“Lessons Learnt from 25 Years Personal Journey to Productivity”: Colm Fitzpatrick

Colm Fitzpatrick, the CEO and founder of TravePlan Technologies, gave a talk on the lessons he has learnt from his career in productivity. Colm presented at The Lean Productivity Conference at the Citiwest.

Colm refined his personal journey into five points:

  1. Driving down costs may drive down revenue
    • A company that focuses solely on costs, will inevitably diminish elsewhere. Substituting or disregarding a part of an organisation will have impacts, be that efficiency, risk or quality. Decisions have impacts and simply focusing on costs is not sufficient.
    • Colm instead presents the formula as:
      • Quality = Output/ total costs
  2. Management is responsible for productivity
    • It is managements responsibility to communicate priorities. Employees often become distracted and veer off course, it is the role of the manager to direct them towards the set objectives.
    • The flow of information should be filtered and adapted at every level. The same information is not useful to the CFO, as would be for the HR manager. However, both have an impact on the employees on the ground.
      • Likewise the actions on the ground have an impact on their roles. It is important for management to direct and orchestrate adequate channels for information flow
    • It is also the role of management to acknowledge a lack of success. It is therefore their responsibility to bring in individuals/organisations/consultants to independently assess the situation – This has also been touched on by Alan in his talk regarding non-executive directors.
  3. Data is key
    • Colm, as did both Emmet and Denis,  strongly advocated data collection, and analytics in order to objectively observe and improve an organisation. Information is everywhere in and around a business, correct data metrics should be utilized to engage with the data and adapt business operations to the markets requirements. Ultimately , an organisation must implement a proper data infrastructure to collect this data, this should be aimed at examining trends and changes in the market, allowing the organisation to adapt when necessary.
  4. Analysis Paralysis
    • It can often be a problem of engineers to over analyse information and attempt to adapt. Resources can be wasted if too much analysis happens within a start-up. The aim of data analytics is to measure and review critical metrics, some metrics will need to be ignored or may be irrelevant. It is a matter of reviewing these critical metrics regularly, then adapting iteratively. Some metrics are controllable, particularly internally, however most metrics are influenced by the macro-environment and therefore too much resources put into this areas can be wasted. Data analytics should be used for validating the changes since the last iteration.
  5. No Best Process to Fit
    • The concept of Lean is not a general framework fitting to all organisations, it must instead be adapted to each organisation. The lean principles are more cultural/lifestyle principles as opposed to a framework that a company can buy and regularly use when necessary. Fitting the lean principles into a company to drive efficiency is done on a case-by-case basis and is not a general blanket concept applicable across the board.

I found that some of the topics Colm touched upon were rather apparent, even to a know-it-all business student. Although, the analysis paralysis lesson was quite important, a start-up should not over analyse all of the information, but rather review the important information regularly and attempt to find trends.

This process is taught under the Customer Development Model, with regular iterations to improve the product, as opposed to huge leaps with vast arrays of data used.

However, I would disagree with some points made within Colm’s talk. He claimed that if a company had a ‘lean team’ or essentially a process improvement team, that it was an area which resources were wasted. Claiming that the Lean concept is a principled based approach and not a general framework.

I believe a cross-functional team dedicated to observing data analytics and attempting to reorganize operations to improve efficiency can be beneficial to a company.

Management is done on a case-by-case basis. Different situations, people and problems will arise, therefore different actions are to be applied. I feel that remaining flexible should have been included, possibly talking about company culture or business model innovation .

Apart from this one topic, I found Colm’s presentation quite informative and structured. There were clear aims and set points in which affected him. His experience is obviously subjective and given his examples, you can gather why he has chosen these lessons.

My Lessons Learnt:

  • Actions have reactions, so make sure you know your environment
  • Regularly analyse important data – find trends
    • However, don’t over analyse the data
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