When to Put Your Partner Hat On

I received a ‘Client in Distress’ call a few weeks ago.  The  triage sponsor calling ‘Mayday!, Mayday!” had been a successful host of a previous triage a year or so ago.

They had contracted with a the top tier telecommunications company to handle some network equipment upgrades and, along with their subcontractor, decreed a ‘freeze all work’ time out period because initial attempts had adversely impacted the telco’s network.

So we triaged some high-rick equipment scenarios with about 20 of the various experts — engineers and field technicians. They nominated and ranked a dozen Small Now’s (action item-size) and Big Now’s (project-size) proposals.  The program mangers (the triage hosts) baked the triage results into decision brief to report out to the telco — their customer.

This conversation with their telco customer was successful, reflecting completed staff work, great solutions, and an action plan to execute immediately.   The customer – supplier relationship is crystal clear in these kind of ‘How we’re going to pick up and wash off the candy we dropped in the dirt.’ encounters.

But what the triage revealed was the customer performed certain tasks in the equipment upgrade process they could not delegate, using equipment databases the supplier could not steward.  In other words, to process of upgrading the network required the customer to remove their customer hat and exchange it for a partner — team member hat.  This necessity was made obvious by the points-of-pain in the triage and the solutions that only the Customer could resolve.

Lesson Learned:  If you subcontract work out to a supplier, but the business process your suppler must manage requires deliverables only you can provide — your subcontracting orientation ends where process execution begins.  At that point, you need and must be a partner.

One of the triage exhibits was the triage / process map with the deliverables the Customer was responsible for, noting the business risks of failure to do so.

Forests and Trees: The Secret Sauce of Process Triaging






Scalability describes how much effort is required to grow or shrink an enterprise, noting we usually think about how to grow it.  It’s about how we grow from a few trees into a forest.

We get from low volume, tree-level thinking performed by individuals and heroes to high volume, forest-level thinking focused on processes that deliver the customer experience we desire when we hire team members who thrive doing processes we need to scale.

To be scaleable, we must build a team that is efficient in how it improves processes, and effective in how it finds the best improvement to make next — picking the best trees out of a forest of possibilities.

It requires finding and growing team members that can handle such empowerment.

That’s what process triaging does.

It builds the teams that make processes scalable.






Watch a Bi-lingual Management Team Pick What to Improve First

For readers unfamiliar with Process Triaging (on a napkin here), one of the last steps of the triage has the triagers (the executives’ and manager’s front-line experts in the process we’re triaging), rank the two dozen or so improvements the team has proposed.  Each improvement is captured on triage card. The cards are lined up on a long table for the team to sort by highest value to customers, use of cash, and finally, what most delivers the process’s capability goal (sample here).

I’ve facilitated triage workshops in Hong Kong, Paris, and Zurich for example, noting everyone spoke English.  So it was a delight to triage a bi-lingual team of farm managers at Schwope Brothers Farms north of Independence, Missouri. They have well over a half a million trees under cultivation and grade about a 100+ thousand  trees for  sale a year.  It’s a world of liners, balls, burlap and attention to detial, plus a devotion to growing beautiful trees.

Tory Schwope, the CEO has a fabulous staff of farm managers that, given labor force realities, involve a bi-lingual — English and Spanish workforce.  So it was a delight to watch a triage cross this language barrier.

Here is clip of his triage team ranking their improvement proposals.  Enjoy


326-1 Schwope Bros -Group Photo (2)

Hat tip to Fernando Marrufo, handling the triage cards and host, Jeff King.