It wasn’t until after a decade of working as a mechanical engineer that I really understood the crucial concept of letting the questions lead. While working on discovery-based projects, we must spend ample time documenting our question(s) before jumping into action. Albert Einstein was quoted as saying, “If I had an hour to solve a problem, I’d spend fifty-five minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about solutions.” Consider the fact that the smartest person in the room might not be the one with all the answers, but the one with the right questions.
Our initial questions are about what defines a project. In the Six Sigma classes I teach at The Center, I can often be heard quoting the phrase, “Questions lead, answers follow.” This simply means you cannot determine what actions to take until you know what questions you are trying to answer.
The questions we have should influence what type of data-gathering study we design and execute, or the method by which we perform an investigation. I’ve seen OpEx practitioners jump to implementing a certain tool, or managers asking engineers to utilize a large dataset before they’ve defined the goals of the project. This is how projects end up late and over budget.
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