Steve Sashihara on
The Optimization Edge
Main objective in writing
Optimization can be an intimidating word, at least for business executives. I wanted to explain in language they could understand—and that language begins with the kind of bottom-line results you can achieve—what Optimization is, what it uniquely adds to an organization’s decision-making capability, and how they can go about exploiting its potential.
The central question
How can executives improve their game using Optimization to make decisions? Since I write for an executive audience, my focus is on relating the experiences of a forward- thinking breed of executives who have begun to distance their companies from competitors by deploying Optimization to make complex judgments about the best way to deploy assets.
Biggest challenge facing executives who are considering acquiring Optimization capability:
For one, getting over Optimization fright—the notion that Optimization is too complicated and is strictly for software geeks. In fact, executives need not—and should not—immerse themselves in the technical details. A basic understanding of the principals of Optimization and the kinds of problems it can solve is what’s important. One other challenge: to convince senior executives that Optimization is not a substitute for their decision-making responsibilities, but a way for them to harness their judgment and experience, along with massive amounts of data, to make better decisions.
Most significant challenge in writing
Telling, accurately and fairly, the stories of both client and nonclient companies that appear in the book, such as Amazon, McDonald’s, SAS, UPS, and many others, was a challenge. And I promised myself not to have a single formula in the book—a commitment I almost lived up to. There is one easy-to-understand formula. I guess I just couldn’t resist temptation!
Greatest reward in helping clients to optimize?
You have to understand that Optimization is not merely a technology, but a set of principles and a way of thinking about the key issues of the business—the way assets are managed, the way problems get solved and decisions made, the way data is put to use, and the way human resources are deployed. There’s no greater reward than watching executives experience, for the first time, the lightning bolt of results that come from Optimization. But equally satisfying is watching the change in culture that takes place. Optimizing organizations put highest value on staking out the best solutions to strategic and operational challenges. No question, both these keep me going!