All posts by whiteboardconsulting

Swashbuckling Your Way Through September

The other day Nicole and I were lamenting the end of Summer (she was lamenting a little more, as autumn is my favourite time of year) and the end of a more relaxed approach to work. With so many clients on holidays, it was nice to schedule our own down time and to take vacation or mini-breaks mid-week.

And then people started coming back to work. Suddenly everyone wants everything done in September, and we found ourselves wondering how we would get through it all!

Easy! Think Like a Pirate, and Swashbuckle Your Way Through!

hook

First of all, let’s clarify the meaning of swashbuckle. One part of the definition refers to having a lot of swagger – that is, confidence in the way one presents oneself to the world – in the way you walk, talk, and dress. It also uses the word “flamboyant” (can you say, “Johnny Depp”?), which may be a bit of a stretch for us. But we love to think we have swagger!

The second part of the definition depicts excitement or adventure – this is really what appealed to us. If we look at September as one huge adventure, we’ll enjoy it, not dread it.

OK, now to the practical application:

How to Swashbuckle September

johny

  1. Remember your lists. Almost exactly a year ago I wrote a blog on prioritizing and the benefit of making lists. (Read it here) In order to be confident and have swagger, you need to know where you’re going, when, and what you have to do before you get there. What, you don’t think pirates made lists? Well, they were very fond of maps, as we all know, which is a visual representation of a list, so I beg to differ.
  2. Say Aaar, but only using your inside voice! Remember, your clients come first. If their timelines change, it’s ok and it should be expected. If you’ve been planning your work ahead, hopefully you’ve built in contingencies. If not, refer back to your lists and just hunker down and get ‘er done with a smile.
  3. Treat it like an adventure! September has always been my New Year’s celebration. Whether it’s back to school or back to work, it’s a fresh slate for a new season, and it should invigorate you, not overwhelm you. See it as an opportunity, and you will find yourself looking forward to the challenge.

calm

So avast me beauties! Grab some grog, turn up the fiddle music, and swab those decks, or I’ll have ye walkin’ the plank! (or your clients will…)

How do you handle sudden busy-ness? Give us a shout via Twitter @whiteboardcons using #betterfastercheaper or email us at info@whiteboardconsulting.ca/staging.

Tweets by @WhiteboardCons

Until next week!
Ruth

Help me stop micro-managing!

A close friend of mine recently became a senior manager. After telling me a few stories, he looked at me with a horror stricken face and said – “Am I a micro-manager? I promised my team I wouldn’t do that! How do you be a loved boss and a good boss at the same time?”

Well first things first, let’s look at what micro management means and what it might look like in real practice. Not sure if you are a micromanager or not? Try a quiz online here.

micro

What is micro-managing?

to manage especially with excessive control or attention to detailsmi·cro·man·age verb \ˌmī-krō-ˈma-nij\
transitive verb

intransitive verb

to direct or conduct the activities of a group or an enterprise by micromanaging them

A culture of micro-management in an organization is usually characterized by lack of engagement, stifled creativity, low employee autonomy, a reactive “fire-fighting” culture, and in all likelihood stressed-out managers!

Micro-management has financial effects too, including:

  • increased turnover (and subsequent re-hire costs)
  • reduced customer satisfaction
  • reduced employee engagement and productivity

Employees usually describe instances of micro management as the leader:

  1. adding periods, commas, and colons obsessively on a brilliant strategic document, without any constructive feedback on the content,
  2. checking in compulsively every day on a project that takes months to complete, or even worse,
  3. taking over a document, re-doing it completely without taking any input from the employee and then submitting it to senior management.

Now despite having all the best intentions of not being a micromanager, how does it happen?

Reasons for micromanaging

  1. Lack of time: Quick deadlines, less time to review documents and materials means that sometimes the manager has little choice to provide coaching and feedback, and ends up re-doing the
  2. Need for control: Sometimes previous experience has led managers to be hyper-sensitive to back feedback from senior leaders, and the only way to control it is, doing it themselves.
  3. Lack of confidence in staff: Sometimes previous poor performance from staff, or absorbing a new team or new employee can lead to micromanagement. In the case of the latter, micro-management might be a good thing.

