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What is Change Management? The Rule of Three

March 6th, 2013 Comments off

Celebration

Great art can inspire change and drive us to action.  It can make you dream of something better or make you aware of your dissatisfaction with the status quo. The former makes your feelings soar.  The latter can bring pain.  Which do you believe drives us to action?  While I’d like to believe we act on visions of what could be, I think we’re more driven to immediate action by the feelings stirred in the dark painting.

When I reflect on that idea I remember reading how the opposite of satisfaction isn’t dissatisfaction but the lack of satisfaction.  Just because we’re not satisfied, we may not be willing to change right now.  We may in the long run. But maybe not right now.  Meanwhile, when we’re dissatisfied, we act.   Not being satisfied won’t drive new behavior simply because change is scary and painful.  So it’s not until the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of changing that we change.

I thought a lot about this lately because I had three consecutive discussions with new prospective clients about the subject of change.  In each case, the party with whom I was speaking wanted to talk about driving operational excellence. But what we were really discussing was change.  The three conversations were all very different organizations yet they had very common denominators.  So here were the three scenarios;

  1. A state university pushed to change by technology and funding pressure was described as being very resistant to change driven from outside its culture.  Yet they lack an acceptable and successful internal change model so they remain wrestling with how to proceed.
  2. A heavily regulated division of a large insurance company described itself as having little process discipline and is considering BPM software to lock down processes.
  3. A successful manufacturer that implemented Six Sigma using an outside party five to ten years ago saw few meaningful results and quit.  Now they look to restart but recognize how hard it will be to get everyone to buy in a second time.

Download WP about 10 Essential Do’s & Don’t’s to Driving Change with OpEx

In each case, I strongly advised against three things;

  1. Don’t emphasize form over substance.   You don’t have to sell a big change model, adopt a new software application or role out a headline OpEx initiative.  You just have to move some things forward and make some gains to win hearts and minds.  They’ll take it from there.
  2. Don’t superimpose an external set of rules such as a software program.  Everyone organization has successes internally.  Focus on those. Build on them.
  3. Recognize what may seem like dysfunctional behavior to you is probably quite normal.  Someone whose profession is to improve is often puzzled by those that don’t embrace it.    The problem is the subject never said they were dissatisfied.  While they may agree things could be better, they aren’t motivated to change.   That isn’t irrational.  We seek self actualization in the long run but in the short run we change when we are unhappy.

War

So what can we do at those three organizations to avoid the pitfalls and drive some much needed change?  We recommended the following actions;

  1. Celebrate your own successes.  But reverse engineer them so the success is replicable.  And improvement may have occurred through hard work but there were probably some unconscious best practices that can used as examples for the rest of the organization.  Advertise the success and highlight the best practices that can be replicated.
  2. Find who is dissatisfied and wants to change.  Don’t try to convince people to change with arguments of a better life.  Instead, find who is dissatisfied and willing to go through the pain of the change.  If you find someone with pain that isn’t acting, help them become aware of the level of pain.  If they begin to show signs of a willingness to change, start working with them.  If not, come back to them.  If it’s real long term, chronic pain, they’ll be ready one day.
  3. Let the organization pull what it needs rather than a centralized group pushing what they think is needed.  This isn’t to say a centralized group doesn’t know what is needed.  It very well may in which case it should make it available. But you dictate change.  You are better off giving them the ability to drive the change they see as needed.

The bottom line is that very different businesses have very common needs when it comes to change.  The core elements of change are universal.  I’ve tried to identify a couple of key “don’t do’s” and an equal number of “do’s.  Hopefully, these will help you avoid some potholes and accelerate success.  If you’d like to discuss, please contact me.

Alignment through Business Process Management

February 20th, 2013 Comments off

Strategic Alignment, Organizational AlignmentWhat do we enjoy about leisure activities?  A symphony’s crescendo.  A well executed touchdown.  A sunset from a summit.  We love the harmony.  But in business, there is also value.  Along with that feel good moment, alignment creates value.  It ensures the whole is worth more than the sum of the parts.  And the potential for alignment is in many directions.  We want to be aligned to customers, shareholders, employees and our communities.  But alignment only occurs through design.

