A Triager’s Success Story — Jessica Ross, Kansas Department of Motor Vehicles

I live for this.  It wags my tail (in dog-speak)! It pops my buttons (in proud parent-speak)!

I have the unique and humbling pleasure to facilitate Process Triage workshops.  The participants in these workshops are the best-and-brightest, cadre-grade producers and expert doers of their organizations. Our triage facilitators face literally a parade of outstanding front-line leaders and technical experts by the nature of our business model.

So it’s a statistical probability then, that some triagers are outliers — truly over-the-top amazingly competent and insightful professionals with obviously great potential.  For example, when a triager sings perfect-pitch executive or process manager notes, we know they’ll run the organization someday, if their current leaders are paying attention.  If fact, just this week I was honored to meet one of these big-motor types.  The sponsor CEO agreed (I confirmed) he should help her with her MBA, for example.

About a year ago, the Kansas Department of Vehicles led by Director Lisa Kaspar triaged the call center that supports drivers license actions, such as suspensions, cancellations, reinstatements and so on.  It’s a ‘hot kitchen’ with an understandable level of unhappy customers who must always be treated with respect regardless of the upset customer’s often difficult circumstances.  A number of factors outside of Lisa’s control led to an unacceptably low ‘first call resolution’ rate that gave reason to triage the call center.   Triager Jessica Ross was on the front row and was an exceptionally quick study.    Mark Schemm, the call center manager and triage host wrote and led the 90+ Day improvement plan, much of which Jessica shouldered.  Lisa (executive sponsor)  understood the post-triage needs as well; she and her boss added necessary head count and had one of the nation’s best call center coaches take a look, Dave Slattery of  E-Resource Planner  But the heavy lifting was led by Jessica.

Well — a year later, let’s celebrate like crazy:

CONGRAT’S TO JESSICA ROSS, SLATED TO ATTEND HER NATIONAL ASSOCIATION’S LEADERSHIP ACADEMY

The American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA) Leadership Academy provides professional development opportunities for future leaders in the AAMVA community. The program is designed for jurisdiction employees who have demonstrated leadership potential and the ability to succeed in positions of greater responsibility within their agencies.

This week-long program includes modules on defining leadership, working with legislators, team work  and collaboration, consensus building and dispute resolution, managing employee performance, and more. It is an intense training opportunity focused on the unique characteristics of leading and managing a motor vehicle or law enforcement agency.   

This is a new program and only 20 participants across all jurisdictions are accepted. She will network with other leaders in the vehicles industry, will visit with Federal officials at the United States Department Of Transportation and tour the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles. The opportunity to attend this training (fully paid for by AAMVA) is a well deserved outcome of all the hard work and leadership Jessica has shown this past year- might I say Driver Solutions phone stats going from an average [snip] a year ago to 80+% now!!!

While some state’s Department of Motor Vehicles catch a lot of criticism, something really cool and right is happening in Kansas!

Hat Tip  Jessica, and the triage team that worked shoulder-to-shoulder with her to deliver the improvements.

298-4 Jessica Ross leads deck ranking (2)

The Four Fastest Verbs To Communicate What To Fix

We have surveyed our triage workshop participants — we call ‘em Triagers, after each triage from our beginning.  We summarize these anonymous remarks in our facilitator’s report to the Sponsor and Host.  One of the questions is open-ended: “What did you like most about the workshop?”

Triagers frequently say they liked the deck of Small Now’s and Big Now’s — the action item-size and project-size improvement proposals, respectively, they nominated and prioritized.  A typical workshop generates two dozen ‘Smalls ‘n Bigs‘ that more than fill a team’s process improvement queue for the next 90+ days (taking nothing off their plates).  First timer’s are surprised how fast they created them.

Empowering at team to nominate this many improvement proposals, together as a team, within a very tight time box demands thorough simplicity.  We do this with the Four Fastest Verbs:

Analyze [something], if you don’t understand the root cause well enough.

Design  [something] if you understand what to fix.

Train [something] if the fix needs teaching and/or

Enforce  [something] the fix.  It’s lead, follow, or get-out-of-the-way time.

We refined our triage protocol to these four words (synonyms are sometimes allowed) because they occurred the most frequently.  This after examining thousands of triage cards over several years.  If the Small or Big Now is something IT must deliver, it’s reduced to Design and Implement.