Strategies to Tackle the Micro-Managing Monster!

  1. Give clear direction and state your expectations. At the onset of a task, assignment, or project, be clear about the objective, and how you envision the end product. Now is the time to re-iterate previous feedback and come up with an approach for the project together.
  2. Take Time. Make sure that you have adequate time to coach and provide feedback and involve an employee in revisions and changes – when you are rushed you might be tempted to take it on yourself just to get it done the way you want it on time.

Are you a self-professed micro-manager? Have a great story about a micro-manager? Share it with us! Give us a shout via Twitter @whiteboardcons using #betterfastercheaper or email us at info@whiteboardconsulting.ca/staging.

Tweets by @WhiteboardCons

COMING SOON: Whiteboard University

Did you love our Process Improvement 101 course? Get ready for a whole curriculum of courses and course materials from Whiteboard Consulting Group.

Whiteboard University: Our Approach to Learning

At Whiteboard Consulting Group (WCG) we understand that adult learners vary in learning style and preference, and that there are unique considerations for in-person and remote/virtual learning.

We believe in helping participants understand theory and concepts via interactive and guided learning that is applied to realistic and applicable business cases.

Whiteboard UniversityIn addition, our teaching is based on the Howard Gardner’s theory of “multiple intelligences”, which states that there are several types of learning styles (e.g. kinaesthetic, logical, intra-personal, visual/spatial, linguistic, interpersonal, etc). Our style is to ensure that each type of learner will find some portion of our agenda that resonates with them. By doing this, we reach every single student.

As trainers we link the diverse backgrounds, learning styles and job requirements of each learner to the practice of the curriculum, thus ensuring they understand and can apply this new knowledge in every-day office settings.

Process Improvement Curriculum

PI-101: Introduction to Process Improvement Part I

In this course the learner is introduced to the history and evolution of traditional process improvement methodologies and the benefit (or “burning platform”) of adopting a culture focused on quality improvement.Whiteboard University

The learner will also be introduced to “The Whiteboard Way”, a simplified and efficient method of implementing process improvement. Learners will be able to apply basic tools allowing them to be specific when defining opportunities for improvement (Define It!). As well, the learner will be able to present these opportunities in a visual format (Draw It!).

PI-201: Introduction to Process Improvement Part II

This follow-up course allows the learner to move from problem identification to the identification of solutions (Imagine It!). The importance of data-based decision-making is introduced as a critical element of business case development (Prove It!), and foundational to the final phase, communication. Finally, learners will understand the influence that an effective communication strategy will have on the success of their process improvement activity (Talk About It!).
Pre-requisite: PI-101 (or equivalent)

Ruth Henderson - Whiteboard ConsultingPI-301: Connect the Dots: Why Data is Important

This course addresses the common complaint of being “data rich but information poor”. The learner will be introduced to the basics of collecting high quality data and performing basic analysis to prove the root cause of a problem (data-based decision-making), support the proposed solution to the problem, and develop simple methods for ensuring the improvement “sticks”.
Pre-requisite: None

PI-302: Process Improvement Through Coaching

In this course the learner will be able to combine the concept of process improvement basics with the basics of coaching. By putting the two together, experience has shown it is possible to change a culture almost by osmosis.

An effective and engaging leader (at any level) can coach “up, down, and across”, lead by example, and subtly and permanently change the course of his/her organizational culture.

The learner will understand how to take small but specific steps to change a resistant culture to one based on processes and data-based decision-making.
Pre-requisite: None

Whiteboard University

PI-303: Introduction to Project Management

The learner is presented with the essential elements of project management in a simplified and common sense approach.

The importance of planning, time management, task assignment and communication are introduced as critical factors needed to deliver successful projects.