In a phone conversation this week, someone asked me what BPM is.  To me it is the design of the alignment.  BPM isn’t the only discipline driving alignment.  In another conversation with a private equity sponsor, when asked about their upstream measures of alignment, I was quickly given financial metrics which if crossed triggered an action.  In such an advanced market economy, we have very refined measures for alignment to the requirements of capital.  And alignment with customers is the essence of Voice of the Customer.

Alignment and Balanced ScorecareSo where can the elements offered in SSQ’s business process alignment focus?  How do we contribute to an organization’s quest for value?  We focus on aligning processes vertically and horizontally using KPI metrics.

We introduce scorecards or dashboards as a way to monitor alignment vertically in an organization. The built-in ability of cascading scorecards, regardless of the number of hierarchies, depicts how the business rolls up from any perspectives.  While easily attained but it is readily understood and accepted.  It fits our view of organizations and compensation systems.

A greater challenge is achieving horizontal alignment.  Even though vertically defined functions and groups have a stake in a company’s outcomes, many times the overall company fails to optimize its potential because resources and information are “owned” by the vertical components. Thus, we create silos.  I am an optimist and believe people want to work together.  But I also believe in our quest for simplicity and accountability, we’ve failed to fully understand horizontal relationships and created incentive systems that drive people to work on their own.

So our implementation of BPM seeks to facilitate an organizations’ understanding of how a course of action adopted by one function impacts other functions. We seek to aid the company building a systems approach by giving the various vertical entities visibility into each other’s plans, resources and performance gaps based on internal and external customer requirements.

BPM Whitepaper – A Structured Approach to Delivering Value

We finally seek to redefine the KPI’s balancing the vertical requirements with the horizontal requirements to get the alignment in harmony.  By comparing those KPI’s with actual performance we help a company define the projects and activities that will close the gaps to the highest scorecard to ensure we also meet external alignment.

The BPM we introduce has many benefits.  It examines and aligns to scorecards.  In ensures financial and vertical measures are met by building the muscle tissue in the form of process definitions.  It focuses on KPIs, performance gaps and prioritized project lists.  But it is unique in its facilitation of an understanding and acceptance of horizontal alignment and thus takes organizations a step closer to its optimal value creation.

So in answer to the question for a definition of BPM, I say the essense is alignment.  And in answer to what we bring different than any other focus, we feel we facilitate overcoming horizontal barriers to value creation.  If you’d like to discuss these concepts and how we can help your organization, contact me.

Strategy, Execution and Operational Excellence

February 17th, 2013 2 comments

Hmm…something’s wrong

What is a strategy?  Where do you separate strategy from execution?  What value does Operational Excellence offer?  Why does any of this matter?

Quite simply, strategy is a decision about who you wish to serve, how you wish to serve them so as to deliver value and what capabilities are needed to succeed.   Answering these questions provides the guidelines by which to allocate resources.

On the other hand, execution takes your strategic decisions and converts them into a vision, mission and operational plans.  If you’re a regular reader of our blog, you’ll know we connect operational plans from each functional area to improvement projects by using core value streams.  Identified performance gaps in the value streams are the building blocks of an Operational Excellence effort.

Why are these distinctions important?  Describing vision, mission, operational plans and operational excellence activities as strategies confuses the journey with the destination.   That mistake ensures you’ll never arrive anywhere.   It also strips away the value of helping a client choose the means by which to execute a strategy.  Putting the cart ahead of the horse, yields both a useless cart and useless horse.

I tell prospects, clients and partners; we’re here to help execute on strategies but we assume those strategies are in place.  One of our value propositions to our clients is that we will develop a governance map from a top level scorecard at the highest point to the deepest sub-processes at which improvement opportunities reside.  There we specify business improvement cases and projects.  However, we expect the client to choose and weight the criteria by which to prioritize the projects for execution so we can allocate resources such as budget and personnel.

It is the choosing and weighting of criteria for project ranking that tells me if a company has a clear strategy.  As previously stated, a strategy specifies what customers a company wishes to serve, how it wishes to serve them to deliver value and what capabilities are needed.  These decisions provide the guidelines by which to allocate resources.  When a company has a very difficult time ranking and rating projects, much less being consistent over time, it is clear they don’t have a clear strategy that is understood by everyone.

