Business Process Triaging’s BIG IDEA

It’s that time of year; mid-summer about six weeks from Labor Day (all ready?!). Time to review what I’ve learned from our amazing clients and their triaging teams, as well as reflect on the work of our facilitators.  I’m living that sometimes gleeful, sometimes nerve-racking challenge of growing this little company.  It’s all about balancing a complicated and often competing list of to-do’s while making enough cash to on-board the best talent one can find to delegate stuff you must if you’re going to realize the vision.  It’s a lot of the Happiness of Pursuit

I’m privileged to be a Vistage® / TEC® speaker. My primary topic is Business Process Triaging.   I was introduced and on-boarded to the Vistage® speaker community in 2013 by Kansas City chair Jeff Hutsell, a friend for life.  Next year’s scheduling begins in September and is usually completed by mid-October. The national headquarters has a terrific team of speaker coordinators and asks speakers to organize their topic(s) around what matters most to their C-Suite members: The Key Decisions, The Big Idea, and Think Abouts.

My program targets executives of mid-size enterprises and department heads within large organizations where the service or product’s value chain is complex enough to require a team to perform. One reality in organizations this size is the core process (and the team living it) experience mass casualty events — times when the entire process comes under extreme stress.  It appears to fail, or about to fail in almost every step, as if the entire process is under assault.  Business Process Triaging is all about what leaders and teams do to get and sustain control of the environment.  To find and focus on the best series of tasks and projects to navigate the growth they face.

THE BIG IDEA

Equip your Go-To Team* to handle Maximum Business Process Stress and build a more cohesive, situationally aware, emotionally smarter, business savvy organization while you’re at it.  Business processes break as they grow, so make dealing with it a competitive cultural advantage. Be able to Business Process Triage when it’s needed.

* Go-To’s are your expert task performers and mentors, your believables when you need to know what’s really going.  They’re your high-motor, high-passion, dedicated professionals.

THE BIG QUESTIONS & DECISIONS

Consider your core business process – from customer first touch all the way to service or product delivery to cash:

  • You want a culture of continuous operational improvement driven by those closest to the work, that takes day-to-day issue management off your plate so you can focus on longer horizon, bigger decision stuff.  What and how do you delegate?
  • All hell has broken out across the whole process! Errors! Delays! Rework! What do you do that will settle everyone down right now?  The result must put you on the best path to resolve things and prevent recurrence.
  • You want to sell to a Private Equity investor.  What might you demonstrate about your core process that makes you a compelling candidate?
  • How might you raise your core team’s emotional IQ – that interpersonal empathy that glues highest performing teams together?

After an explanation and practical exercise in process triaging, and a review of a few case studies..

THINK ABOUT…

  • Delegating issue processing in a business process to a team closest to the work.
  • When it comes to core process issues, leverage the wisdom that the team has more situational awareness then the individual contributor.
  • Insisting your Go-To’s also teach, not just do.
  • Insisting on measurement-based issue processing while trusting your Go-To’s estimates.
  • Considering the gap between your goals and your capabilities; the greater the gap, the more likely the process’s design will fail when you attempt to scale.
  • There are times to deliberately sort (triage) before you solve – similar to a medical mass casualty event.
  • Growing enterprises will be under constant core process stress. Embrace it. Design your culture for it. The triaging protocol is a proven skill.
  • The program’s exhibits; just how much process intelligence can you gather from triaging?
  • What is the opportunity value and cost of not having a Go-To team issue processing your core process right now?

So, my shingle’s out for next year’s speaking calendar.  The three-hour talk, exercise, and case study review makes a solid executive staff half-day team builder.

Closing note:  If you’re a C-Suiter and not a member of a peer advisory group, I encourage you to consider one like Vistage®. Reach out to me.  It’s likely I know of a chair in your city.  Email Rosey

Process Triaging syncs with Ray Dalio’s Life Principles (5-Steps)

I’ve been a fan of Ray Dalio, co-founder of Bridgewater Associates. He recently published Principles: Life and Work is both an autobiography and and exposition of his core values. Mr. Dalio is notably recognized for his emphasis on building an organization that makes great decisions based on radical truth and transparency. Bridgewater is the largest United States hedge fund manager with some $150 Billion under management.

