HERE, in a few minutes of video of a live Process Triage Workshop, is my explanation of what the workshop is all about.
HERE, in a few minutes of video of a live Process Triage Workshop, is my explanation of what the workshop is all about.
I’ve been a fan of Seth Godin for a couple of years. His daily blog maintains an exceptional quality. I probably bookmark two or three a month.
This morning’s blog was about process improvement, PT’s sweet spot.
Doing what he suggests begins with our culture — study and fix processes first; the people improvements will be easier.
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:
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:
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:
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?
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.
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.
Fundamentally, Business Process Triaging is issue processing on steroids. It very structured, very fast, and very focused on the behaviors and events that inhibit an enterprise”s Driveshaft process from sustaining a required level of performance. That said, issue processing is like a rifle cartridge — the bullet encased in a propellant-filled shell. The ability to process an issue can be pointed at about anything, but process triaging is the rifle barrel that directs it to the best target.
In Business Process Triaging, the bullet that obliterates the issue (the target), is of four types — Analyze, Design, Train and/or Enforce Something — typically a best practice or technology. So far, so good.
So, where do the issues — the targets originate?
We see them as issues in the center of the brain, at the top of the brain stem, in a region called the Amygdala. This is the seat of memory and emotions, where the brain recognizes something it’s observed before and attaches an emotional response. If the stimulus is threatening enough, it becomes an issue. If it’s intense enough, it can spread to the brain stem (Medulla Oblongata) and trigger a fight or flight response.
All that to say, if one wants to engage the analytical powers of the brain to address the issue, we need to move the thought out of the amygdala to the cerebral frontal cortex — to our issue processor.
We do this by asking an amazingly simple question: “How often does this happen?” We empower our frontal cortex to seize the issue by its throat by asking it to count it. How many? How often? Where? Quantify it, please.
This is the theory behind why a Process Point-of-Pain, in triaging, is always a measurement of a recurring event or behavior that inhibits a process’s performance. Why it’s never a resource constraint — we haven’t processed it that far yet.
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!
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!
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.
We know who our Go-To people are. They’re the ones who Get It, Want It, and have the Capability* to accomplish what needs to be done, or can figure it out. They are both an essential resource and, if they’re the only go-to for a skill, a big risk if they’re not available.
How we go to our go-to people matters, as every time we touch our staff it matters and has the potential to move our enterprise forward.
Consider, however, that going to them to get something done may not be the best thing, however convenient and safe it may be.
Since the only job security is continuous profitable market share growth, for commercial entities anyway, we need more go-to people. We build new go-to people by training them.
So why not go to our go-to people to teach instead of do?!
Making go-to people teachers and trainers builds deepens our talent pool. As the ability to grow is gated by our ability to delegate, and delegation hates risk, then remove such risks by training others.
Teach our go-to people to teach.
* known as GWC in the Entrepreneurial Operating System, copyright Geno Wickman in Traction.
I’m coming up on my 10-year anniversary, Juneteenth — Emancipation Day. It was a beautiful, Colorado Rockies morning, just west of Carbondale, down the mountain from Aspen on the glorious Crystal River road (Hwy 133). I failed to brake soon enough at a hard left turn at the bottom of McClure Pass (see below), and launched a brand-spanking new, rented Harley-Davidson Road King into the aspens and hammered my left shoulder into the roadside wild flowers.
Blunt force trauma. Fifteen fractures, including six ribs and a clavicle and some chipped vertebrae. The Glenwood Springs ER administered a Fentanyl epidural (at T8, after I nearly passed out from pain on the MRI table) and sorted me out. The follow up, typical of shattered ribs, is six weeks on an Oxycontin base with the occasional Percocet chaser after any kind of cough or incentive spirometer therapy — inhale as much as you can, and suck up the pain (pun intended).
Fortunately, I was armored-up, with a rash-proof jacket and spine and elbow pads and a helmet (which was egg-shelled).
The clavicle was fixated with a titanium rod (still there). A year later, three ribs were pinned together with titanium couplings because the fractured ends would not rejoin. A day or so after that surgery, a journeyman orthopedist yanked out my chest tube with that modest “This might sting a little (wink wink!).” warning. It felt a lot like the original crash!
All because I did two things explained by a crusty old hog rider I met a few years later at a bar, savoring a Margarita (Top Shelf, rocks, no salt). He wagged his tattoo-knuckled finger at me and admonished, “Two things you don’t mix together on cycle at the same time: An unfamiliar bike with an unfamiliar road. You can squeeze by on either one of them — you know the road but not the bike, or you know the bike and not the road. But never both.” I was on a rented touring-size bike on a road I’d only dreamed about.
How pitch-perfectly true. Rider error. No excuses.
It occurred to me this morning, while enjoying that same mountain air in Glenwood Springs — where the Roaring Fork River joins the high-country Colorado River downstream from Vail — that the same two principles apply when leading our company on some new venture (adventure?): We shouldn’t attempt it if we’re unfamiliar with where we’re going (the road) — confidence isn’t enoigh, or the team (the bike) we’re making the journey with.
I see this a lot with the companies we triage. The leader sets the ‘capability goal’ aggressively enough to challenge the business model to go somewhere new and interesting. Like growing 2 or 3X. He or she is usually familiar with their team, but may not really know the road; what life at 2 or 3X; really runs. (Hint: Your culture may keep, but about everything else may change.)
This presses the case to on-board executive or technical experts who know the road, and what changes as we scale up. For one thing, processes start happening. Once simple, straightforward work gets divided into silos to be more efficient. These silos create workflow queues that require management — process management. But that takes supervisor labor (overhead) that costs more cash — but we’re making more cash so maybe it works. Or maybe it doesn’t, and we need to swap capital for labor, or partner and outsource — things to pay attention to.
The problem is that we don’t know what we don’t know as we take our team to a new scale — this new exciting road. And what we don’t know might nearly kill us. The most successful leaders I know have relationships in a network of executives who run enterprises the size they seek, such as Vistage International, a peer advisory association. (Disclaimer: I’m on the Vistage guest speaker circuit).
So, know your team and know the road.
p.s. I personally thank every cyclist I meet who’s wearing a helmet.
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.)
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.