Systematically Driving Value with OpEx

When a company doesn’t have a clear strategy, improvement initiatives run into common problems.  The company develops a long list of projects but they are all equally critical.  People work on many projects spending a little time on each and never getting any of them done.

If you’d like to discuss, feel free to contact me

Leadership Steps in Creating a Customer-Driven Process Enterprise

February 13th, 2013 2 comments

Everyone in an organization has a responsibility and something to contribute to Process Management.  Executives, Process Owners and Process Team Members all have a role to play to create a Customer-Driven Process Enterprise.  But leadership’s role is the most impactful in truly achieving the end state.

Leaders need to have a map in their mind and understand their vital role.  They should know the foundation they can lay, the steps along the way and how to identify when they have arrived.  But first and foremost, they must understand what they can do as individuals and buy into those actions.

Download BPM Overview PresentationOur BPM Overview Presentation.

So what personal role must leadership take to create a customer-driven process enterprise?  We believe those steps are as follows:

  • Demonstrate commitment.
    • Stake your own reputation to the transition
    • Commit to the goals in public
    • Adjust reward and recognition programs
  • Commit the required resources
    • Fund in full the up-front investments to get started
    • Dedicate excellent people to the effort
  • Demand participation and engagement
    • Stay personally engaged throughout the process
  • Be passionate about change
    • Talk about it to everybody and get them emotionally engaged

If a leader can’t buy into those steps, don’t go any farther. But if they see the risk worth the reward, they should first focus on building a foundation in the organization which ensures success.  So here are the prerequisites for transitioning to a customer driven process enterprise.

  • Bring all initiatives together under the umbrella of business process management
  • Communicate the seriousness of the need for a customer-driven process enterprise
  • Determine an implementation plan for becoming a customer-driven process enterprise

With a foundation in place, how do you get from point A to point B?  Here are the phases of the process and what you have to do at each step along the way –

  • Stage 1 – Establish.  Set a Vision, Mission and the elements of a balanced scorecard.
  • Stage 2 – Deploy. Identify Key Business Processes and their Process Metrics.
  • Stage 3 – Implement. Provide Process Owners and Team Members the support to establish a management system which measures actual results, gaps to the desired state and actions by which to improve.
  • Stage 4 – Review.  Evaluate and tie performance evaluation and rewards to how the management system operates.

Download BPM Scorecards executive briefDownload our new executive brief discussing scorecards as part of BPM.

Often, you work so hard at something that it is difficult to know when you’ve realized your goal.  Keep in mind the goal isn’t simply achieving the numbers established for process metrics.  The goal is a cultural shift that orients the company to the customer using processes.  So how do you know when you’ve arrived.  When all is said and done, you’ll know you are there when you see the following –

  • More focus on processes than on functions
  • Employees know and accept process goals
  • Everybody understands how the processes are performing
  • Processes are measured objectively and frequently

So if you are a leader in an organization, or working closely with one, think about whether you exhibit those last four bullet points today.  And if your organization doesn’t, ask whether you need to before one of your competitors does.  If the answers tell you to start changing, feel free to contact me to begin your efforts.  In the meantime, if you want more information, see the complimentary downloads featured in this article.  Upon download, we’ll follow up to offer a complimentary copy of our two day course “Establishing the Strategic Vision” which gets into much deeper reviews of all my points above.

Productivity – The Coming Golden Age of Continuous Improvement

February 10th, 2013 Comments off

A Drive for Productivity

Last week I wrote a post entitled Value Creation for Private Investors that went largely ignored as it was one of my lowest viewed posts of the new year for a Monday when most of you tune in.  The idea about which I wrote was a revelation to me but it was still nascent at the time and thus very undeveloped and weakly presented. But it gnawed at me and so it kept turning in my head.  And now it pops out again this week hopefully a bit more developed.  The idea is the transition we are making from creating the illusion of wealth with financial engineering to needing to truly drive wealth with productivity gains which will make for a golden age in Operations and Operational Excellence.