Mr. Dalio itemizes and explains the rationale behind scores of principles. A core set of these principles is his 5-Step Process (about page 260 on my ebook) for improving an organization.  Each step is listed below, followed by how our flagship Process Triage workshop practices these steps.  (I’m not saying PT does these 5-Steps the way Bridgewater does, but we follow the pattern.)

  1. Have clear goals.
    The Process Triage workshop’s prework includes a Process Capability Goal.  It describes what the process we’re triaging must be capable of performing and delivering in measurable terms.  If the process can sustain the goal, it will contribute its share of a larger organizational objective.  The workshop’s executive sponsor assigns this goal’s writing to an understudy (the workshop host) for professional development.  Every improvement the triage team proposes and prioritizes will, if implemented, deliver progress towards this goal.
  2. Identify the problems preventing the goals from being achieved.
    We identify problems — we call them Pain Points, with the most believable, Go-to experts in the process we’re triaging.  They’re hand picked by the host.  Each triage team consists of the most believable, closest-to-the-work performers of the work.  Every pain point must be described in measurable terms — counting how much and how often something happens that inhibits the capability goal.  It’s radically truthful and radically transparent.  Each triager is provided the respect, empathy, and listened-to attention as they identify pain points.  Given each triager sees only a portion of the whole process, they’ll see pain points across the whole process after everyone’s contributed. Their situational awareness and diagnostic insights make all of them smarter than any one of them.
  3. Diagnose parts of the machine.
    Using the ProcessTriage® Protocol, the team examines each pain point and selects the type of solution and sizes its level of effort.  The four solutions are:

    ANALYZE a pain point for a cause that’s not obvious, then triage that cause(s).

    DESIGN
    a best practice (procedure, tool, technology, policy, instruction, etc.) that stops the problem.

    TRAIN an existing best practice.

    ENFORCE a trained best practice.

    The typical, 10-member triage team will sort (not solve), size, and prioritize about 20 improvements per workshop from 30 pain points. Every proposal is believable and has strategic fit.

  4. Design changes
    Each triage generates a Process Triage Profile™, much like a personality profile like Meyers-Briggs or DISC®.  This profile highlights how much best practice design work is needed compared to training and enforcing existing best practices.  This gives improvement leaders a clear-eyed understanding about what they face in reaching their goals.  You cannot scale a process with design issues — you’ll just create crap faster if you hit the gas.  If the focus is training and enforcement, it’s all about people and resource management.
  5. Doing what’s needed.
    The triage workshop’s Host writes the post-triage implementation plan and submits this to the Sponsor. (Our certified facilitator coaches as needed.) This plan should be signature ready and executable when approved.

Radical truth and radical transparency sounds good.  We know it works when we create an expert facilitated space for teams to experience it respectfully and emphatically.

If your core process team welcomes an immersion in this, give us a call.

All of us are smarter than any one of us.

P.S.  The Process Triage Primer (32-pages of the essentials) is published.

 

Business Process Stress Testing

When you set new performance goals, consider stress testing the business processes that deliver the goals.

Process Triaging is a good way do this testing.

The triage findings — all generated by your own experts, indicate the types and sizes of improvement proposals your team says it will take to meet your goals.

Process Triaging generates an improvement proposal to address a pain point that inhibits your, and your team’s goals.

Each improvement proposal is triaged to one of four solutions:  ANALYZE if the likely cause is not obvious, DESIGN a best practice that addresses the pain, TRAIN (or learn) an existing best practice , and/or ENFORCE a best practice.

The first two — ANALYZE and DESIGN indicate a process design focus. Unless the process is designed better, additional cycles will just produce more — crap. The profile below shows a triage profile with 88% of the improvement work focused on analyzing pain points (36%) and designing best practices (52%).  Almost half of the improvements Big Now project-size efforts — lots of stressful heavy lifting.  This profile is common to start-ups or established companies who have big-gap growth objectives.

52% Small Now’s, 48% Big Now’s, 36% Analyze’s, 52% Design’s, 12% Train’s, No Enforces

At the other end of the scale, a triage profile with mostly TRAIN & ENFORCE existing best practices indicates the process doesn’t have significant design issues. The focus is mostly people and logistics — right people in right seats.  The profile below is one of a franchise-quality shop. Most of the best practices are in place.  The team’s stresses will be resource management — on-boarding new hires and focused process supervision.