This course presents the learner with a simplified, common sense, from ‘the gut’, way of approaching project management. No business or engineering background required.

A myriad of critical elements are introduced, including: understanding scope (where to draw the line), how to create a basic project plan, the importance of roles and responsibilities, time management- the archenemies of risk mitigation, and communication plans ( understanding your audience, check points and team meetings).

PI-401: Mind the Gap: Managing the Space Between the Silos

In this course the learner will learn how to break down traditional “silo” mentality by organizing work so that it can not only be done, but also can be managed and supported. The learner will identify and develop key corporate processes that ensure effective communication across teams, departments, divisions, and even physical locations. The importance of emotional intelligence as an effective means of influencing the successful implementation of these processes will be discussed.
Pre-requisite: None

Contact Us for PricingWhiteboard Consulting Toronto - Team

We offer discounts for those who register for the entire curriculum. We also can do webinars for remote learners!

Stay tuned for course dates and locations! If you’d like more information email us at: info@whiteboardconsulting.ca/staging

Processes & the Voice of the Customer

group

Voice of the Customer, or VOC, is perhaps one of the more misunderstood concepts in businesses today.

Everyone is pretty good by now at identifying their customers, both internal and external. What remains challenging is setting performance metrics that represent not only internal goals and objectives, but also reflect the wants and needs of those varying customer groups.

Do your organization’s key performance indicators (KPIs) reflect your VOC?

“Yes, we determine what our customers want each year.”

OUCH!

That’s not even hyperbole. Many organizations have well-intentioned strategic discussions in order to document their customers’ needs for the coming period. They “put on their customer hat”, brainstorm, and then translate that into targets for performance.

A for effort. F for execution.

What’s missing?

How about actually asking the customer.

Customer information can be gathered informally (feedback from social media, information from contact centres or snail mail) or formally (surveys, focus groups). Whatever the method, it’s something that just has to be done in order to be successful and engage the customer of your products and service.

Don’t tell me what success looks like to me!

Consider the following: Acme Book Company has a strategic and focused performance scorecard detailing its KPIs. One of those is delivery speed, measured by the time the order is received to the time the order is shipped. The target is 7 business days.

It seems logical, and yet there are a couple of flaws.

funny

  1. What does the customer care about when the order is shipped? They care much more about when it is received. The company might retort that they have no control over the postal service, which may be true to a certain extent. However, it’s still relevant, as it’s important to the customer, and may even spur ideas for alternate delivery methods.
  2. Is 7 business days the right target? Do customers care about business days vs. days? In this day of speedy shipping and instant delivery of eBooks, is 7 acceptable or a little slow? Have they asked their customers?

If your organization has made the effort to set KPIs, it’s well on the way to doing the right thing in measuring and collecting performance data. The next step is to add in the VOC and measure the things that are Critical to the Customer from the Customer’s Point of View! Click to Tweet

What kind of metrics do you use? Give us a shout via Twitter @whiteboardcons using #betterfastercheaper or email us at info@whiteboardconsulting.ca/staging.

Tweets by @WhiteboardCons

Until next week!
Ruth

Miss our webinar with Ian Brodie?

To see our interactive webinar, click here.

We’ll be covering some simple techniques for streamlining your marketing and other processes to free up more time for winning clients.

whiteboardconsulting.ca/staging: Webinar with Ian Brodie

Lack of time is the number one reason Ian hears from many people about why they struggle with their marketing. And often the root cause is that their marketing and other activities are very reactive and ad hoc.

Because we haven’t turned what we do into a systematic, repeatable process, we’re spending way too much time “muddling through” instead of getting the job done quickly and efficiently.

And so it feels like we just don’t have enough time to market and win clients.

But with a little streamlining and introducing more rigour into what you do, you can often free up a lot of time from each process. And do them better into the bargain.

If you want to learn more, check out the webinar here.

Check out Ian’s site www.ianbrodie.com to learn more about his pain free marketing and selling tactics!

