Introduction to Ray Dalio's Process Improvement Method:

Ray Dalio's Process Improvement Method

This Ray Dalio's Process Improvement Method template from Process Street is engineered to provide an actionable use case based upon Ray Dalio's book Principles

Ray Dalio is the founder of the world's largest hedge fund, Bridgewater Associates

Over 40 years, Bridgewater has grown from one man in a home office to servicing over $160 billion in assets for 350 of the world's largest organizations, from McDonald's to central banks. 

The way this empire was built up was through an unorthodox cultivation of company culture. In our post which asks the question "How does a hedge fund work?" we explore the relationship between processes and principles as outlined by Ray Dalio himself.

The three templates we've constructed to give actionable examples of the content of Dalio's book are:

Throughout this process, you will find each task - where relevant - is accompanied by a direct quote from the relevant section of the text. 

You can use the form fields throughout to record information which will be stored upon each run of the checklist in the template overview tab.

Record checklist details

Use this step to record the relevant details of the checklist for reference. 

Identify if there is a problem to diagnose

The first way to identify whether there is a problem to diagnose is to ask if things are happening as planned. Is the movie following the script?

Use the form fields below to record the expected results of the process and the actual results to demonstrate why this has been proposed for improvement.

"As in nature, if you can’t see what’s happening around you, you will deteriorate and eventually die off. People who can 1) perceive problems; 2) decide what to do about them; and 3) get these things done can be great managers. "

Record what the problem appears to be

Determine first what the problem might be. 

Is this an obvious problem with an obvious fix? Should the problem have been identified and fixed at the time by the person who identified it?

Is this a large or complex problem which other people missed? Should the person who identified it be praised for catching it?

"Ask yourself: 1) does someone think there’s something wrong; 2) did this lead to a proper discussion; and 3) if they felt raising the issue didn’t lead to the proper response, did they escalate it? That’s how it should be."

Record your notes below.

Insert yourself into the process

In order to truly tackle a problem it helps to be able to put yourself in the environment where the problem is taking place. 

If this can be achieved digitally by monitoring a CRM and sitting in on calls with customers or clients, then do so. If it requires taking a flight to a far away factory then do so provided the benefit is high enough.

"A good restaurateur constantly tastes the food that is coming out of his kitchen and judges it against his vision of what is excellent. A good manager needs to do the same."

Interview staff who use the process regularly

People in a company should be able to trust each other. 

At least, Ray Dalio holds strongly to that principle at Bridgewater. His concepts of Radical Truth and Radical Transparency are founded on the principle that people need to be able to be open and honest with those around them. 

This leads to improvements and leads to an organization which is willing to fix itself when it breaks. 

Use the form fields below to record interview details with three of the staff who are involved in the process regularly.

"If everyone in your area feels responsible for the well-being of that area and feels comfortable speaking up about problems, your risks of overlooking them will be much less than if you are the only one doing this. "

Use all tools available to improve the process

How you choose to analyze or fix a particular problem depends on the specifics of the issue. 

Ray Dalio's advice to those who are looking to improve a process to meet expectations is to utilize the tools available to you. Each one serves a specific purpose and can help you tackle a specific process problem.

Use the subchecklist below to identify tools you can employ to improve the process.

"The issues log acts like a water filter that catches garbage. By examining the garbage and determining where it came from, you can determine how to eliminate it at the source."

  • 1
    Issues log
  • 2
    Performance metrics
  • 3
    Evaluation metrics
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
    External consultants

Be direct when you address these problems

As part of Ray Dalio's broader principles of Radical Truth and Radical Transparency, personal responsibility must be taken. 

This includes times of praise and times of criticism.

"For example, don’t say “we” or “they” handled it badly. Also avoid: “We should...” or “We are...”Who is “we”? Exactly who should, who made a mistake, or who did a great job? Use specific names. Don’t undermine personal accountability with vagueness. When naming names, it’s also good to remind people of related principles like “mistakes are good if they result in learning"."

Find the root causes of problems

Root causes are not normally seen by one data point, but by trends connecting multiple points. Continually testing and monitoring will highlight these data points and reveal the trends.

If a root cause of a problem is left unchallenged then either the same problem or a related problem will arise in its place. 

Ask the questions in the checklist below to drill down into the root cause.

"Don’t deal with your problems as one-offs. They are outcomes produced by your machine, which consists of design and people. If the design is excellent and the people are excellent, the outcomes will be excellent (though not perfect). So when you have problems, your diagnosis should look at the design and the people to determine what failed you and why."

  • 1
    Ask the person who experienced the problem to describe it
  • 2
    Ask the manager if there is a person who can describe the whole machine, a person who is responsible for the machine's smooth operation
  • 3
    Ask the responsible person to give you a mental map of how the machine should have worked
  • 4
    Ask the responsible person to give you a map of what actually happened and where the problem occurred in relation to the map
  • 5
    Ask if the problem was the result of a poorly designed machine/process
  • 6
    Ask the people involved how they handled the issue and what they did in the event of a problem
  • 7
    Ask the people involved whether these outcomes and decisions are consistent with prior patterns
  • 8
    Ask the people involved how they believe the people, the machine, or the responsibilities should evolve in light of this problem

Responsibility for determining a long term solution is now left with yourself after having drilled down into the problem through these questions. 

Ray Dalio provides three questions for the process analyst to ask themselves. You can answer each in the form fields provided below:

The answers you provide to these three questions above will serve to be your action points for making sure long term action is appropriate and successful. 

Send your process improvement report

Use the form field and the email widget to send a report of your analysis to other relevant stakeholders in the process. 


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