This profile has 94% Train and/or Enforce Best Practices — entirely scalable.

When you reset your strategic objectives, consider ‘stress testing’ your core processes to manage everyone’s expectations and make sure you’re working on the enabling improvements first.

Here’s a deck of a dozen or so Process Triage Profiles

Contact us  or reach out to one of our Certified Process Triage Facilitators for further information.

People Like Us …. Build Continuously Better Teams

I owe whatever successes I’ve enjoyed to the men and women who stopped to teach me.

I cannot help but remember some of their pithy teaching points, like Teach your strengths and work on your weaknesses.  

My weakness (among many) is marketing. Seth Godin’s Marketing Seminar is helping me with it.  One of the teaching points is about focusing on who will be interested in what I’m interested in helping with — People Like Us.

 

So here’s my bullet point list, of who ProcessTriage® people are:

People like us build great teams, building members who…

  • Get our core values.
  • Leave whatever they touch better off.
  • Fill every moment with stuff that matters.
  • Know who does and needs what — workflow awareness.
  • Are empathetic and hyper-accountable to each other and our customers.
  • Are effective issue processors and solution triagers.
  • Have each other’s and our customers’ backs.
  • Are high-motor go-to professionals
  • Teach their strengths and improve their weaknesses.
  • Take stuff off their boss’s plate.
  • Live deliberate lives.
  • Bring solutions and welcome better ones.
  • Add something to every person they touch.

People like us build great teams.

The Latest Data on Our Triaging Workshop Satisfactions.

We’ve known for some time why executives sponsor our team triaging workshop, succinctly listed by EOS®  Implementer Jonathan Smith.

  1. The Core ‘Driveshaft’ Process is Unclear
  2. This process is too complex
  3. The process works inconsistently
  4. The process’s lack of clarity is creating chaos
  5. They need stakeholder buy-in and ownership to change it
  6. They are in a lot of pain
  7. They are frustrated and want help

We also know that the highest performing teams are hyper-accountable to each other.  This accountability comes from extremely high situational awareness — they know their process and who’s doing and needing what to meet their responsibilities and expectations.

These participants are the sponsor’s own Go-To Experts, who live and breathe and sweat and laugh and scream and yell and do the actual work of the process they’ve triaged.  They typically identify about 35 recurring process-related behaviors or events (not people issues) they want stopped.  They triage — sort, not solve these pain points into about 15 to 25 proposed improvements.  If they follow through and implement these proposals, the process improves toward its capability goal.

We close each ProcessTriage® Workshop with an anonymous Participant’s Survey. We ask them to score their satisfactions from 1-to-10, with 10 being the most satisfied.  We want an average of 8 points or better.  We summarize these findings with the triagers’ remarks in a sponsor’s report.

Here are three of the questions and their satisfaction scores from the last 50 workshops.  The sample size is 455 participants (triagers).

 So — if you want to improve your core process team’s situational awareness and member empathy and accountability, we welcome your call.  Rosey @ 913-269-3410.

The Ultimate Thank You Note…

One of Process Triage’s core values is Elevate Someone, Somehow.  Meaning, leave each person we interact with no worse for the moment, while seeking something to add to them and elevate their life.  One does not condescendingly assume everyone lacks something only we can remedy.  It simply means we actively, respectfully listen to them — deliberately think about them.  What do they want and need?  Have we seen someone like them before, where they are at? Have we helped someone like them?  Can we help now — right now?

A couple of years ago I blogged about Jessi Ross at the Kansas Department of Motor Vehicles.  PT had the privilege of triaging in the Department of Revenue with several process management teams, including the motor vehicles department’s Drivers’ License management office. Since Kansas, statewide, as very little mass transit, surviving and thriving in Kansas requires access to a vehicle — something city dwellers may not appreciate.  One has to have a vehicle in Kansas, generally speaking. So it’s especially important work.

