Tag Archive: consulting

Our New Blog Site!

 

Hi there, and thanks for checking out our website!

We wanted to let you know that we have a brand new location for our blog – it’s now over on the Medium platform (Click HERE), and you can find all the latest articles from us (and other writers who we’ve approved) there.

At The Whiteboard continues to be the place to find information that will help you “Crush It At Work.” This page, on our website, contains all our archived blogs back to the very beginning (June 2012!!!). If you’re looking for our latest and greatest work, however, you need to click HERE.

  • Are you a front-line employee trying to figure out how to make improvements in what you do every day, how to be an amazing team member, how to move up in an organization, or how to build amazing relationships at work?
  • Maybe you’re a manager, trying to be amazing at your job. You’d like to improve business processes, learn how to engage your team, inspire them, coach them (ugh, what does THAT even mean?), talk to them even when it’s tough, make changes that stick, or just be “that manager” that people remember (in a good way) forever.
  • Are you a Senior Leader who wishes their team would “think more strategically” but don’t know how to explain that to them? Do you have communication issues, culture issues, and change management issues? If I asked you to explain change management to me in 25 words or less, could you? Are you trying to improve efficiency, save money, or make your customers happier? Why? How do you know there’s a problem?

If so, then our publication is for you. Search this page for our oldies-but-goodies, or click HERE to see the latest and greatest.

Thanks for reading!

Even Coaches Need Coaches

coaching a coach

If you’ve been reading our blogs for a while, or have noticed our recent “Whiteboard Pro-Tip Videos,” you know that we are HUGE fans of effective coaching conversations as a means of increasing employee engagement and building strong teams. (Read our article on “Being a Great Coach in the Office” which was published in the Huffington Post last year.)

Our workshops have helped scores of people improve their coaching skills, and our one-on-one coaching sessions have helped individuals figure out how to become “unstuck” with whatever roadblock is preventing them from getting where they want to go.

But what if you’re already a pretty good, even fantastic, coach? You get it, you’re good at it, you practice it, your team is highly engaged and successful, and in fact you’ve been training others to grow their own coaching skills.

Do you need a coach if you’re already a coach?

Just about any professional needs their own services from time to time, and we know that they can’t (or shouldn’t) treat themselves and expect great results. Think about it:

  • Doctors need to see other doctors for physicals and prescriptions.
  • Personal trainers have personal trainers to spot them when they lift weight, and push them when they get tired.
  • Physiotherapists see other physiotherapists to manipulate and treat musculoskeletal issues.
  • Lawyers hire other lawyers to represent them (except on TV, where they are VERY good at representing themselves).
  • Therapists get advice and counselling from other therapists.
  • Ministers, Priests, Rabbis, and Imams seek spiritual guidance from others.

And so it goes with coaching.

Even expert coaches need someone else to help them self-discover solutions to problems they are facing. Here are three possible scenarios in which it would be critical for a coach to get coaching from someone else:

  1. Edgar has been coaching for 15 years, and is known for his openness, strength, and amazing leadership style. He thought he had seen it all until one of his peers lashed out at him in a leadership meeting, embarrassing him and creating a stressful atmosphere. Edgar knows he has to talk to this person, and is trying to prepare his approach. He’s just not sure how to open the conversation and would like to bounce some ideas off someone.
  2. Natasha has to coach a young member of her team who is fresh out of college, eager, keen, smart, and… obnoxious. She’s pretty sure how she will handle it, and would love to role play the possible outcomes. After all, Natasha is a Baby Boomer, and needs to sound helpful and encouraging, not “old” and “out of date.”
  3. Salome is a senior leader with plenty of coaching experience who feels disengaged and even a little bored at work. She’s not sure what to do and would like some objective guidance.

 

coaching a coach 1

 

No matter how much experience we have, we can always use some coaching to help us out. And remember, coaching isn’t the same has having coffee with a friend (although that’s always helpful too!) Friends are encouraging and supportive listeners, and can often be biased towards a specific solution.

Coaches are also encouraging and supportive, and have NO bias. Therefore, the solution you come up with is 100% yours, and was probably hiding deep down inside your brain somewhere all along.

If you need a coach, check out our coaching services by clicking here, or email us at info@whiteboardconsulting.ca. We’d be glad to help you, and our 15-minute telephone strategy session is FREE! How can you go wrong? (You can’t.)

