What Is Analysis?

Do you think?  

If you think, then you perform analysis.  You analyze things, situations, people, data, information, all sorts of things to make decisions.  Analysis is a form of thinking, a detailed examination of something so that you can understand it.  Analysis is a fundamental part of thinking.

Can you draw?  

I am sure that you can draw – even if it is just stick figures and simple shapes.  We all can draw.  We draw to show the carpenter how we want the window to look or draw charts to show our boss how something works.  

Do you draw well?  If I asked you to draw a picture of your spouse, youngest child, or your favorite car, what would it look like?  Could you draw well enough that somebody else could look at it and recognize the subject of the drawing?

Me neither.

We admire people who can draw, sketch and paint things that are pleasing to the eye.  We call them artists, a skill mixed with a talent.  Part of the package is teachable; another part depends on talent, and a big part on patience and drive.  We call people who are good at the art of drawing artists.  While we are all capable of drawing, not all of us are artists.

The same holds true with analysis.  Not all of us are good at it.  Just because we are capable of analysis means that we are good at it.  In fact, I argue that most people don’t put in the effort to be good.  We all are capable of analysis, but few are really analysts.

I believe that analysis is an art.  Like drawing, or painting, we can practice on our own and maybe develop the skills to be ok.  With training we can get better.  Unlike drawing or painting, I think that all of us, with enough training and practice, can be fair analysts.  However, like drawing and painting, when someone has a talent for analysis, they become masters of the art.

This whole section of WATP focuses on Analysis.  Our mission is to provide our readers a chance to see the work of others, to explain the art of analysis in a way that you have some training to leverage.  Just reading and watching the material is not enough to become good, you must apply what you read and see, you must practice, because it is only through practice that you can master the skill.

I am an analyst.  For most of my life, I asked questions to understand the world around me.  Naturally curious about how things work, as a kid I pestered adults to tell me what they were doing, and why.  I pestered repairman, carpenters, telephone linemen, firemen, police officers, it did not matter, I asked questions.  I watched what they did, building my observational skills.  I took things apart and put them back together again to understand how they worked; sometimes getting them back together and working the first time.  I learned how to use tools, like spreadsheets and databases to study data.  I learned math to help make the data understandable.  I studied physics, accounting, psychology and history, all so I could understand the world and the interrelationships.      

Am I a master analyst?  Perhaps I am.  I know that many of my clients think that I am.

Can you learn to be a better analyst from me?  Perhaps you can.  That is the mission of this section of the Practitioners site.  This is a work in progress as we add more content about the art of analysis.  Read the articles, study the models, take the tests and quizzes.  We will continue to add more content here every week.

Don’t be shy.  Let us know if you have questions.  Tell us what you want.

I make you this one promise.  You are going to think.

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Lessons & Stories

How do you create knowledge?

We think the best lessons come from experience.  You can take what you know and apply it to the problem to see if your solution works.  Your solution may work or it may not work. If it works the first time you really don't have a chance to learn anything because you don't know what was critical to the success.  But if the solution fails you have something to work with, something that gives you a clue what needs improvement. 

You can gain knowledge on your own making mistakes.  You can learn for observing others as they make mistakes.  You can learn from the stories that other tell about their successes and failures.  Building knowledge requires all three.  So we present Both Lessons and Stories.  

The lessons let you gather information about the subject, lessons that you can put to use and see how they work in your environment, to fail and learn with.  

The stories build in the mistakes and discoveries of other practitioners.  The stories, telling memorable tails, allow you to better understand the thinking process of the story teller, the fears, concerns, joys they encountered in their work. 

Starting from a conversation in an airport bar, the analysis behind this series about Natural Gas as a Motor Fuel changed the direction of a company.

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"We supply chain managers maintain and feed a conceit that we understand and employ systems thinking in the execution of our duties."

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My first major corporate assignment focused on the location of a lumber reload distribution center.  The premise was simple, rail cars of lumber ...

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Cost models are a special kind of analysis.  You are attempting to determine an approximation of what something costs to make or do.  What makes the effort ...

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Business people talk about the conjoined twins of Strategy and Tactics with little understanding of what they are.  Most models stack the two, with Strategy superior to Tactics.  That is wrong.

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For the past five decades we’ve witnessed the geometric growth of computing power, and the associated geometric reduction in cost.

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I am often surprised how many supply chain managers don’t understand accounting fundamentals. In the 1980’s & 1990’s graduating with a ....

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In January of 1984, I reentered college to earn my Industrial Management degree. This was the year in which George Orwell’s book was set, but thankfully, real life did not turn out to be so dark.

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Petroleum Supply Chains

Vital to any supply chain, the Petroleum Industry has it's own unique supply chain.  Understanding the constraints in the delivery chain defines the costs...

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“You can’t manage if you don’t measure.”

I remember that statement from one of my very first classes on management and supervision.

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