I received this amazing email from Jessi (shared with permission):

Good Morning friend,

I hope this email finds you well. [Snip] I have accepted and began a new adventure. I am working for American Association of Motor Vehicles Administrators! As I am sure you know, is the hub of all things DMV! I am blessed and thankful for this new opportunity. It is truly a dream come true. [Snip] 

My official job title is Program Director for Driver License Compacts and Reciprocity. My primary focus will be the management of the compacts and agreements that each state uses for uniformity with citations, suspensions, etc. I will also manage the reciprocity agreements, both foreign and domestic. 

I want to thank you Rosey. You believed in me from the beginning. I will never forget the conversation we had one day about my future. That conversation has helped me in so many ways.

If there is anything you need, please don’t hesitate to let me know.

Jessica Ross
Driver License Compacts & Reciprocity Program Director

Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators

What I was reminded by Jessi (and her DMV team) is wonderful, self-managed, hyper-accountable teams thrive in the public sector also.  Stereotypes that paint public sector employees as less motivated or less caring about well designed and run business processes are unfair and, well — just ignorant.  The more accurate assumption is these teams are busting their butts with out-of-date technology supported with IT infrastructure with significant technical debt.

There are many Jessi Ross’s in these thankless public sector offices.

A little encouragement can spark greatness.

What’s Your Process’s Triage Profile?

Let’s begin this New Year with something fresh and clean and thoughtful and, maybe, kick-butt useful to our integrators and operations lovers.

Introducing our Process Triage Profile

A Process Triage Profile paints a picture of what your immediate process improvement focus should be, according to your team that triaged the process.

Recall, a Process Point-of-Pain is any recurring event or behavior happening to or in a process that inhibits its performance capability — like quality or volume or speed. When we remove the pain point, the process performs closer to its capability goals.  Process Triaging is all about issue-processing these Pain Points into a Solutions, sorted into one of four types of solutions:

  • Analyze for a root cause if we don’t know the most likely cause enough,
  • Design a best practice method or technology if we don’t have something off-the-shelf that prevents the pain (if we use it!),
  • Train this best practice or technology is it needs reminding, and/or
  • Enforce the best practice with our management operating system if we’ve eliminated the first three solutions.  By enforce, we don’t mean some heavy-handed supervision. We’re just saying we know the cause, have a best practice, and don’t need to train it. We need to focus on execution and doing what we know to do. The execution tactics can involve any aspect of our operating practices in any area.
  • After the solution is selected, we estimate its level of effort.  We call it a Small Now for an action item / task-size deliverable or a Big Now if t’s a larger, project-size effort.
  • After all the Points-of-Pain are triaged, the triage team ranks the proposals by their highest, most capability improving value.
  • Your triage host writes post-triage Implementation Plan, and either schedules and assigns a proposals for immediate pursuit or declares it Not Yet until you free up some resources (which they estimate).

A Process Triage Session is an all-day (typically) facilitated workshop with your process’s experts — the go-to professionals who know and live and breath the process. They’ll generate, typically, 35 to 45 Points-of-Pain and triage them into 18 to 24 solutions — (Analyze “x” for a root cause or, Design, Train, and/or Enforce best practice “x”) .

A team’s triage solutions set that consists of mostly Analyze’s (for root causes) or Design’s (best practices or tools) asserts the process’s best practices or tools need definition.  These improvements should be put in place before asking more of the process.  (Otherwise,  you’ll just create crap faster!).  Here’s what that Process Triage Profile looks like:

Heavy Analysis & Design Best Practice Triage Profile Example.

Heavy Analysis & Design Best Practice Triage Profile Example.

If a team’s proposals are mostly Train or Enforce existing best practices or tools,  then the organization’s operating practices need a closer look.   Practices like hiring and performance accountability. Maybe its resource planning and logistics or process control reporting, and so on. That Process Triage Profile looks like this:

Heave Train & Enforce Best Practices (Ops Excellence) Triage Profile

Heave Train & Enforce Best Practices (Ops Excellence) Triage Profile

These different profiles give the leader an at-a-glance picture of what faces them as they undertake continuous improvements.  They can better manage expectations, understand how fast things can improve.  Triaging helps them recognize if their focus should be on better best practices (the first example) or tuning their operating system (the second example).

We’ll include a Process Improvement Profile with our flagship Process Triage Workshop going forward.

Consider your own core, driveshaft process.  From Bid-to-Cash, or Lead-to-Cash — your customer-facing work. What do you suppose your Process Improvement Profile looks like?

