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Let There Be… A Process Map

I’ve been asked several times to write a post in the popular Top “#” List format of what I’ve learned from triaging these many years and businesses.  It’s a long list as one can imagine, and what happens in what order depends upon the situation.  But one thing always comes first, when we’re talking about actually improving a business into a self-healing, continuously learning enterprise. We need some light.

By analogy, in the Jewish Bible’s Creation account in Genesis,  the text anthropomorphically presents the process as declarations of ‘And God said…’, and whatever God said came into existence.  The first openly spoken ‘And God said…’ is in Chapter 1, verse 3:

“‘And God said let there be light’,  and there was light.”

This light was not solor or photon-based light, as that kind of light is not added until three steps later, on the fourth day.  So what kind of light was this primordial stuff?

The Sages say this first light was like the light we turn on in a dark room so we interact with the room; to walk around in it and not stumble, or see its dimensions to decorate it.  The first thing we need is to create is that which enables us to have a relationship with what we’re creating. We cannot improve what we cannot see.

When it comes to creating and growing and fixing and improving businesses, we need to turn on this kind of  light.  We must create something that allows us to have a relationship with the management team we need, as well as those who will do the work or handle the technologies that will do the work.

This first creation is The Process Map —  an illustration of how work flows between the enterprise and her customers. The map also exposes how people and technologies interact with each other, such as who provides what to whom. The process map captures the idea of the enterprise and gives us a way to relate to it, and everything in it to us — a two way proposition.

At ProcessTriage®, the first thing we do in our flagship immersion workshop is build this map. It typically takes most of the morning and uses an very fast Action>Result format, examples here, here, and here (different industries).  The style comes from a very fast way to design information systems databases that accelerate business processes (primer here)

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Do you feel like you’re in the dark while your trying to fix or improve how things are running?

Turn on the process map.

P.S.  I read an ultra-orthodox Jewish commentary on Genesis 1:3 written during WWII, while the Manhattan Project was underway (the first atomic bomb) that asserted there had to be a layer of energy smaller than the atom, as the atom was the stuff of visible light — fourth day light. The commentary asserted the Big Bang theory was very likely correct and we should expect to find stuff smaller than atoms — the world of particle physics. Who knew!

The Rosey-isms List

Here it is — my list of rules, laws, axioms, truisms, and blinding flashes of the obvious, in no particular order — thoughts that have stuck to my cranium wall after leading hundreds of process triages (on a napkin here).

I hope this list is be good enough to bookmark and I promise to keep it fresh.

  • Usually, it is unwise to fix the most squeaky wheel first.

    Almost every process triage workshop (overview here) illustrates why the most painful points on a process are not necessarily the first improvement investment.  Every point-of-pain, where the process is not behaving right, requires an investment to remove, either an action item-size Small Now or a project-size Big Now.  The triage team ranks remedies, not the amount of pain.  Quite often, a single quite point of pain, usually near the start of a process delivers the most capability improvement compared to where all hell breaks loose downstream.  These less obvious fixes often pay for the workshop’s opportunity costs.

  • If you don’t fix the quality of your work first, you’ll just create crap faster.

    You’d be surprised how often this is overlooked.  Of course, we’re not talking about designed speed where we intend to re-cycle and improve immediately, such as in Agile software development.When we look at a list of triage results — the Small Now’s action item-size  and Big Now’s project-size list, we recommend the process delay volume increases until most of the remaining items are “Enforce –‘x'”, as opposed to Analyze, Design, or Train.

  • Task complexity increases with volume.

    What works at ‘x’ volume blows up at ‘2x’ or ’10x’ volume, especially if it involved human labor.  Processing 25 paychecks every other week is QuickBooks® simple. Cutting 20,000 3rd Party commission sales force pay checks, where each SKU has a different compensation rate, off a base of 1 million point-of-sale transactions per month, is astonishingly difficult.  One of PT’s early successes was triaging such a process, hat tip Wendy Cogan, the host.

    This is why Google can’t update software very fast anymore.  Or why anything attempted by the federal government that involves transacting with hundreds of millions of citizens is incapable of being created quickly (Obamacare exchanges), which is why the smartphone mobile app world is so compelling — it forces simplicity.

