The reason for new knowledge, Aristotle is saying, is to guide your action. Is this principle strategically integrated into your improvement program? Or are you paying for seminars and hoping for the best?

We are guided by the Analytic Logic Map and the importance of seeking a Causal Explanation. A Causal Explanations is the specific piece of knowledge that is the purpose of diagnosis. But the knowledge we wish to impart is to provide the ability to quickly diagnose problems and processes to see problems coming.

If you have worked with David, Tobias or me, you know that working with your small team, we solve tough problems fast. If you have read David’s book, Improving Performance and Reliability (Analytic Logic Map is on the cover) or my blog stories at but not worked with us and consider yourself a professional problem solver, then you must be curious as to how we can do in days what others could not in months.

Maybe you have seen what we do, you might be wondering how we do it. “Those guys are either geniuses, or know something I don’t know,” you might think. I assure you, we are smart, clever, curious and passionate, but not genius. (But I can only speak for myself, not David or Tobias.) We know what you might not…and it is simply based on organizing a few fundamental principles. As one said, “I don’t know why we had to hire those guys. Everything they did was common sense.” As a plant manager said recently, “I like what you are doing. It is just applying engineering principles we should already know in a clever and visual way.”

If you are part of an organization that wants to solve tough problems fast, you might be wondering if you have been getting the best possible results, the kind of results we would expect. Just ask yourself one question: Does training begin with projects and center on projects? Or does your training center on seminars in classrooms and time away from the shop or factory?  Do you really understand and demonstrate the relationship between gaining new knowledge and action?

The best business leaders know how to get the most out of the resources they have. They are acutely aware that giving over their employees’ time to the classroom, but failing to dramatically improve the ability of those employees to quickly diagnose and even to see problems coming, is not getting the most from them. The employees know it too. The result? They don’t have fun at work, they have no sense of achievement, they move on. The employer sees that the investment had no return – there is no business improvement, just an ex-employee with a certificate on their new office wall that is worthless to the new employer, but neither will admit it.

Turn the learning process on its head. Learn the core principles that really matter, and learn them hands-on working on projects that really matter. Its win-win – happy employer and employee. And fun.

One company I know is in the process of hiring over one hundred engineers as problem solvers, planning to send them to a series of seminars before they are assigned a project. I told them to give me just ten of them. If they have a technical background, the only thing they need to know to get started is where to meet me and the name of the project. Ten people can work on five projects. We will start in a room full of white boards. In a couple of hours, we will be out on the floor or in the lab, busy learning and executing a strategy. They don’t need to learn a bunch of tools and tests. They only need to know what to do first…and to get it done today. Once that is finished, they will need to know what to do next. Once that project is finished they can get another, and another. That is the best way to real experience. Projects, projects, projects!

Quit spending so much time analyzing data to figure out what to work on. If you run the place, you already know. Assign projects. Get busy. If you did not get the top five, so what, as long as the projects are finished fast.

Seminars are not suited for the fast pace of today. As Juran said, “Improvement takes place project by project and in no other way.”

Don’t teach seminars. Train, based on projects. Those who can, do. Those who cannot, teach seminars.

Gain knowledge every day. Act.  Have fun. Keep your employees happy, and they will stick around.

John Allen

Naples, Florida