It’s Not Bragging If You Can Do It: HINT’s 1st Triage Had All Small Now’s!

For those of you unfamiliar with process triaging (primer here), we spend a full day with a team of experts who do the work of an enterprise’s critical business process and nominate improvements.  At HINT, a creative services and video production company in Kansas City, their drive shaft process is the Creative Services process.  While every production is uniquely creative, the repeatable process of doing it is an ideal triage candidate.

327-1 Hint Triage Team (1)

One of the primary deliverables of the triage is the deck of process capability improvement proposals, typically two dozen.  Each one of these proposals, if completed, will improve the process toward a capability goal that, in turn, enables the process to deliver its share of the firm’s strategic goals.  These proposals are sorted by their level of effort, estimated by the team into Small Now action item-size tasks — simple enough for one or two people to accomplish without a lot of complexity, or a Big Now project-size effort, one that requires a plan, a budget, some sponsorship perhaps.

The typical triage proposal deck has a mix of Small Now’s and Big Now’s.  The more Big Now’s, the larger the effort to achieve the capability goal — and we set the capability goals high.   Sponsors and hosts expect a few project-size proposals and set aside some funds before they triage.

HINT’s five-person triage team, sponsored by CEO Teri Rogers and hosted by Tony Welch, generated 17 Small Now’s that could all be worked within 90 days, taking nothing off their plates.   What that says is Teri and Tony are running a very tight ship that’s core process has no serious issues.  It means HINT is entirely scalable, in terms of its drive shaft process.  Their team’s first triage results looks like an extremely seasoned kaizen team.  In fact, most of the proposals focused on enforcing best practices, not figuring things out.  Simply outstanding.

You just don’t see this kind of excellence very often, first triage.

I’m impressed.  Hat Tip, HINT!





Reflecting on Seth Gogan’s ‘How To Go Faster’

Seth Godin pens one of my must read blogs.  Seth was recommended to be by Sean Stormes at 3rd Door, who was recommended to me by Chris Wood, of Paige Technologies and a Vistage member.

Seth’s May 16, 2015 post titled How to Go Faster lit me up, as he offered five thoughts about improving ones decision hygiene (a crisp clean neologism typical of Seth’s thinking).

I was delighted to observe how aligned the ProcessTriage® Decision Cycle sync’d with Seth’s thinking.  Read Seth’s post, then my remarks on team triaging.

SETH: 1. Make decisions faster. You rarely need more time. Mostly, you must merely choose to decide. The simple test: is more time needed to gather useful data, or is more time merely a way to postpone the decision?

ROSEY: If it’s ‘gather useful data’, and the question is about how to incrementally improve a core process that drives your customer experience and balance sheet, team triaging is an extremely fast way to not only gather data, but delegate the decisions on what to improve first and take the decision off your plate for the most part. It means building a business model that keeps these micro-tactical decisions off your plate but makes sure they’re on the right compass heading.  It’s not enough that YOU have a faster decision cycle, but that decisions that should be made by teams cycle faster.

SETH: 2. Make decisions in the right order. Do the decisions with the most expensive and time-consuming dependencies first. Don’t ask the boss to approve the photos once you’re in galleys, and don’t start driving until you’ve looked at the map.

ROSEY: Team triaging is all about taking on the most capability-improving proposals first, while maintaining awareness of the customer experience and balance sheet impacts.  And the process triage maps we craft in the morning spell out the earliest-finish order of what should be done first, then next.  (I knew I had to write a comparison blog post after I read Seth’s #2!)

SETH: 3. Only make decisions once, unless new data gives you a profitable reason to change your mind.

ROSEY: Nothing to add here. Check!

SETH: 4. Don’t ask everyone to help you decide. Ask the people who will either improve the decision or who have input that will make it more likely you won’t get vetoed later.

ROSEY: This is spot on correct. Every capability-improving proposal that’s generated by our triage team workshops has the buy-in of the process’s expert team and thereby removes any buy-in risks. And by the way we coach our hosts to select the triage team, they are by definition the ones who will improve the decisions on what process improvements to fix first.

SETH: 5. Triage decisions. Some decisions don’t matter. Some decisions are so unimportant that they are trumped by speed. And a few decisions are worth focusing on.