  • Individual experts cannot fix what only teams can find.

    All of us are smarter than any one of usI cannot count the number of times one member of a triage team identified a process’s point of pain in which the solution was obvious to another team member who specialized in an upstream or downstream activity or silo.  And very often, the solution is not the obvious one, nor is it the one the executive would have pointed out.

  • You can free up cash to use elsewhere by (1) borrowing it at interest, (2) trading equity for it, (3) outsourcing necessary  work cheaper, or (4) improving insufficiently capable, cash leaking  processes you should own and lead.  Continuous Process Improvement (#4) demands you actually lead an organization.

    There are a number of tactics the CEO can apply to raise cash without involving more than a few staff members, like borrowing money, trading equity for some, or deciding not to do work others do as well or better less expensively.  But freeing up or generating cash through on-going operations requires business process improvement, which is a TEAM activity.  Improving team performance requires leadership.

  •  A Process Capability Goal is to process performance what Strategic Objectives are to enterprise performance.

    If  there is one behavioral indicator — one thing to look for, to determine if a business process is well-managed, it is the presence or absence of a Process Capability Goal (PCG – template here).   If the managers of a process do not know how well it must behave, in a manner that, if sustained, will deliver its share of the firms financial goals, it will be chaos and ill-conceived and  unfocused improvements.

  • Only managed processes are scalable.

    A process is not scalable that is not measure for speed, quality at essential points, and unit cost consumption.  Period. Full Stop.

  • You don’t understand your process completely until you can see it as a flow of cash.

    Seeing a process as a flow of cash separates candidate executives from impostors, for financial acumen and managerial accounting is lingua franca  of executive management.  As I’ve said, while stomping my feet for emphasis, “Money isn’t everything but it pays the bills for everything ultimately.  Every improvement that improves a process’s capability should make sense financially, and that story cannot be told unless one is aware of how and where a process consumes cash.  So teach your front-line experts, those who see the most capability-inhibiting issues, how their process eats or generates cash.

  • If you will not delegate a task, when it can be delegated, you are the bottleneck that inhibits your growth.

    As an enterprise grows, the time demands on the CEO are more outward facing, with investors and strategic customers and constituencies, leaving less time for inward, operational attentions. The roles of CEO and COO must split into different people.  COO responsibilities cannot be delegated if the business operating model does not push continuous process improvement tactics down into production spaces — delegated to them.  Process triaging is all about teaching and establishing operational improvements.

  • Don’t necessarily fix what you have not counted.

    Do not change your business model unless the one-time problem was obviously catastrophic.  Just count it instead and determine if it will repeat.  After counting it and establishing a trend, then fix it.

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

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

Is Process Triaging Worth Your Time? Participants Score it 8.6 out of 10 — Absolutely!

On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the most positive score, “Was the workshop worth your and your sponsor’s investment compared to other work in your queue?”

That is the first question we ask in the Participant Experience Survey that concludes each ProcessTriage® workshop.  Answers are anonymous and the questions pull no punches.

We ask this question after the team has worked shoulder to shoulder all day, mapping their process, then examining it for what’s preventing it from delivering a Process Capability Goal that, if achieved, will deliver their team’s share of an overall enterprise objective.  And after they nominated, ranked, and offered to help with typically two dozen improvement proposals.

The focused, full day workshop is hard work that precedes 90+ days of even more work to improve the process.

Reviewing over the last dozen or so workshops, 106 triagers scored  ‘Worth our time‘ an average 8.63 out of 10, with a minimum value of 6 and a maximum of 10. The median was 9.o! (the middle number of the sample).

Here are the results of two other questions, again a score of 10 is the most positive:

Did or will the ProcessTriage® Workshop improve team member collaboration?   Average score: 8.0, Min=6, Max=10, Median= 8.2

“Were you satisfied with your ProcessTriage® facilitator’s performance?? Average score: 9.0, Min=7, Max=10, Median=9.1

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Interested?  Process Triaging on a Napkin (Here)

 

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.

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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!