What surprised me what how these fastest verbs have helped triagers after our workshops.  I’ve had managers and supervisors tell me these four words help them get to the point when talking about what they want their bosses to support or what  they want their subordinates to do.

I knew these four words were right  when when one of my triage sponsors interrupted me mid-sentence — mid-pontification actually, and asked, ‘Rosey, what do you want us to do — Analyze, Design, Train or Enforce?”

Sweet!

Sometimes Even I Am Surprised

When we’ve done something enough times, whatever it is, after some number of repetitions we know what to expect, riding a Learning Curve no doubt.  Readers of this blog likely know we study how highest performing teams continuously improve their collaborative work — their business process.   We’ve distilled what we’ve learned into the Process Triage Decision Cycle and designed a one-day facilitated immersion experience that has become our flagship service.  It’s a great way to launch and/or focus your continuous process improvement culture.  It’s also very figured out, with typically superb reviews and results.

But last week’s triage with the Product Management team from Redemption Plus was exceptional.  Ron Hill’s company, on its face, sells toys — about 1,200 SKU, constantly updating them to lead their markets needs.  But what they really do is Enrich lives through insights that empower. Oh yeah – we sell toys, too.

It gets better — from their ‘About us‘ page.

We mine data, including our observations, experiences – proprietary knowledge! – to discover hidden nuggets in the relatively worthless ore; insights that change the way our industry does business and empower customers to reach their loftiest goals. We focus on continuous improvement by eliminating waste & rework, thereby making us more nimble and efficient. We also utilize ethnography – the study of how people live – to better understand the inner workings of your business, discovering valuable ‘unspoken needs’ along the way.

To the point, the typical triage workshop reserves attendance to a select group of the experts in the process being triaged.  Host managers (hosts) typically limit the number of observers for good reasons; it’s expensive to pull someone away for day or the triage team prefers to clean their own laundry privately.  Jennifer Hantsbarger, Ron’s triage host and product management team leader bravely invited experts upstream from her process — from marketing and sales.  She invited her downstream customers including experts in fulfillment as well.  Imagine your own expert process team studying what to improve with both your principal supplier and customer looking over your shoulder!  While it seems reasonable, in practice it takes guts.

Or it takes a very special culture to foster this kind transparency.

So it was a delight to see the above-the-norm experience survey results — averaging above 9 out of 10 points for all experience survey questions, and the highest recorded score ever for ‘Confident that leadership will follow through on our improvement recommendations.” -- an average 9.0  out of 10 possible.

Their team picture says it all!

Redemption Plus's Product Management Triage Team

Redemption Plus’s Product Management Triage Team

Life Is Not About the Pursuit of Happiness, But…

This blog post links an article I wrote for the Thinking Bigger Business magazine.  It’s an inspirational piece about enjoying the journey, and recounts a word of wisdom from my dad, of blessed memory.

It’s not about the pursuit of happiness…

1944 Duane (Terrell Field)Duane on Rusty

Enjoy!

No one of us is as smart as all of us.

I was reminded Ken Blanchard’s quote* ‘No one of us is as smart as all of us’  this week.

While it’s always a delight to work with a company’s front line experts, it’s unusual for these triagers to all be serial entrepreneurs and start-up mentors.  Generally, process triage teams are task experts in technical matters, such as sales, customer onboarding, manufacturing, customer care, or administrative support — the customer facing performers.    The occasion was a triage of one of Kansas City’s business start-up accelerators, SparkLabKC, led by Kevin Fryer, with his triage team picked from his mentor pool.

You can imagine how opinionated and passionate a group of successful entrepreneur coaches might be on the best way to qualify and accelerate a start-up.  So I was, again, pleased to see the Process Triage Protocol pull their all of us-quality thinking to the task.  The result was a triage map they can use to manage their client’s expectations and accelerate their start-ups as far as possible within their time constraints.

Hat tip to Kevin and his team!

322-1 Team Pix (Best)

* The Heart of the Leader; Blanchard, Carew, & Parisi-Carew, 1990.  This is also phrased ‘All of us are smarter than any one of us’, quoted in Brandon Webb’s The Red Circle, describing a sign on the wall at a SEAL sniper training facility.