As a nation, we will flourish based upon our ability to drive productivity.  You see wealth, as measured by GDP, during the majority of our lifetimes has been driven by population growth.  But as our population growth slows, wealth will only be created by increased productivity.  This transition has been hidden from us for some time by the illusion of wealth creation brought about by high capital liquidity and inappropriately priced risk which eventually lead to the bursting of a financial bubble.  But with risk being more appropriately priced, the illusion is gone and we are now faced with long term slow growth and the only way to stoke it is with increased productivity.

To drive the growth in productivity, I wish to cite a recent blog post by GE’s Jeffrey Immelt a portion of which read as follows;

There are four new drivers of productivity, and success in each depends on the technology and talent we develop. The first is how the sheer volume and increased access to shale gas in regions around the globe is changing the energy debate and the balance of energy power. It would require real infrastructure and pipeline integration between Canada, Mexico and the U.S., but North America could achieve energy independence within 10 years. The second driver for dramatically increased productivity is applying the lessons of social media to the industrial world and building what we call the Industrial Internet. By owning and connecting the analytical layers around industrial products – and using real time data to extract real timeknowledge – we can improve asset performance and drive efficiency. The third driver is speed and simplification because the only way to serve our customers better and compete in a complex world is by working faster and smarter. The last productivity driver, and related to the other three, is the evolution of advanced manufacturing. Manufacturing excellence, forgotten for too long, is once again a competitive advantage.

Drive Value with OpEx

Now when you look at this argument about from where we will get the productivity growth, a problem jumps out.  Namely, we have to generate non-population related productivity gains with a population that isn’t geared to Immelt’s productivity drivers.  Our younger citizens certainly are better aligned and skilled but as population growth slows, they will be the minority.

So guess what — the knowledge of how to improve services, products and processes is really valuable.  Now I’m not talking about how to write a project charter or write up a SIPOC.  I’m talking about revolutionizing energy with process innovation in the extraction of natural gas, the development of the cloud so we can jettison underutilized servers from expensive IT budgets and citizen publishing of information so knowledge flows freely and into every nook and cranny of the population instantaneously.  Imagine – those have all happened in the last five years.  Those are the types of improvements that transform an economy.  But there is plenty of room between a project to save an AP process two days and reinventing the extraction of fossil fuels.  And every time a new industry is targeted, all the operating processes below the top level change will also be looking to improve.

Can you imagine where these big seismic changes will happen next?  How about redesigning education so everyone has access to knowledge inexpensively?  Or health care where we can all see an insanely low level of simple IT tools that if applied would eliminate gobs of waste.  Or all levels of government where we have constantly rising costs with little measureable gains in services.  These trends will continue.  They must continue or we, as a nation, will slowly lose our global relative wealth.  And I just don’t think Americans are ready for that.  But the changes will be disruptive.

In the race to drive wealth through productivity gains, we will see the greatest impact in processes and services simply because they are the largest percentages of the economy.  I’ve already named drilling services, the cloud, newspapers & magazine publishing, health care and education as service companies which either have gone through or are poised to go through significant redesign. What of the process side?

Systematically Driving Value with OpEx

Well I think we are going to see work get reinvented.  My former colleague at Qualtec, Mitch Lawrie, is working on software to focus management on results versus activities and my recent blog on the subject drew significant attention from many of you.  We have worked with several clients in financial services, telecom and transportation which are redesigning long accepted processes to drive greater than 50% reductions in key process cycle times by making them leaner, reducing complexity and capturing information better as well as analyzing it for knowledge.

To return to my original post, my “aha” moment was that I was at a private equity conference where investors of all sizes where lamenting they could no longer make easy money.  That easy money was driven by a combination of capital liquidity, high tolerance for risk and poor quantification of that risk.  It was a recipe for a bubble.  If you bought an asset, held it and sold it before the bubble burst, you made money.  If it was levered, you made a lot of it. The funny thing is that private corporate investors weren’t the only players at the casino. We were all there with real estate and stock portfolios.

But that is gone now.  And as we look into a new environment, we realize we are facing the longer term challenge of slowing population growth and an aging population that isn’t skilled at what is needed to drive the sort of productivity gains needed to maintain historic wealth creation.  To create wealth as a country, we now have to earn it the hard way.  And since there are only so many hours available in the work force, it means we have to work smarter.

