Buddy’s Widgets markets that they make the most cost-effective and highest quality widgets in the industry. They are new to the market and have a process that works well at their current scale. The metrics that they have developed for their business measure raw material input and the product output of their operation. They also measure the reject volume of their quality assurance process.

One day, the marketing team arrived on a brilliant campaign. The market responded to their campaign with a significant jump in widget orders. While the finance team of the organization was ecstatic, the operations team was overwhelmed. The production floor became clogged at various points along the process, which extended production time and increased their reject volume.

The owner of Buddy’s Widgets called up his friend, John, for advice. Buddy vented a moment about his operations team and their leadership, questioning whether they had what it took to grow with the organization’s goals. John stopped him midstream and asked him to describe his process. As Buddy walked through it all, John doodled the workflow on a scratchpad. He pointed out to Buddy that there were several bottlenecks in his process and inquired about the metrics that Buddy used to manage the bottlenecks.

Buddy paused and realized that while his current metrics measured the overhead and output, he forgot to consider measuring the flow of work itself. Over the next few hours, Buddy and John worked out the target durations between processes, aligning them so that it regulated the flow throughout the entire process. Buddy and John identified the metrics that would monitor variances in the workflow, enabling Buddy’s team to respond quickly.

Several months later, Buddy reached out to John again. However, this call was to report that the demand for widgets has continued to increase since that fateful day. Thanks to Buddy’s implementation of the metrics that they collaborated on, his operations team is now able to adjust quickly to the fluctuations in demand. Buddy concluded the call with his learning in the situation, “At first, taking the time to step back to walk through the workflow seemed like a waste of time, but it provided so much clarity and context to collecting data that it demystified the whole effort.”

Buddy learned to appreciate the importance of the discovery process. In that effort, Buddy realized that his situation was not the failure of his team, but rather, it was in the process itself. The introduction of metrics designed to reveal opportunities for adaptation and improvement illuminated his challenges. In the end, the data solution was never about technology. It was about insight.