Who-What Matrix

Effective organizations assign people to particular roles, such as Process Owners, to solve problems better and make choices faster. Yet, it is frighteningly easy it is to exclude the right people in problem-solving. Who plays what role is not always clear in organizations. In organizations where specialized knowledge and expertise are distributed widely the different parts of an organization can see different problems in the same situation. Ensuring that the right people are at the whiteboard to solve the problem.

The Who-What Matrix is a great tool to ensure the right people are involved.

By including a wider set of people, the Who-What Matrix assists in creating trust, commitment, and a sense of procedural justice, and thus, enhance the likelihood of success. The matrix can also integrate people across functions, hierarchy, business units, locations, and partner organizations.

Once the need to problem-solve is identified, the matrix can be used to determine what people and organizations should be involved in which roles in problem-solving and whose interests should betaken into account in the deliberations. Players may provide input (information, ideas, resources); be part of the solving process(formulating problem, gathering data, doing analyses, generating solution options, supporting the work), be among those making choices or executing them. Considering the interests of all players during problem-solving can lead to better choices and outcomes.

The aim is to use the framework’s categories to think broadly but be selective in deciding which players play what role. A lengthy collection of players can be so overwhelming as to lead to neglect. The same player can play more than one role, and roles played can change over time. Players can come and go as problem-solving proceeds and circumstances change.

By deliberately bringing people into problem-solving, we are showing how to give people a meaningful role in the learning culture.

Who-What Matrix

The roles breakdown as:

  • Input: Provide input, provide data gathering, data sources
  • Recommend: Evaluate problem, recommend solutions and path forward
  • Decide: Make the final decision and commit the organization to action
  • Perform: Be accountable for making the decision happen once made
  • Agree: Formally approve a decision, implies veto power
  • Outcome: Accountable for the outcome of problem solving, results over time

Visual Management

In the organizational world Visual Management is a management system that attempts to improve organizational performance through connecting and aligning organizational vision, core values, goals and culture with other management systems, work processes, workplace elements, and stakeholders, by means of stimuli, which directly address one or more of the five human senses (sight, hearing, feeling, smell and taste). These stimuli communicate quality information (necessary, relevant, correct, immediate, easy to-understand and stimulating), which helps people make sense of the organizational context at a glance by merely looking around. It is a management approach that utilizes either one or more of information giving, signaling, limiting or guaranteeing (mistake-proofing/ poka-yoke) visual devices to communicate with “doers”, so that places become self-explanatory, self-ordering, self-regulating and self-improving.

FunctionDefinitionReplaces the Practice of
TransparencyThe ability of a process (or its parts) to communicate with people through organizational and physical means, measurements, and public display of information

Transparency stimulates people to move outside the confines of particular job responsibilities and to see the larger scale of their work
Information held in people‟s minds and on the shelves.
DisciplineMaking a habit of properly maintaining correct procedures by transforming the abstract concept of discipline into directly observable concrete practices

Address the six basic questions (the what, the where, the who, the how, the how many and the when)
Warning, scolding, inflicting punishments, dismissing etc.
Continuous ImprovementFocused and sustained incremental innovation

Makes organizational learning visual with high ability to respond to people’s ideas
Static organizations or big improvement leaps through considerable investment.
Job FacilitationConscious attempt to physically and/or mentally ease people’s efforts on routine, already known tasks, by offering various visual aidsExpecting people to perform well at their jobs without providing them any aids.
On-the-Job TrainingLearning from experience or integrating working with learning.Conventional training practices or offering no training.
Creating Shared OwnershipA feeling of possessiveness and being psychologically tied to the objectivesManagement dictation for change efforts, vision and culture creation.
Management by FactsUse of facts and data based on statisticsManagement by subjective judgement or vague terms.
SimplificationConstant efforts on monitoring, processing, visualizing and distributing system wide information for individuals and teamsExpecting people to monitor, process and understand the complex system wide information on their own.
UnificationPartly removing the boundaries and creating empathy within an organization through effective information sharingFragmentation or “this is not my job” behavior
The functions of Visual Management

Brainstorming and Conflict

Like most facilitators I have strong opinions on brainstorming. And like a lot of the soft side of quality, these facilitation skills can really open themselves to a criticism of the vulnerability of scientific claims and there is a fair amount of justification for criticisms of the pursuit of novelty over truth. Add to it that there is this major pipeline of junk psychological science and there are good reasons for challenging these opinions.

It is for this reason I do less and less brainstorming as a verbal exercise, and rely more on brainwriting as I discussed in the post “Brainstorming usually sinks your ship.”

In the article “Should we allow criticism while brainstorming?” by Dylan Walsh we are exposed to some research from Jared Curhan at MIT that shows when criticism should be leveraged in brainstorming exercises. Well worth the read.

Level of Effort for Planning

Risk based approach for planning

In the post “Design Lifecycle within PDCA – Planning” I laid out a design thinking approach to planning a change.

Like most activities, the level of effort is commensurate with the level of risk. Above I provide some different activities that can happen based on the risk inherent in the process and problem being evaluated.

This is a great reason why Living Risk Assessments are so critical to an organization.

Living vs Ad hoc risk assessments