And a clearer definition of that “aha” moment brings me to the message in this post.  We figure out ways to work smarter – whether it is a fifth level sub-process or an entire industry.  The result is that we are entering a golden age for people focused and skilled at how to work smarter.   We have the opportunity to make great contributions to our economy.  I urge you all to THINK BIG.  If you’d like to discuss, feel free to contact me.

Let Your Business Define Your Improvement Program

February 7th, 2013 Comments off

Old Six Sigma Training ModelI remember all too well when companies would be told they needed to “be a Six Sigma company” and to do so they had to subscribe to a formula requiring strict percentages of their employee population be trained as Master Black Belts, Black Belts, Green Belts and Yellow Belts.  In addition, the definitions of the knowledge those people required was equally strictly enforced.  Companies were told achieving these goals would make them a Six Sigma company and being a Six Sigma company would make them successful with their customers and shareholders.

Anyone that lived through the last 15 years of evolution in the field of Operational Excellence can recognize the folly of this prescription.  With the benefit of hindsight, it is obvious the program can’t dictate to the business.  And in all honesty, I don’t wish to pick on any singular subject area.  We’ve seen the same sin from many other philosophies and disciplines.  In the excitement generated by a successful new tool or compilation of tools, we tend to pursue the expertise ahead of resolution of our problems.

As we enter a new business cycle, let’s bring all our knowledge together and recalibrate how we choose to apply it by putting the problem or portfolio of problems first.  To avoid having a snazzy tool take over what we do each day, we recommend the following path;

  • Understand where you want to go.
  • Understand where you are…which has two aspects; (i) your level of performance and (ii) your ability to improve performance
  • Let the comparison between where you want to go and where you are currently performing define what you need to accomplish
  • Let the comparison between what you need to accomplish and your ability to improve dictate what new capability you need to acquire.

Download our BPM Overview Presentation

 Our BPM Overview Presentation.

When you are finished outlining the steps above, you will see something quite different than formulaic curriculum and percentages of your population to be trained.  In fact, the solution will not appear simple or fast.  And therefore it will not be as appealing as the aforementioned formula or any other formula from the array of philosophies available in the profession.  The plan that emerges is a function of applying a series of decision rules more than simply measuring the ingredients of a recipe.

But think about the obvious logic of the outcome.  Your business isn’t simple.  If it were, everyone would do it.  If your business isn’t simple, how can a solution to your challenges be simple.  The complexity of the solution will match the complexity of the problem.

Pull-based Capability and TrainingSo how and where do you start?  How do you bring order to the chaos?  The answer lies in the definition of your projects, the identification of their root causes and in grouping them together by root cause so as to build a roadmap forward.  The complexity is in the selection and prioritization of projects. The simplification comes in executing on the projects.

I spoke to an executive at a company yesterday that described the old process as creating angst.   The word itself gives you heartburn.  When I asked him what gave rise to the angst, he responded that the discipline had been forced fit.  What can you say to such powerful words as those?

If those are the feelings the prior model drove, what do we strive for today?  We strive to “PULL” the required knowledge.  We believe anyone pursuing the path above should one day describe it using words such as choice and flexible.  The emotion we hope to see at the end is relief.  That is the new paradigm.

If participants should one day replace the words “Forced Fit” with “Choice” and “Flexibility” and the word “Angst” with “Relief”, what should we see at a business level?  Well, here are some key results that should be witnessed.

  • Faster returns.  While the long path is more complex, the milestones become simpler so measured returns should be faster. The simple formula of ten years ago is monolithic and so the returns can’t be measured for a long time.  In fact, the fallacy of the monolithic argument is partly hidden by the time spectrum as you are asked not to measure for months if not years.   (A key aspect of this is discussed in our recent article “Pay as you Go”).  Armada v. Drake's English fleet.
  • Organizational Traction.  Creating a ladder of success ensures Organizational Traction by producing “wins” and establishing a foundation of knowledge and capability to tackle tougher problems.  So many Performance Improvement strategies talk about resolving the big chronic problems.  But pursuing them right from the beginning is fraught with risk. And pursuing resolution to smaller problems with the tools you need to solve big problems takes too much time and effort which is wasteful for individuals and the organization.
  • Alignment.  If you adopt a Pull strategy, you can’t help but be aligned.  Your business defines your problems which in turn define your program.  As a result, your activities are ensured to be aligned to your business.  Leadership needs to see resources dedicated to the problems they are trying to resolve.  We are all living in an environment where we must do more with less.  There is no room for unaligned activities.  Pursuing a philosophy for its own sake is a luxury no company can afford.

