Some time ago while training for a cycling race I was riding with a friend on a trail in the southern part of California. My energy began to fade as I was approaching hypoglycemia. I quickly pulled out my meter tested and to my surprise my blood sugar had plummeted to 38 mg/dl. For those of you who may not know, that is dangerous. We pulled to the side and went in a donut shop to get some more sugar. When my sugar got back to normal and we had turned back, my teammate made a statement that has stuck with me for a while, he said; "You may know your body, but if you don't assess things before you start you could end up never finishing."
So, why is an assessment of such great importance? Unless you are the perfect leader, follower or employee we never know absolutely everything that is going on in our plants, offices, or facilities. Like my trouble on the bike trail I could have avoided the sudden plummet in sugar by having regular check-ups and frequently monitoring the situation. Our organizations are no different; they require "check-ups" or "assessments" to diagnose how the health of the organization is doing. Along with those assessments frequent audits can be performed to monitor and maintain the improving health of your organization.
One of the most important elements to an effective assessment is just what it actually generates. In my case my doctor's assessment following that "low blood sugar ride" told me I needed to both test my sugar more often and carry sugar with me. Your company assessment will prompt a few things but the focus should be on generating actions that either "get you back on track" or deploy something completely new into your organization. If the assessment does not yield any of those things all the interviews, data and power point slides in the world could not be value-added (remeber transformation must occur).
In closing, getting started on "the lean ride" can yield many positive benefits which include; better control of assets, increased throughput, improved quality and an environment that everyone loves to work in. These benefits can appear rather enticing and motivational, however without the proper health assessment to start off, your new journey may leave you searching for sugar to keep the journey alive. In short take the time to assess and re-assess, you will find that the new knowledge gained and better understanding of the current condition will help you re-start or deploy initiatives that have a much better chance of making it across the finish line, if there is one.