Process Improvement via The Whiteboard Way© – Step One

This week we’re starting a series on The Whiteboard Way©, our very own process improvement methodology.

First, a Little Background

When we started Whiteboard Consulting Group, one of the things we wanted to do was develop a way to do process improvement that would be easy for people and organizations who had never tried it, never heard of it, or thought that it had to be big, cumbersome, and expensive.

Our method is simple, has only 5 steps, doesn’t rely on expensive software, and can help you begin your process-improvement journey. Think of  The Whiteboard Way© as the act of “tilling the soil” – getting it ready for the culture shift towards continuous improvement that will surely follow.

Step One: Define It!

Perhaps the most difficult part of getting a process improvement project off the ground is actually defining the problem. Why is this so important? Because if we really take the time to think about it, removing all assumptions and pre-conceived ideas about the solutions, we can ensure two things: 1) an unbiased approach to problem solving, and 2) an open approach to all possible solutions. In other words, we can guarantee the best solution.

albert-einstein-quote

“But Ruth!” you exclaim, “that’s the easiest thing to do, isn’t it? If we didn’t know what the problem was, we wouldn’t be having this conversation, right?”

Not necessarily.

It is absolutely true that you have an idea of the problem. We like to describe it as a “pain point”, or something that keeps you up at night or frustrates you and makes you listen to angry music on the way home (I recommend Nine Inch Nails or Metallica for those days). You sit at the dinner table with friends or family and say things like, “I can’t believe we had to fix this issue for another customer,” or, “every month it’s the same thing – we scramble to get this done at the last minute,” or “it shouldn’t cost this much to do this work”.

The hard part is defining what’s wrong without assuming why it’s wrong.

Here are some examples:

“Bad” Problem Definitions

We have to fix this issue all the time for our customers because we just don’t have time to train our people.

We never have enough time to do this process because other priorities keep getting in the way.

It costs too much to do this piece of work because I can’t hire the right people.

“Good” Problem Definitions

In the last 3 months we have had to fix this issue 6 times for four customers, causing dissatisfaction for our customers and wasted processing time for our staff.

Each month we are 5-7 days late completing this process, impacting other departments and generating late fees for the company.

This piece of work costs the organization $5,000 per month. Best practices in similar companies is half that amount.

Here’s how we do it in The Whiteboard Way©

  1. State the pain point.
  2. Add data – how much, how often, what’s the impact
  3. Add no solutions

It just takes practice. And we can help you with that. Comment below with your “pain points”!

Next week: step two. Draw It!

Until then,

Ruth.

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