We see this happening every day now.  Listening to the organization and being flexible produces more of the right gains faster than talking to the organization and forcing it to fit a prescription.  Individuals get more involved with something that produces relief instead of creating angst.  Pull is significantly more effective than Push.  Let the business needs and ability define the improvement program.

Contact me if you'd like to discuss this in more detail.

10 Elements of Continuous Improvement Infrastructure

January 31st, 2013 2 comments

The dramatic changes of the Great Recession have left many starting over.  Continuous Improvement programs are being rebuilt, reconstituted and revitalized.  The people, knowledge and leadership are critical elements but an important lesson we learned over the last 15 years of helping our clients is that the success of a Continuous Improvement program is highly dependent on its infrastructure.   So whether you are staring over or just starting, very early in the deployment, you must implement the following:

  1. Launch Planning; Establish the schedules and activity tracking/reporting techniques
  2. Human Resource Guidelines; Establish competency models and participant selection, position and role descriptions, compensation, reporting relationships, career planning.
  3. Communication Plan; Create an overall message for the implementation.  Provide clear reason why the adoption of the program makes business sense by explaining how it aligns to the Company’s strategic vision and each individual’s success.
  4. Financial Guidelines and Responsibilities; Agree upon financial definitions, project forecasting requirements, methods of evaluation, realization tracking and reporting process. Agree how the financial arm of the organization will be involved.
  5. Project Selection and Prioritization Guidelines; Recognize and define criteria, project type categorizations, problem statement and objective criteria, targeted savings values, approval process, completion requirements that collectively are to be used to rank and rate projects.
  6. Establish a Project Pipeline; Go beyond selection, ranking and rating criteria to outline how ideas for new projects will be gathered, converted to projects, ranked, rated and assigned.  A pipeline of worthwhile projects is imperative to maintaining a program’s momentum.
  7. Project Tracking and Reporting; Organize report requirements, systems and initial reports.
  8. Information Technology Support; Software installations, computer needs, Intranet development, databases for final reports.
  9. Management Review; Ensure constant measurement, feedback, and reporting on key deployment metrics to all stakeholders to ensure deployment objectives are met.
  10. Commence and Maintain Executive Training; Whether you want to think of it as part of infrastructure or as a separate item for organizations that are ready, upfront executive training is imperative.  You can’t allow the CI program to be something to which leaders aren’t aware, engaged and committed.  The training should go beyond “overview” training.  It should layout executive’s responsibilities and how they are to engage.  It should also explain what benefits the executives will accrue – what is in it for them.  Make sure the training emphasizes the benefits of aligning improvement activities to their business goals – the things that really matter to the business.

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 our latest executive brief, 10 Essential Do’s and Don’ts for a Six Sigma Deployment

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To date, we have discussed many things important to a CI initiative from good knowledge transfer methodology to project alignment.  But to attain real long term success, make sure you have a good infrastructure.  Think of it like the barrel of a gun.  It will ensure the program takes a straight line to its target.  If you would like to discuss how to build your infrastructure and ensure your program’s success, contact me.

VOC to Process Improvement to Innovation – The Round Trip

January 15th, 2013 Comments off

Roundtrip to Innovation

I’ve written dozens of articles about VOC, Process Improvement and Innovation on this blog.  Most have dealt with those subjects in isolation.  A few have related them to each other.   Really, I should have been discussing the entirety of the system more for the development of each is limited without the development of all.