People vs. Process

process

You hear about this kind of thing all the time in sports – a team does badly, so you fire the coach or the GM or both. What about in business? How many times have you come across situations in which something appears to be terribly wrong in an organization, and the solution is to replace the people – whether the executive, the managers, or the staff – and yet the problem continues?

Sadly, it happens all too often even though conventional wisdom holds that it’s usually not their fault. In fact, W. Edwards Deming, famed statistician and father of modern quality methods, once said that you can put a good person in a bad system, and the system will win every time. He went so far as to say that only 15% of the performance of a system is within the individual’s control.

So why are the people blamed for poor processes?

Wet Noodle Policy

In a recent interview with a group of employees at one of our clients’ offices, a frustrated manager referred to some office policies as “Wet Noodle Policies”, and indicated that they (the policies) were vague, poorly designed, inconsistently applied, and caused poor performance.

Wow. Was he saying that poor performance was not the fault of the people in the organization?

“People get it!” he said, referring to the need to be more efficient. “Processes inhibit it!” In his office, the people are often blamed for poor processes. Click to Tweet

The thing is, even considering HR processes that can be painful, it’s often easier to change the people than the processes. To do an in-depth process review can be a lengthy project depending on how radical a change is required, and organizations are understandably be apprehensive about that kind of an undertaking.

Forward-thinking organizations are those that do it anyway, and thoroughly review their processes on a regular basis.

How to Tell if it’s the People or the Process

Although we are big fans of process mapping, and highly recommend it as part of any process review, there are a few things you can do if you’re not sure where to start:

  1. Look at your performance metrics and standards. What? Don’t have any? Well there’s your first clue that process is a problem. You should have very clear goals and objectives for every process, and they should be communicated, visible, and reviewed on a regular basis. If people are held to certain standards, they will fix broken processes  because they are barriers to their personal success.
  2. Ask the people. Pull together a focus group and ask them what’s going off the rails. Interview some key people one-on-one. You’ll soon find out if certain names keep popping up, or if people keep referring to policies, rules, or processes that are broken.
  3. Envision Utopia. If you could start from scratch, what would the process look like? Now think of what’s in the way of doing things that way. Is it people? Is it policies and rules? Is it confusion?

Tell us your people vs. process story! Give us a shout via Twitter @whiteboardcons using #betterfastercheaper or email us at info@whiteboardconsulting.ca/staging.

Tweets by @WhiteboardCons

Until next week!
Ruth

Beware the Camel’s Nose

camel

What? You’ve never heard that expression? Neither had I, until a colleague introduced it to Nicole and me. Apparently it’s an old Arabian proverb that goes something like this:

If the camel once gets his nose in the tent, the body will soon follow.

It’s a metaphor describing the belief that seemingly innocent actions can lead to larger (and unwanted) consequences – if you a allow a camel to slide his nose under the edge of a tent, pretty soon he will work his whole body under it, and you’ll have a big hairy smelly (spitting!) beast in there who won’t leave.

So what does that have to do with process improvement in businesses? Plenty.

Camels and Process Failure

Recently, a client told me “I don’t think that what we need is so much of a process change, but a culture change.” Although he actually needs both, he raises an excellent point. You can modify and improve processes all you want, but if the culture doesn’t shift to embrace and commit to those changes (versus simply complying), then all the work you put into those improvements is likely going to end up wasted. Click to Tweet

Remember when we quoted Peter Drucker and said that Culture Will Eat Strategy for Breakfast? It’s the same thing… your process changes are like your revised strategy, and your organizational culture must be aligned in order to ensure the improvements can be realized.