ROSEY: Amen. What we tell our team triage sponsors – usually C-Level business unit owners (P&L or real budget authority) is to not overly concern themselves with any of the triage team‘s two dozen or so process capability-improving proposals individually, but focus on the whole deck. Focus on getting the whole list completed, then refresh the list as soon as practical.

It made my day to see PT’s business model align with Seth’s kind of thinking.

Something From Almost Nothing (a Mother’s Day tribute)

Where do I begin, this Mother’s Day?

Duane & Betty Rosenberger - Sidney IA - 1951

The more I remember my mother, Betty Grimmer Rosenberger, of blessed memory, the more I admire her.  For those who did not know her, my older brother John’s eulogy (here) sums up the essentials.  The slide show preceding her funeral service is short and sweet.

Mother kept a journal most of her life, from about 8th grade well into her 70’s, with some seasons of her life well detailed and others seemingly skipped.  Her journal entries during my early childhood are a marvel.  While I was playing on the Pecos River, burying cantelope in the sandy river bank to cool it down and marking its spot with as stick so as to find it later, Mom was wondering how much credit the grocery store in town would allow before her meager school teacher paycheck arrived at the end of the month.  Or the short, sad entries of ‘D’ (Duane, my Dad) out late and home drunk again.’  (Dad turned his life completely around some years later, but that’s another post of another day.)

I thank my mother most for demonstrating tenaciousness in the perfection of ones talents. Before I left for boarding school at age 14, she returned to her first love, painting.  (Our family’s fortunes improved with Dad’s race horse breeding and training business hitting its stride.) She earned a fine arts degree at the University of Iowa as WWII concluded, then sought a teaching job as close to Ozona, Texas as she could.  She longed to return to her childhood community and her beloved grandmother, Dixie Davidson.  The closest she could get was a Pecos River oasis town of Ft. Sumner, New Mexico.  She was smitten by a quit-high-school-to-fly-a-P51-Mustang-in-the-Army-Air-Corps cowboy.  Dad introduced himself at Sprout’s Cafe (then on main street next to the bank) based on Bill Hitson’s bet he couldn’t get a date with such as nice school teacher type.  They almost eloped but Mom’s mother, a pre-Law graduate from the University of Texas essentially read the riot act to her.  Anyway, I found her one morning asleep at her work table with her hair matted to a church painting she was working on, with a couple of 100 watt lights glaring over her shoulders.  The ‘Churches of the Rio Pecos’ collection, fourty of them, are a legacy and treasure of New Mexico history, 39 of them hanging in Dos Palomas (two doves), the home John and I general contracted for her to display them.

The point of this remembrance is mother taught me now to make something from almost nothing, but hard work and trust in the talents and gifts one is blessed with.  Granted, Mom had a college education — a liberal arts education, when a college education mattered, but painting is a craft.  She did not hit her stride until thousands of hours of practice, as Malcolm Gladwell asserted in Outliers (Little, Brown & Company, 2008)

Mom is my reference point for growing ProcessTriage®  and finding Immersion Workshop Facilitators — men and women who can unconsciously lead a team of strangers through a crazy-focused team building moment.

How To Estimate How Much Cash a Process is Leaking

The simplest tasks at high volume become ridiculously complex.

Compute the commission on a few sales transactions is stubby pencil work.  Try running a commissions payroll for 19,000 sales people selling hundreds of items, each with its own commission schedule because marketing wants to incentivize the sales force?  Best swap pencils for an Oracle or Teradata platform.  Which is what a company I triaged a few years ago did over a decade of solid growth.  Did I say it was hemorrhaging cash?  It had to process over a million point-of-sale records per month and was creating over a net 100% paycheck errors.

So we know a process at some volume will need oversight and end-to-end monitoring.  When should we think about biting the bullet and buying some dedicated process metering and management?  Some continuous process improvement?

Here’s a simple calculation to indicate when you need to deliberately manage a process and put it into a state of continuous improvement.

