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.

Cheers,

Rosey

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!

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.

 

 

 

Don’t Delay Process Improvements Waiting to Establish Baseline Measurements

Mark Shwartz, a case-study quality triage host at RCF Technologies (Vadalia, GA) raised the subject of base lining some process measurements before kicking off some Small and Big Now process improvements.

To the point, the answer is No!  Don’t hold up the improvement efforts, just start measuring as you improve.

The reason you shouldn’t wait is supported by some now famous, almost 100 year-old organizational behavior research known as the ‘Hawthorne Effect.’

A good summary was published in The Economist here:

The Hawthorne Effect recognizes that workers who perceive their work is being watched are more productive than before the were observed. So if you don’t already have process performance measurements in place, as soon as your staff recognizes they are being observed (by management or their improvement team peers), they will perform more focused. That suggests your original baseline behavior, before observations began, won’t be reflected in new measurements.

Remember, you’re after a TREND of continuous improvement, time period over time period. So just start measuring and focus on consistent measuring. Your ‘Process Manager Voice’ is looking for improving trends until your Process Capability Goal (PCG) is met, then stable performance afterwards.

You should see some welcome improvements early on because of another phenomenon called ‘The Learning Curve’, a subject for another blog.

A TED Talk echos the Process Triage protocol

Hat tip to triage host Catherine Cates of Pat Murphy Electric (Atlanta) for mentioning a TED talk given by Tom Wujec on ‘Making Toast.’

I laughed out loud when Tom explained how everything is ‘nodes’ (circles) and ‘links’ (arrows); a process mapping style I’ve facilitated for 20+ years.

Here are some triagers working collaboratively on their process sketch.

319-1 Wall Work (2)

What Tom is doing is impressive. His body of work offers additional explanation why the Process Triage protocol has been so successful theoretically.

Tom and I are now connected (Linked-In) and perhaps PT can help him with case studies.

Thanks Catherine!