A lack of accountability to process changes is the thin edge of the wedge, or “the camel’s nose.” Allow slippage with respect to process adherence, and you are begging for trouble.

tent

Three Things to Do to Avoid Process Slippage

  1. Add process accountability to job descriptions and performance contracts. You know the old adage, “what gets measured gets done”. It applies here too. If your team members are measured based on their compliance with processes, then it’s likely they will comply!
  2. Now get the commitment. Provide the background story on why the process changes were made and why it’s good for the organization. Communicate the way your team needs to hear it (more on that here) – if they understand it, they’re more likely to commit vs. simply comply.
  3. Coach and Share. If that camel sticks his nose under the tent and you notice it, then coach immediately. In the same way, if you notice commitment, recognize it right away! Share successes!

Have examples of camels’ noses at your office? Share it with us! Give us a shout via Twitter @whiteboardcons using #betterfastercheaper or email us at info@whiteboardconsulting.ca/staging.

Tweets by @WhiteboardCons

Until next week!

Talk to Me!

Recently we’ve been closing off a few older projects and starting a few new ones, and the issue of effective communication keeps coming up. A LOT.

It really doesn’t matter whether it’s a brand new initiative or one that’s well on its way to closing – communication has a special role in all stages of a project. When teaching our Project Management course, we emphasize the need to link back in with all stakeholders and share the results and intended next steps BEFORE closing a project. With new projects, it’s important to ease people into a project and let them know that you are there to help.

In fact, we always stress the need to engage employees throughout a project or process improvement exercise, and it has to be consistent.

Have you ever heard members of your organization say:

“Well I never heard about that, when is that happening?”
“As usual, they didn’t bother to keep us in the loop.”
“They never ask for our feedback, but we’re the ones that do the work!”

If so, then you may have some disengaged employees that just want communication

And there are three simple steps to get there…

3 Steps to Effectively Communicate Your Process Improvement Initiative

When you want to plan a communication, consider the following:

  • WHEN?
    Timing is key. If you communicate too early (before solidifying your ideas and establishing what to say and how to say it) you might confuse your audience. If you communicate too late, your new idea has a high risk of falling apart. (People won’t know what’s happening, and thus no actions will take hold.) Plan ahead. Create a communication plan.
  • WHAT?
    What are your key messages? You need to tell the ‘story’ to your audience. Clearly outline the setting, characters, event, climax, and ending (read more on telling a business story here .)
  • HOW?
    Everyone is different. Consider your audience. Are they visual learners (i.e. they absorb information best with face to face presentations (body language), illustrations, videos, graphs, etc)? Are they auditory learners (i.e. they are absorb information best through talking and discussions- face to face is not required)? Are they verbal learners (i.e. they think in words rather than pictures – eMails work well with this group)? In all likelihood you will have a mix, so craft your communications plan so it addresses all three.

What complicated messages did you have to share? Tell us about them! Give us a shout via Twitter @whiteboardcons using #betterfastercheaper or email us at info@whiteboardconsulting.ca/staging.

Tweets by @WhiteboardCons

Until next week!
Nicole

In Praise of Signs

In Praise of Signs

If you’re of a certain age, you may remember the 1970 hit “Signs”. The chorus, in classic 70s style, is both angry and sarcastic in its protest against the overuse of signs (which hamper freedom and discriminate against “long haired freaky people”).

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign,
Blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind!
Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?

So that was 43 years ago, and I’m here today to tell you that I think signs are awesome, helpful, and when used properly, save a lot of aggravation. Namely, mine.

It’s Not About Marketing, It’s About Service

I enjoy travel, and while I manage to leave the business back home in Nicole’s capable hands, I still can’t shake my tendancy to analyze (over analyze?) business processes everywhere I go. One of the things I am constantly struck by is the poor use of signage and its impact on the customer experience.

*On a recent cruise, I arrived at the port area in Venice with a group of similarly travel-weary people. Greeting us was an enormous terminal with maybe two signs, neither of which were helpful in pointing a person to the right area. In fact, the signs were not in use at all, which was a shame since they were just standing there taking up space. Dozens of people dragged heavy luggage to the wrong area, only to be redirected by a harried staff member. PUT UP A SIGN YOU IDIOT, I wanted to yell, but didn’t.