Step 1: name the process and set its boundaries, from what triggers it to its final work products:

  • Manufacturing from Factory Order Received to Installed and Accepted.
  • Loan Processing from Loan Submitted for Processing to Cleared for Close
  • Site Construction from Design Finalized to  Client Accepted

Step 2: Estimate how much cash this process is consuming per month.  Include direct and indirect costs, such as labor and floor space rents.  For labor, use a loaded labor rate, which is base salary + 20% (for benefits and some office automation).   Round it to the nearest $5K — just ball park it.   If the process generates revenue, add the average monthly revenue (before accounting adjustments) on top of the expense amount.

Step 3: Consider how capable  this process is, in terms of how well it runs.  Is there a lot of rework or rejects?  Is there a lot of employee turn over?  If this process is not running effectively and efficiently — whatever those terms mean in your context, then what percent (%)  is it under-performing?  10%?  15%?  35%?  A SWAG (Scientific Wild Arse Guess) is okay, but be conservative.

Step 4: Multiply the amount of monthly spend (from the second step) by the previous percentage.  That’s how much cash your process might be bleeding monthly. So multiply that number by 3 to see how much you’re spilling per calendar quarter.

For example, a $2,000,000/month process that is 15% not capable enough suggests $300,000 x 3 = $9ooK could be put to other use if we could see and stop the leakage.

So now you know if you need to buy some deliberate process management — if your estimate of the process’s capability shortfall is greater than the cost to make it capable. 

The ability to not spill this$300K/month (insert your cash amount here) will cost two things:

  • The cost to know what the best capability improvements might be — the Cost of the Improvements List, and
  • The cost of improvements on the list your team cannot get to, taking nothing else off their plate — the Cost of Not Yet’s.

Our flagship service, the Process Triage Immersion Workshop, generates this list of typically 20 improvement proposals that:

  • Have the  absolute buy-in by the producer / performer experts that must implement and live with these improvements AND…
  • Will improve the process’s capability (speed, use of cash, work product quality, scalable volume, better cross-silo work flow, etc.). AND…
  • Thereby better deliver the process’s share of your overall financial goals, AND…
  • Will specifically consider the impacts to your customer’s experience and your (CEO’s) bottom-line impact, AND…
  • Based on a completed staff work recommendation by the manager I choose, be achievable in the next 90 days, or have a price tag for what can’ be delivered that fast, AND…
  • It will only pull my best expert producers off the line for only one day, as a team, to deliver this raw, unassigned and unscheduled list for my manager to analyze and submit in an execution plan with10 days afterward, AND…
  • The immersion experience of producing this first list is absolutely repeatable if I need this team to refresh the list with minimal, optional outside facilitation.

So the kind of list we’re talking about is not your grandpa’s Suggestion Box, or organization survey.  Our Process Triage Immersion Workshop produces this list with your own process experts in ONE DAY of their time (and about three days of our certified facilitator’s effort).

What would you pay for this ProcessTriage quality list?

You will continue to bleed this much cash, monthly,  until you do something about it.

The Self-Healing Business Process

One way we understand something new and different is by comparing it with something we understand.  We start with an analogy or metaphor. ProcessTriage® , our trademarked brand wonderfully captures the idea of applying the structured but rapid medical examination process of battlefield or mass casualty events, to business processes. It also reflects how fast our methods identify what to fix first, as our clients have observed.

I am blessed to be invited to introduce process triaging to Vistage member groups, typically 12 to 18 CEO’s of growing companies.  After reviewing each step of the Process Triage Decision Cycle, from the start point of the CEO setting the strategic financial goal to finally monitoring and celebrating the completed process improvements, I usually conclude with by saying something like, ‘Now rinse and repeat.”

Each cycle of the decision cycle nominates a fresh, focused, and prioritized list of improvements based on new information.

One of the members observed, ‘Rosey, what you’re saying is this decision cycle creates a self-healing business process.  That no matter what new thing inhibits the process’s capability, the decision cycle exposes and diagnoses it.”

After sleeping on it, I woke up wondering, ‘Why hadn’t I seen this before?”  Sustaining the cycle makes the process it is applied to self-healing.  Like a self-sealing fuel tank.

Pitch perfect, indeed. It does.

