Tina Fey could be your consultant for your feasibility analysis.

Tina Fey has been referenced as using an activity that gets you in the mindset of creativity and invigorated imagination for improv. It has been referenced as Tina Fey’s Rules of Improvisation and is routinely referenced in the performance industry. Can Tina Fey’s approach work in manufacturing when conducting a feasibility analysis?

Commonly referred to as “Yes, And,” the way the activity works is that a group of individuals start with a simple sentence. The group has to build upon it while not disrupting the context and frame of anyone’s idea. One person may start by saying something like, “Castles in the mountains of eastern Europe fascinate me.” And another person responds by saying, “Yes, castles in eastern Europe fascinate me too, and I hope that I can visit one day.” Then the next person would say something like, “Yes, visiting them one day would be awesome, and maybe we can all do this trip together.” This continuous dance of saying Yes in support of someone else’s comment and then adding to it with an And invigorates the creativity and gets you to think outside of the box. “Tina Fey can help organizations conduct a feasibility analysis in manufacturing.” [pause] “Yes, Tina Fey can help organizations with a feasibility analysis in manufacturing, and it might just be the most fun way to do one too.”

Consider you and your team are tasked with looking to install a new piece of equipment, taking on a new customer, or trying to run an alternative production through your production systems. You would most likely be tasked or task others to conduct a feasibility analysis or a feasibility study to evaluate the plausibility of the idea against things like risk, cost, and capability. The process is not to just agree with the task assigned by saying yes, instead it is to objectively review the idea to evaluate its benefits against the capabilities and risks impacting the organization.

A feasibility study is an integral process in manufacturing to make sure a solution is viable to the problem or not. It makes sure the project is economically feasible so the business owner can be warned whether to pursue the project or not. - Intrepidsourcing

The problem is that many organizations struggle with this activity because they may not be in a mindset, in the beginning, to think creatively. Then when the decision is made to pursue the idea without a well-expanded feasibility analysis, the judgments start flooding in. The judgments could have been framed around, why didn’t you consider X? Or why did you not to Y when Z was going to be impacted? What happened during the feasibility analysis is that the improvisation was not flowing in the team at the onset. Instead, the rigidity of engineering didn’t have the colors nor the ability to think openly. These organizations are not designed to establish the foundational discussion to create an effective design of reliability of the system or process because we are not setting the stage of creativity leading into the feasibility analysis.

So imagine Tina Fey is your consultant helping a team consider a new product that a customer is requesting your organization to produce. You haven’t made this product before, and your processes require you to conduct a feasibility analysis. You are in a room with your production, procurement, sales, and reliability teams. Tina Fey has taught the process to the group and now has challenged them to apply it in the assigned scenario.

Sales - “We have a new product request from FavoriteCustomer.com. It will be denser than our previous products possibly impacting our production process and we have to keep surface defects below 100 PPM.”

Production - “Yes, we have demonstrated that we can run a product that is of this density with the surface defects requirements you are wanting, and we could consider trialing in the 3rd quarter.”

Reliability - “Yes, we could run it in the 3rd quarter, and we would need to get our surface inspection system upgrade before the end of the 2nd quarter.”

Procurement - “Yes, we could get our surface inspection system upgraded by the end of the 2nd quarter, and get a long-term contract with the vendor to guarantee its performance.”

Did you notice that if this conversation would have occurred in a typical meeting that was over-engineered or filled with naysayers, there probably could have been a few “No’s” inserted? Someone could have said, “No, we can’t do it in the 3rd quarter because our surface inspection system isn’t upgraded.” With this simple “No” on someone else's comment and the creativity could have just stopped. Tensions would start to rise, and mistakes could start happening. I imagine we have all been there and can relate.

The ingenuity and fluidness of the “Yes, And” model are that you are setting the stage to not stop the conversation. Instead, it’s an empowerment to expand the conversation. If the responder disagrees with the previous comment, they can insert the “If” to accompany a “Yes.” The applicability of the “Yes, And” model for a feasibility analysis becomes a “Yes, And” and a “Yes, If.” Consider the Reliability’s response again slightly changed to “Yes, we could run it in the 3rd quarter, if we can get our surface inspection system upgraded before the end of the 2nd quarter.” What we have now is what we want out of a feasibility analysis by identifying what we can and cannot do. And what we cannot do, we have identified how we could with the “If.”

Unfortunately, most feasibility analyses result in tension and the stimying of ideas. What you don’t want is The Office’s Michael Scott’s version of improv. You don’t want to shoot down ideas and stop the conversation. We must find ways to expand ideas into the corners of possibility and identify the risk.

This process applied to a feasibility analysis allows us to expand upon a “Yes” answer and openly include the risk associated with the discussion. We have is a platform that a “No” answer wouldn’t shut down an idea, but instead, expand into how we could do something “if” certain things were done.

In improv there are no mistakes, only beautiful happy accidents. And many of the world’s greatest discoveries have been by accident. I mean, look at the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, or Botox. - From Bossypants by Tina Fey,


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