The HeadScratcher Post Archive
November 2005
Asking "So What"
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November  2005               The Headscratcher Post ©  Headscratchers LLC           Edition 7


So What?  Asking the relevance of information gets people to really think about how the information affects their work and the company results.   Here is one example of “So What?” using a common HeadScratcher.


Example Headscratcher:   How do you increase the certainty of hitting a strategically important product development schedule?   


Product development schedules are highly dependent upon the people working on the project.    A team of competent and sufficient talent can dramatically improve the ability to overcome unexpected issues that arise in a project.  


What happens when Human Resources issues a report about the average employee attrition rate.  Let’s say that your department or division has a 12% attrition rate.   So What?   Well statistically, if 25 people are working on the project, then 3 people will leave within a year. 


Acting on the “So What?”.  One choice for this example is to ignore the “So What?”, and deal with employee attrition when it happens.   This will mean training a replacement, that generally translates directly into $’s, and worse, slipped schedules.   Or you can do something about it.


Creating Spare Capacity.  The “So What?” response to employee attrition is to implement a work strategy so when attrition occurs it has minimal impact.   Here is one strategy.   When a project runs into trouble, you can ask your folks to put in extra effort to get it done.  However if they are already working at 120%, there is no capacity left.  Instead, plan your projects with your people resources at the 80% capacity level.  In this way there is energy and capacity available to step up when needed,  


One way to implement this plan, is to have a subset of people who work on the project share their time with other projects.  For example, 80% of their time on the strategically important project and 20% on lower priority projects … still important to the company, but able to sustain a change in deliverable time.   In this way, when someone leaves the top project, you can immediately increase resources by reducing the efforts on some of the lower priority projects.  The team members stay the same, extra “people capacity” is available to fill the gap, and there is minimal to no impact on the project. 


The Takeaway: Asking “So What?” turns data into actionable information.  “So What?” gets people thinking about what data they are collecting and how it affects their department and the company.  “So What?” helps to eliminate unnecessary reports and encourages people to be more aware of the impact of changes and the drivers of the business.  “So What?” can guide discussions that will ensure your “Key Metrics” are truly the ones you should be tracking, giving you the time to alter a course for the better.


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