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coyote_5Wile E. Coyote Is My Process Improvement Hero

Of all the heros and superheros I have known, Wile E. Coyote has never been on that list. I only recently discovered an ardent admiration for Mr. Coyote. Why? Because, he is a process improvement expert. He is a tenacious problem solving animal and an avid proponent of Plan-Do-Check-Act. Mr. Coyote may not realize how good he is but he does have a fan club. At this writing there are five fan pages on Facebook regarding Wile E. Coyote with a grand total of over 19,000 likes/members. Mr. Coyote may not even realize his process improvement process is classic. Nevertheless, here is what Mr. Coyote does that is so amazing.

PLAN: The planning of a project is a very detailed process. The better the plan, the better the execution.

“Failing to plan is planning to fail” ~Proverb

The first step of planning is identifying the right problem. What is Mr. Coyote’s problem? He’s hungry. He continues with the defining the problem before he jumps into solving it. He responds to the following questions instinctively: What is the primary reason for this project? Answer: Get food. What do you hope to achieve by solving the problem? Answer: A waistline. Why is it important to do something now? Answer: He may be too weak to hunt later on. What will happen if the current environment doesn’t change? Answer: He dies. Why does it have to be done? Answer: Death hurts. The clearer and succinct the problem statement the clearer the responses for a solution.

“A problem well stated is a problem half solved.” ~Charles F. Kettering 

More planning. Once the problem is clearly and specifically stated, Wile moves into the next phase of planning: analyze the problem and research causes of the problem. He does not use the 5 Whys process to determine the root cause but maybe we can. Mr. Coyote is hungry. Why? He has not eaten in days. Why? The food source is scarce. Why? He lives in the desert. Why? It’s his natural habitat. Why? Ahhhh . . . Mother Nature put him there?

More planning. The next phase of planning is analyzing alternatives. This phase is very creative and will require input from various sources. Since he cannot change his location, we can go back and determine if there are alternative reasons why he has not eaten in days or why the food source is scarce. We can also analyze the various food sources available.

According to Wikipedia: Coyotes are opportunistic, versatile carnivores with a 90% mammalian diet, depending on the season.” Discounting the sand, rocks, cactus and occasional motor vehicle, there is no other visual hints of a food source for Mr. Coyote. The roadrunner seems like the only viable alternative.

Even more planning. Designing a solution is the next phase of planning. If the roadrunner is the best alternative then designing a solution to catch the roadrunner is our next step. This is where Mr. Coyote is his most creative. With his Acme Products catalog, his possibilities are practically unlimited. Once again this process is very creative and participation from multiple resources would be beneficial. What could you do with an Acme Products catalog?

Once the solution is designed, the next step in the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) process is Do.

DO: Implement your plan. Wile E. Coyote does this very well. If you recall, Mr. Coyote’s execution of his plan is precise. Through no fault of his own, the products he uses are unfortunately defective.

“Do is half of done.” ~Peter D. DiSantis 

After implementation, the next step is Check.

CHECK: How did you plan work? What went well and what did not? For Mr. Coyote, never well. It’s usually some canyon floor, rock wall or overhang, a nearby explosive, a large truck (with a beep-beep horn), or some other out of control device. He never catches the roadrunner and he is still very hungry.

“Trust, but verify.” ~Ronald Reagan 

The next step in the Plan-Do-Check-Act process is Act.

ACT: What are your next steps? If your solution and implementation worked, how do you leverage it or expand it or improve upon it? If your solution hadn’t worked, what do you need to change to make it work? Here again, Mr. Coyote is brilliant. He does not continue doing what does not work. He evaluates the new problem and looks for another solution.

And then once again Mr. Coyote exhibits his extraordinary and admirable qualities. He is tenacious, relentless, resolute, persistent, insistent, determined, single-minded, focused, unremitting, inexorable, unstoppable, unwavering, tireless, adamant, persevering, indomitable, driven and motivated about his problem solving. He picks himself up, dusts himself off and begins to plan again.

“Plans are nothing; planning is everything.” ~Dwight D. Eisenhower

Mr. Coyote is still hungry. Why? He has not eaten in days. Why? He cannot catch the roadrunner. Why? He doesn’t have the right equipment. Why? They are defective. Why? Acme Products suck.

And the cycle begins again. This is why Wile E. Coyote is my hero and I believe we can all learn a lesson in tenacity.

Plan-Do-Check-Act (or PDCA) is a four step iterative process that continues until the issue is resolved or used to incrementally improve processes.

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