Are The Sum Of The Parts Equal To The Whole?

I was reading on how mayonnaise is judged and can you believe there are over 40 categories to measure how “good” a mayonnaise is! There are characteristic like color, shine, several dimensions of taste, etc. If you were trying to make the best mayonnaise possible would you try to get every single variable the best it could be or would you take a holistic approach and focus on the preparation, the ingredients and the cooking techniques?

I’m guessing most people would want to deal with just a few variables instead of over 40. Sometimes the indirect approach works better than the direct approach. So what does mayonnaise have to do with operations? There are several ways to figure out how to measure and improve the parts of the mayonnaise but the real question is is what we are measuring and improving really giving us a better mayonnaise. In other words do the sum of the parts (measurements) equal the whole (great mayonnaise). Sometimes we are so driven by the bottom line that we only focus on the multiple line items on the P&L like headcount or metrics like uptime or utilization. The question we have to ask is are these the right things?

Traditional operations says we focus on the bottom line by optimizing individual areas and focusing on metrics that typically reinforce sub optimizing. Example: We want to reduce costs so we look at the biggest cost line item (head count) and we want to find ways to reduce HC without realizing impact to the culture and productivity.

Lean operations says focus on the bottom line by focusing the whole system AND the people and culture of your company. Example: We want to reduce wastes and increase flow and intern that will improve our costs.

Are you measuring just a sum of the parts of your operation or are you looking at the whole system

How does your company make “mayonnaise?”