affinity diagram. In this example, top factors include operations being late with their orders, delays in updates, double scheduling, excessive sign-offs, and the absence of a tracking system. This turns the abstract 2.3 into tangible issues that can be addressed.

The examples are then brought back to the team, collated again, made meaningful, and taken back to the clients. The consultants say, “Here’s what we’re going to be working on. These are the priorities. These are the final results.” They present this information first to the boss, then to the team. It’s an opportunity to gauge their reactions and recruit for the breakthrough action teams. Once the data is fed back, people are usually excited and feel respected, making it an ideal time to form teams that will create breakthrough recommendations. Now that you know where the issues are, small teams need to drill down, conduct a diagnosis, and come up with actionable recommendations. This is a powerful way to ensure that an organization not only contributes but also sees the connection between their effort and breakthroughs that occur later on. It’s a dynamic process, and the next step is guiding these teams on how to get started and determining what they should work on.


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