*Many of the cafés in Italy require you to pay for your purchase before ordering at a different counter. I’ve only seen one café that actually had a sign to let customers know this. You can imagine the chaos that ensues every single lunch hour in absence of a sign. At least for the tourists.

*Airports are notorious for being confusing, especially if what little signage there is is not in your native language. How nice would it be to walk in the door and have the logo of your airline and an arrow pointing in the direction of the check-in area, rather than wandering back and forth looking for the Air Transat logo that is all the way at the end of the terminal? (Not that I did that.)

Five Ways Signs Can Improve Processes for Your Customers

While I focused on the travel industry in this blog, the same rules apply for any business with face-to-face customer interactions. Signs are good! They don’t need to be fancy, they just need to be helpful. In a pinch, even a post-it note will do. Remember, a good sign should:

*Be short and yet abundantly clear.
*Be visible and easy to spot.
*Be helpful.

Here are five reasons for using signage in your place of business:

  1. To provide direction. Point the way for your customer. Have signage at all corners, intersections, and stairs so they never have to wonder which way to go.
  2. To set expectations. Let your customers know what they need to have in hand when they meet with you (specific paperwork or documents?) and how long the process will take.
  3. To give instructions. Tell the customers where they need to go, and in what order they need to do things.
  4. To share information. Provide interesting information to increase the customers’ understanding of your business processes. Tell them why things happen the way they do.
  5. To say thank you. No harm in posting a thank you note for your customers at the end of a process. Thank them for their patience, their business, their sense of humour, and their time!

PS – don’t forget that your employees are your (internal) customers too, so signage works in the office in the same way!

Have examples of signs that work? Share it with us! Give us a shout via Twitter @whiteboardcons using #betterfastercheaper or email us at info@whiteboardconsulting.ca/staging.

Tweets by @WhiteboardCons

Until next week!
Ruth

Overproccesed, bothered, and bewildered

So often we gripe to you about how organizations need to document and build processes in order to be successful, but what about when an organization has too many processes or is too rigid about them. So today’s blog is about “Overprocessing” (that’s not too much hair dye in this case).

My best friend (henceforth known as bestie) and I often go to a nail salon in our neighbourhood. It’s a bit of a catch-22. We love it because you can always get in, you never have to wait, you are in in and out in 30 minutes or so, and it is extremely reasonably priced. On the other hand, their processes are so rigid that they often alienate us as customers. We’ve affectionately named them “Military Nails”.

Now as a consultant, I’m pretty sure I have their business model down. No frills, low cost, fast nail services. They get you in, you pick your colour, you get your pedicure, and then you get your manicure – FAST. They don’t do designs, they don’t do paraffin wax treatments on your feet – they have their processes nailed, and it is successful. If you want a fancy spa-like treatment, you just go somewhere else. If you want something reliable, fast, and cheap, you go to “Military Nails”.

But occasionally, I wait for bestie to arrive in the hopes that perhaps we can sit near each other and chit chat during our pedicures, or catch up on the latest news. This seems to throw the Military nails people, they get confused, wonder why I won’t sit down yet, or they force me to sit in their waiting room (instead of standing as I often would). Other times, we see a new nail design in a magazine and see if they can do it (the technicians are incredibly talented) – but this usually results in a great deal of approvals from their manager, reiterations about costs, and it becomes a bit of an unpleasant experience.

So how can you ensure that your organization has processes that work and deliver services to your customers the right way?

2 signs your organization is over processed:

1) Your processes focus on processes, not on your customers.
Focus on your strategic vision, if it is to be “no-frills” then keep it that way, but think about how the outcomes can affect your customers.

2) Your processes require burdensome approvals.
Make sure that your employees have autonomy to make decsions that appeal to your clients, while still meeting that strategic objective.

Have examples of over processed organizations? Share it with us! Give us a shout via Twitter @whiteboardcons using #betterfastercheaper or email us at info@whiteboardconsulting.ca/staging.

Tweets by @WhiteboardCons

Until next week!
Nicole