This became apparent to me when I found a blog post where a portion of the post tied the three together so well I felt compelled to share it with you.  Specifically, it is written by Bradley (Woody) Bendle and it is posted on www.bx.businessweek.com.  The link to the specific post is as follows:

http://bx.businessweek.com/voice-of-the-customer/view?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.innovationexcellence.com%2Fblog%2F2012%2F09%2F17%2Fyour-consumers-are-valuable-not-fickle%2F

The blog post is entitled “Your Customers are Valuable – Not Fickle!” back in September 2012 and the portion that really hit me is shown below –

The great recession has profoundly changed the consumer, and it is highly unlikely that they will return to the behaviors and patterns of yesteryear. Many experts feel there is now a “new consumer normal” that is very different from what we had experienced in the past. In a recent Forbes.com article, Pam Goodfellow from BigInsight asserts that “the clear turning post for consumer behavior during the last decade came with the ‘Great Recession.’ Shoppers went from ‘spend now, worry later’ to an ‘abort spending, worry, worry, worry’ mindset.” The folks from the Future’s Company additionally provide their own perspective about this era of the new normal. “Consumers everywhere … are working from a new orientation about what they want and how they buy… [They] are now battle hardened, having found ways to survive and even thrive on the new opportunities a more competitive market has yielded.”

I think nearly all of us can relate to this “new normal” consumer mindset on some personal level. Who hasn’t had to make adjustments in their consumption over the past several years? If so many of us have had to make our own (sometimes pretty significant) adjustments, why aren’t we seeing more significant changes in how many existing businesses go to market?

There are a number of great books that provide valuable insightful about this phenomenon (e.g., Leading The Revolution by Gary Hamel, The Reinventors by Jason Jennings, Brand Relevance by David Aaker and Ten Rules for Strategic Innovators by Govindarajan and Trimble) to name a few that I highly recommend. And while these books address a range of topics with fabulous expertise, you can essentially boil their key underlying insights to the following two things.

1) Deeply understand you customer’s needs, and
2) Continually innovate.

We all need to face the fact that success is no longer guaranteed for those simply committed to “getting better” at what they know how to do. Twenty and thirty years ago, process improvement and cost containment could make one a titan within their industry. Those days are pretty much gone for good; much in the same way that today’s consumer will never be the same as yesterday’s consumer. 

A PowerPoint framework for a VOC maturity model

I just want to emphasize that VOC, Process Improvement and Innovation are intricately linked. They are not separate topics.  They aren’t implemented without thought to the other two.  You can’t get customers to give you their preferences and work with you on iterations of a product or service if they don’t see value in what you do for them.  You can’t have that sort of relationship if your processes aren’t delivering on your stated promises. And without the trust built by meeting those current promises, you can’t innovate new products and services as they will never be accepted.  VOC, Process Improvement and Innovation. They are the Trifecta.  Contact me if you wish to discuss this post.

Drive Results by Managing Outcomes through Networked Teams

January 8th, 2013 Comments off

The field of Operational Excellence, including Six Sigma Qualtec, has often laid out the case that you drive improvement by properly chartering projects aimed at performance gaps. The performance gaps are chosen by looking at enterprise level value streams’ ability to meet critical requirements laid out by various voices important to the organization. The challenge is often to overcome functional silos. Cross functional teams are formed to overcome that challenge. To progress, the conflict which must be resolved is often resolving the white space between functional responsibilities.

But there is a third axis. What if instead of trying to reconcile the differences between value streams and functional areas, the real challenge was to marshal the energies of existing networks of personnel.

The concept of organizational networks has grown by leaps and bounds. It has happened for a variety of reasons. Our general understanding, and probably more importantly our level of comfort, with our lives being dependent on networks has probably been one of the most important reasons. On a personal level, we manage a networked life with Facebook. Professionally, we do the same with LinkedIn. Organizationally, we’ve increasingly dealt with the concept as we outsource more shared services, expand and contract supply chains, use more contractors and manage activities with cloud based solutions. We live and manage networks.

How then does the concept of networks impact our ability to improve processes? Well, they are as important to understand as value streams, processes and functional areas. And in many ways, it is networks that get projects and initiatives successfully completed as much, if not more so, than functional areas. The challenge therefore isn’t to build a project team cross-functionally but to do so with the right support of critical networks.

A basic view of BPM and a three step approach to implementation.

Networks aren’t invisible as much as they aren’t tracked. They can be identified with organizational network analysis. I suggest you look at the work done by Rob Cross, a faculty member the McIntire School of Commerce at the University of Virginia to see the basic elements of identifying networks in your organization.

