Keep Iterating Or Go For The Big Fix? Which Way Works Better?

Today’s post is inspired by twitter user @business901 who talks about Boyd’s Law applied to marketing. Boyd’s Law actually comes from aircraft dogfights and says that the person in the dog fight that can make the quicker adaptation/change will have the best chance for winning even if the other person has better equipment.

Does it work in business operations? Here is what I’ve found from my experiences. I was doing work at a manufacturing company and noticed that there was in issue of how they took some of their parts out of the box. These parts weighed anywhere from 6 lbs a unit to 55 lbs a unit and the process was 90% manual. This one portion of their assembly process was the main cause of OSHA injuries on the site. The company had implemented about 3 solutions over 5 years and each solution was heavily analyzed by several people but the company still was not seeing the results they wanted.

We did a Kaizen in the problem area. The event took 1 week and about 2 weeks of follow-up but there was some progress. The new process was better but still caused too much injury. Just 4 weeks after the first event we did another week long event to iterate a new design for the problem area. In this event we still had the results from the last meeting fresh in our minds. We changed and added a few features such as a tilt table for a more ergonomic positioning and rotating employees more frequently. The new design and run rules we implemented actually turned the area from the worst performing area in terms of safety to one of the best.

The company spent 5 years with the same results because they didn’t iterate very quickly. They waited for a perfect solution. The Kaizen team that we had took about 2 months to fix the problem area but iterating and trying out ideas quickly.

I’m sure there are situations were it makes sense to iterate slower but for most problems it seems that having a bias towards implantation and iterating changes seems to be a very effective strategy. Moral of the story – Change now and change often until you meet your goal.