In the world of biopharm operations management (where I spend a lot of time), complexity is a daily reality. As processes evolve, technical complexity grows and regulatory demands tighten, the need for clear and effective methods to manage complexity can be the difference between success or failure in a project or initiative. Over the last decade, I have become a believer in the power of framework thinking and even a collector of sorts.

The journey started when I got my LEAN Six Sigma Green Belt back in my Novartis days. The problem solving frameworks we used there were useful, but to me the big idea was that we had a consistent "toolset" that everybody used across functions. As I began thinking of frameworks as tools in my collection I became somewhat obsessed with collecting more. I have some favorites (listed below) but first... why.

Why Frameworks?

Frameworks can be thought of as "tools" in idea form; they are the scaffolding that supports fast thinking and structured problem solving. They provide a way to leverage prior learning and apply consistent solutions across a myriad of problems.

They help drive:

  1. Clarity:
    Frameworks deconstruct large, intricate processes into smaller, manageable parts.
  2. Consistency:
    They ensure that everyone on the team is on the same page. When frameworks are in place, each team member understands the steps and follows them.
  3. Efficiency:
    With a predefined path, frameworks drastically reduce the time spent on decision-making and troubleshooting. This efficiency is invaluable in maintaining regulatory compliance and staying ahead in a competitive field.

Frameworks as Problem-Solving Tools

As I mentioned, you can think of frameworks as the tools in your problem solver garage. Just as a mechanic reaches for a wrench or a screwdriver, a skilled operations manager leverages frameworks to tighten efficiency and unscrew bottlenecks. These tools are not just about fixing what’s broken; they’re about ensuring everything runs smoothly to prevent issues before they arise.

Moving Forward with Frameworks

Embracing frameworks can transform how we perceive and approach problems. They aren’t just about handling current issues—they’re about foreseeing potential problems and mitigating them before they impact the workflow.

Frameworks are more than just a part of the toolkit in operations management—they are foundational to how effective operations are run. Whether you’re a seasoned professional or new to the field, understanding, identifying and utilizing frameworks is key to turning complex challenges into structured opportunities.

Here is a short list of my favorite frameworks that I use all of the time:

  • The NASA Pause and Learn (AAR) - My all time favorite... If this were a stock in a portfolio, it would be my "hidden gem" all time gain. Low effort organizational learning. Great to deconstruct unexpected success or failure to repeat or avoid an event.
  • Tiago Forte's PARA Framework - A simple way to manage a mountain of exponentially growing information.
  • Vicky Zhao's One Minute Communication Framework - break down wandering meetings and bring them back.
  • The Fishbone Diagram: Traditionally used for root cause analysis, but it can also be used for strategic planning in operations (make the head of the fish the outcome you WANT, then identify the contributors that need to be in place). I also use the model to evaluate biopharmaceutical manufacturing operations in the field for audit readiness... watch an operation and go through each "bone", ask questions and look for potential vulnerabilities.
  • The Habit Loop: A framework for thinking about the formation and deconstruction of habits. You can apply this to yourself or organizational culture.
  • Business Model Canvas: Visual business planning. I have used this inside of a large organization ( Juno Therapeutics early stage operations plan) as well as my own business GMP Kit.
  • Objectives and Key Results: I use this daily... What objectives am I driving and what results need to happen to achieve the vision. A great metaphor to understand OKR is that if you were driving in a car the OKR is your navigation system and you KPI is your dashboard (speed, RPM, etc.)
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