Once you understand your networks and they touch critical improvement projects, we suggest managing desired outcomes by holding elements of the network accountable for milestones. Naming and using cross-functional teams can still be effective if the people chosen from the various functional areas are well connected within the critical networks.

I may be tossing out some ideas that might seem to muddy the waters. Do we really need to introduce one more axis into how we successfully execute projects? We know these networks exist. We know processes produce outcomes and people reside in functional areas. We know to

fix problems we must execute projects within processes that cut across functions. And to execute the projects we must have cross functional teams. But to ignore that networks get things done simply because they are messy or not shown on an organizational chart isn’t a good way to go. We need to tap into the networks to get projects done. Ensure team members are well networked and then manage the outcomes of the network through those individuals. Recognize and leverage how things get done.

If you wish to discuss these points, feel free to contact me.

Why Change Fails in Performance Improvement…

January 3rd, 2013 5 comments

Be the Change

Whether it is a new year, the passing of another birthday or a lecture from your doctor at your annual physical, you have made yourself a new set of promises to change.  You check the many yellow sticky pad slips around your desk and see many of the same items on prior lists.  Why didn’t they happen last time and why will they happen this time? Frankly, having a list and the motivation isn’t enough.  You need a path.

Organizations aren’t that different.  Change is difficult and it’s nearly impossible without a proven way to change.  And most companies don’t have it.  In fact, in a 2006 McKinsey study of companies which had embarked on major initiatives over the prior ten years ranging from Operational Excellence to acquisitions, McKinsey found the majority proved to have a negative return on investment.  McKinsey pointed to the following top three deficiencies in companies that failed to successfully drive a positive ROI on an initiative;

  1. Lack of Commitment and Follow Through by Top Executives
  2. Defective Project Management Skills Among Middle Managers
  3. Lack of Training and Confusion Among Frontline Employees

Before accepting these conclusions, I took a look further back in available literature for similar studies.  Part of my reason was to validate the McKinsey findings but part was also to see if there had been a change in causes.  My search yielded a 1996 study by Coopers & Lybrand, now PricewaterhouseCoopers, which cited the following top three causes of failure and evidence of success;

 

Needless to say, the Coopers’ study, done ten years earlier, seems to point to the same causes – committed leadership and skilled, involved middle managers and frontline employees.  Presumably commitment means a willingness to take on the politics of functional boundaries.  The saddest part of my finding these studies is that the failings from the time period leading up to the Coopers’ study don’t seem to have caused any sort of change in behavior over the next ten years – but  that is an issue to discuss at another time.

The interesting point in the McKinsey study is that success is defined and the reason for failure is refined.  And that starts to lead the thinking for a solution.  Specifically, the McKinsey study defines success as a positive ROI.  Frankly, this is a pretty low hurdle since it doesn’t get into any weighted cost of capital hurdle rates.  Imagine college with a simple pass/fail. But I have to admit that if 80% of the students were failing, starting with a P/F system is a step forward.

Obviously, an ROI calculation is mathematical so while you can argue things like whether soft costs should be included and how they should be valued, you at least have a framework for discussion.  You can begin to theorize whether the implementation costs are too high, the results too low or the time to achieve too long.  And depending on the cause, you can begin to implement some solutions.

At this point, I admit I’m leaving actual research and relying on some common sense and experience for the final part of the discussion where we look to a solution.  First, I posit that the decision to move forward and the execution of a project are often two separate events.  If an initiative fails to meet anticipated gains, the error is often in the original assumptions supporting the decision.  That is quite different from the costs and time where some of the most significant problems arise in the execution.

What does this mean?  Well assuming Operational Excellence program are producing negative returns like other corporate initiatives, how do we construct Change Management models that better address causes of failure such as the lack of a committed leadership and skilled, involved managers and front-line personnel? And keep in mind, the commitment, skills and involvement we are discussing here aren’t process improvement skills (i.e. belt training).  We are talking about change skills.  Interestingly, Deming spoke of the importance of these issues well before today’s Operational Excellence programs.

If you wish to discuss Change Management models that address the aforementioned challenges, feel free to contact me.