How Process Triaging Finds Potential Managers

A common challenge CEO’s have is finding and growing middle managers.  While that’s true in most growing enterprises, it’s notably hard for CEO’s who started their companies without having any experience at developing managers.  Oh, they’ve hired producers — individual contributors for specific jobs; the more frequent kind of hires, but not process managers.  

During yesterday’s triage workshop with a terrific company, Redemption Plus, one of the triagers primary jobs was fulfilling customer orders in the warehouse.  Pull and order, assign it to a warehouse person, pick and pack the order and ship it out (to oversimplify the process).  Hundreds of times a day.  What made this triage unique was the appearance of a triager — a front line producer / process task expert, who was ripe for a manager opportunity.

Some background first: Leaders must be able to sing in three voices to lead high performing processes (summary here), the Executive, the Process Manager, and the Producer.  The heavy lifting work in the Process Triage Decision Cycle is borne by the Producer; they define the process, observe its Points-of-Pain that inhibit its ability to perform, and nominate the solutions to these pain points.  The Process Manager bundles the constantly refreshing list of improvement solutions into a rolling 90+ day plan and brings discipline and oversight to that scarce, but highly leveraged Working ON it, not IN it (as Michael Gerber coined it) space.

Facilitating a team through a series of tasks is managing, albeit a microcosm of it. So to confirm my suspicion, I invited this triager to assist me in leading the triage team through one of the tasks — one he had observed a previous triage team perform.

And you know it with you see it.

And we saw it.

He can do it — it’s just so obvious.

So now we pile on and invite him to write the first draft of this triage’s 90+ Day Process Capability Improvement Plan.


  • Confirm a candidate managers’s potential by having them host (i.e. project manage) a ProcessTriage immersion workshop.
  • When conducting an immersion workshop, look for producers (the triagers) who can sing process manager notes pitch-perfectly.

When to Brainstorm With The Boss…. Or Not.

Sometimes I reach out to one of my subject matter experts for his thoughts, like I did earlier today.  And I ended up practically hanging up on him when he started ‘thinking out loud’ about my question.  I didn’t mean to be rude — after all, I did ask for his opinion.  Yet I heard myself admonishing him “Hold on… you’re letting the air out of the balloon. Stop.

In hindsight, I realized what happened.  I was in the Executive Voice, wanting something done. And having absolute confidence that who I was asking to do it, could do it — delegating it, I was already moving on to the next item on my day’s punch list.

(For anyone new to Process Triaging, here’s the primer on The Three Voices of High Performing Teams — who sings what notes in high performing teams that create high performing business processes that deliver strategic objectives.)

Let’s call my subject matter expert Joe.  Joe, wanting to please, did not realize I was in Executive Voice, meaning I was thinking about either my company’s Brand, Business Model, or Balance Sheet.  In fact, the question was really about how I could leverage my company’s flagship product with another product — one Joe is a go-to expert.   So I was talking to someone who I placed into Producer Voice; and unconsciously expected only Completed Staff Work — run with it and get back to me with a finished, ready-to-implement proposal.

And, more importantly, I wasn’t clear with my signals with Joe.  I should have been more explicit, and not asked an open-ended question, “Joe, do you think there is a link between PT’s ‘X’ and (your knowledge of) ‘Y’?  And to exacerbate my error, I need to be very careful about appearing to task someone who doesn’t work for me.  We have to purchase the right or be granted the authority to task other human beings (having settled that with the 13th Amendment to our Constitution, but I digress).

When Joe tells me what he really  thinks — it will be completed staff work, and I’ll compensate him for it, no doubt.

But what happened was blog fodder.

When you’re asked for you opinion — weigh the moment.  If the question is about the Brand, Business Model, or Balance Sheet — you’re talking to the Executive Voice — and a complete, fully-formed answer may lead to an investment decision. Don’t settle for just comparing notes.


Are You Hearing Voices?

High performing teams that create high performing businesses are a lot like a choir.

Each member sings their part while listening and harmonizing with other parts — basses with baritones and tenors and sopranos.   A culture of continuous business process improvement requires three voices — leadership voices.

Here’s a link to an article in Thinking Bigger magazine (here)  on the three voices high performing teams, the Executive, the Process Manager, and the Producer.  All three voices are in our heads, but only one of them should be singing at a time.



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:


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?”