 

Use Triaging to Onboard Executives Faster

Occasionally there is a change in executive leadership after a Process Triage.  Naturally, the triagers wonder if their efforts will be supported, at best, or stalled out or stopped, at worst.

 

Since the process improvement proposals — the Small Now action items and Big Now project-size efforts are identified and prioritized bottoms-up, by the technical expert triagers, a change in senior leadership doesn’t invalidate the triage findings unless the enterprise is fundamentally changing what it must be capable of doing — certainly in the short term.
welcomeonboard

Consider using the triage results to onboard the new leader.  Have the triage team lead this briefing as a individual and team development moment.  First review the process map, then the Process Capability Goal, then the improvement proposals deck.  Have the owner of each action item or project present their proposal and report its progress.

This is a great way to acquaint the new executive with some of their expert front-liners. No doubt the new leader wants some quick wins and establish credibility with your go-to experts. This gives the leader the facts, information, and situational awareness to immediately course correct (unlikely) and maintain the improvements momentum.

Here’s a video clip about this HERE, to explain it.

 

A Simple Way to Calculate Your Brand’s Value

This thing called a BRAND means a lot of things.  And a lot of noise is blasted about regarding how to design them, build them, exploit them — it’s like a discussion about God; there are few things as complex but everybody’s an expert.

Here’s what works for me, being the second son of a cowboy, born and raised with Border Collies, Blue Heelers,  and Australian Shepherds.   My first exposure to the word “brand” was feeling the white-hot branding iron head welded on the end of a fireplace poker, heat radiating onto my face and up my nose and into my eyes. Then the sound of it sizzling the flank of a tied-down calf and the sound of said calf bellowing out in searing pain and seeing its wild-eyed terror. That’s a brand!  Branding

I think our brand is that lingering feeling someone has, down in their lizard-brain after we’ve touched them.  If we branded them correctly, it’s a pleasant feeling that, at its best, excites some sharing, and at least ends all that analysis hassle of the buying process.  When they see us — the branding in our marketing, that residual feeling butterfly kisses their consciousness.  They’ll do business with us when they need us, no analysis needed.

But…. Show me the money!

 

ValueOfBrand

A simple way  know if you have that kind of brand is separate your sales into two piles: the sales you won by out-bound selling activity and the sales you simply took the order with essentially zero selling.  The sales from simple order-taking is the value of your brand.  What’s your share of revenue is brand-driven?

P.S.  And the Sales Process isn’t done until the next sale is simple order taking.

 

What Is the Value of 1st Attempt Success?

A  client sponsored a triage of one of their high-value business processes, one that receives and evaluates eligibility requests for a financial benefit. One triager’s point-of-pain was an observation that 70% of requests required rework — reaching out and contacting the applicant for additional information.  How or why this information was not captured at the first attempt became an improvement to analyze.

But what is the cost of 70% rework?  Inquiring minds want to know. (You can be sure this 70% will be laser-focused fixed now that the team sees it.  To their credit, it’s an all-hands-on-deck effort.  Some of this rework is caused by unverifiable info from applicants — garbage in.)

value-of-first-attempt-resolution_page_1

I suspected it was exponential — at least non-linear, assuming each attempt had the same probability of failure for illustration purposes. Naturally, real data would adjust this accordingly.

What it tells us is you’ll process twice as many requests as you need to when your re-touch rates are 40% or so.  You’re processing three times  as many customer touches at about 70% rework. That’s two-thirds of your resources unavailable do something else!  The chart gets crazy-ugly at failure rates above 70%, by the way.

We call that kind of process failure a dumpster fire.  At 70% rework or customer re-touch, two thirds of your touches are avoidable if your process is designed to deliver a one-and-done customer experience.

The remedy is a blinding flash of the obvious:  Reason-code every failure, sort the volume of these reasons using Pareto rules, resolve them in highest-volume order, and raise first attempt success to something less than 10% for starters.  If automated systems are used to capture the required information, present it list or check boxes, mandatory field captures, use good scan-and-attach tools, and by all means attempt to educate the benefits applicant on what’s needed before attempting. Here’s my spreadsheet.

That’s what first attempt resolution is worth.