Find the Ideal Final Result
What Is the IFR
The ideal final result (IFR) is one of the tools used during theproblem definitionphase of TRIZ (Theory of Inventive Problem Solving). It describes a solution to a problem free of any mechanisms or constraints from the original problem or issue. This is similar to “re-engineering” in the process management world, in which processes are “blown-up” and revamped. Think of it as an ideal end-state without any strings attached from the current issue we are facing.
The IFR is a solution to a well-defined problem with the benefits this result delivers. The IFR sets the stage for the continued use of TRIZ tools by focusing on well-defined problems with a clear visualization of the ideal result. The primary benefit of the IFR is its problem solving attributes. The IFR encourages “outside of the box thinking,” by removing real or perceived barriers, while offering alternate solution paths. The IFR does this by starting with perfection, disconnecting any limitations associated with current issues. This way of thinking allows for breakthrough solutions by discouraging settling for less than ideal solutions.
One principle of TRIZ, and a method of determining the progress toward, the IFR is the concept of ideality. Ideality is summarized by the equation:
Ideality =S Benefits / (S Costs –S Harm).
The key to IFR evolution is increasing benefits while decreasing costs and harm associated with the new design. The IFR attempts to reduce or eliminate the deficiencies of the old system while maintaining the advantages. The IFR does not make the new system more complicated nor does it introduce new challenges. When you evaluate the new system, check it against the equation to gauge progress in reaching the IFR.
IFR in Action
For example, consider the training of Black Belts (BBs) for Company Y’s (CY) Six Sigma program. Organizations want to get the maximum return on their investment, for both the short and long term. If CY focuses on the current process it has in place, it may come up with several ways to improve the training, but may distract from the IFR of highly capable BBs. By defining the IFR upfront, CY focuses its efforts on improving the capability of its BBs without the constraints of our current development process. Since only roughly 40 percent of people that attend training ever complete a DMAICproject, a focus on training may limit our ability to accomplish our ideal result of high-performing individuals who will maximize ROI in our BB projects.
How do you find the IFR? Start by defining the problem. Do you want to make a benefit better or are you trying to reduce or eliminate a negative effect? If the problem is costly, state the cost in terms of cycle time, rework, resources, materials, etc. Determine the gaps between where you are and the IFR. For each of the gaps, identify the root cause issues that are causing this gap. (Failure to identify root cause issues leads to acceptance of a less than ideal result or potentially a more difficult problem than the one you are currently facing.)
Let’s say CY’s IFR plans for 90 percent of all Black Belts completing three projects per year with hard savings of $250k per project. Current metrics show that 60 percent of CY’s BBs never complete a project and that the remaining 40 percent complete, on average, less than two projects per year. Using the IFR as the desired end-state, CY can disregard the current process of selecting, training and coaching potential BBs, and look directly at what it takes to achieve the ideal result. It may be the solution for the IFR calls for hiring or contracting qualified BBs to work with the successful 40 percent to get to the “ideal” result.
Taking this example one step further, it is clear that there is a distinct advantage to focusing on the IFR. If CY trains 100 BBs using the traditional approach, each costing $100,000 per year (fully-loaded rate), plus $2,500 in administration or training costs, the process costs an average of $11,000 per BB, or a total of $1.1 million investment in training. Add that to the project coaching by a more experienced BB or Master Black Belt (MBB) at an average of four hours per week. At a loaded rate of $125,000, a four month project will cost approximately $2,500 for each project. If only 40 percent of the 100 BBs complete an average of two projects per year at $250,000 in hard saves, CY gets a gross return on investment of $20 million, roughly netting $18.7 million.
Looking at the IFR, CY may decide to hire or contract qualified Black Belts. Using a loaded rate of $150k and an “ideal” result of 90 percent completing three projects per year, CY has a gross return on investment of $67.5 million, providing an approximate net return in excess of $50 million, rather than $18.7 million using the traditional problem solving approach. If you factor in the use of 40 percent of existing resources the return is much higher.
The Ideal Final Result encourages the use of breakthrough thinking by allowing you to visualize an ideal solution that leverages advantages of the current system while disregarding any deficiencies. Focusing on the IFR makes it unreasonable and unacceptable to settle for sub-optimal solutions.
Steve Phinney is a principal with SBM Professional Services. He has extensive experience in process management theories such as Lean, Six Sigma and Workout, as well as experience in Process Modeling and Simulation. He served as a military officer and worked at GE during their initial Six Sigma deployment. Phinney has provided process management services to clients such as Washington Mutual, HSBC, Bank of America, Northrop Grumman, Microsoft, The Six Sigma Academy and Smarter Solutions. Contact Steve Phinney at stevephinney (at) msn.com.