Until next time,

Ruth.

Process Mapping? I’d rather be Napping.

So I’ve heard a lot of people say they are so fascinated by what I do in the process improvement world, and how great they think it is , but how “it’s not for them”.  Using my coaching skills, I usually say something like, “Oh yeah?  Tell me about why it isn’t for you”.

Here are some of the responses I get:images

“Snore.  Processes are super boring. My company is really intuitive, and we just know exactly what to do and we fix it.” – my super annoying friend

“Processes, who needs it? I already know my team is garbage and as soon as I can replace them, things will turn around”. – a client who later realized her team was great because process mapping revealed a culture issue

“Ugh.  Sounds bureaucratic. I’m an entrepreneur.  There is nothing corporate about he way I run my business, and to be honest we don’t need it.” – my sister-in-law

PROCESS MAPPING3 Signs You Need Process Mapping STAT!

  1. Something is wrong and you “think” know exactly how to fix it.  How do you know what’s wrong?  What leads you to believe that?  What is the expected outcome if you make the change? You might be right. Intuition is super important.  Why not validate those gut feelings with some evidence in a process map? It’s a great way to get buy in from your stakeholders and employees!
  2. You “think” your employees are the problem. They suck.  While this is the first place many people look for solutions, it’s usually something else.  Why do you think they suck?  What tells you that? What could be inhibiting them? Have you asked them? Research shows that if you take great people and put them in a bad process, the process will win every time. Process mapping sometimes uncovers secrets that are hiding within a bad process.
  3. You “think” process is too rigorous.  Well, it can be, but it doesn’t have to be.  The right people, the right style, and the right moment can take you from being a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants entrepreneur to a being a strategic one.  Why not set the stage so you can pass the tasks that aren’t worth your time (or you aren’t great at) to someone who can actually add value (so you can go and be amazing). Process mapping identifies those tasks and lets you properly divide them up.

If you’re not a “process person,” or even if you are but don’t have a lot of time, we can help you. We are expert at coming in, talking with you and your team, and uncovering the hidden opportunities to improve your business.

Even better – why not build process improvement and process mapping capacity on your team? We offer public workshops that are fun, interactive, and relevant. Check them out by clicking here, and contact us if you want to know more.

#whiteboardworskhops #theyredifferent

Until Next Time,

Nicole

Screen Shot 2016-06-16 at 4.09.44 PM

Happy Birthday to Us!

3

That’s right, as of March 28th Whiteboard Consulting is 3 years old!

Both Nicole and I are breathing a sigh of relief that we made it out of the Terrible Two’s, which, though not truly “terrible,” did provide us with our fair share of lessons.

Three Things We Learned in Our Third Year

  1. We thought we would be doing all Process Improvement, all the time. We were wrong. Instead, we have been doing more and more training and facilitation as the months have gone by. Why is this? Two reasons: first, most organizations don’t know that they need process improvement. They don’t come to us, hat in hand, and say, “Please Ruth & Nicole, will you fix our processes?” Instead, they express concern over a symptom, or ask for information on how to improve a specific aspect of their business. This almost always leads to some kind of facilitated work and/or training, and sometimes also to true process improvement work. The second reason is that, without intending to boast, we are excellent trainers, and word gets around.
  2. Network. All the Time. In the first half of 2014 we were extremely busy, and spent little to no time networking and generating new business. It seemed natural for the work to come to us, so imagine our surprise when the pipeline dried up in late summer and it took several months to get it moving again.
  3. Do what you love. We love to train and write. Our courses for both the general public and our private sector clients, as well as the courses we teach for the Government of Ontario, are received with wonderful feedback, and our blogs are being picked up by the Huffington Post more and more frequently. (Look for them in Forbes soon if all goes well.) We really enjoy process improvement work, and when teaching and writing are thrown in, we are very happy campers.

In Our Fourth Year We Are…

  • the Queens of networking and business development, taking Whiteboard into a year of growth.
  • following Sean Covey’s Four Disciplines of Execution and taking a page out of our own book too – this means we are focused on the activities that act as lead measures and will drive our ultimate goal of revenue generation. We have weekly accountability meetings and have laser-focus on the activities we need to achieve to be successful.
  • finding ways to say yes. If clients ask us to do work that conflicts with something else in the schedule, we figure out a way to make it happen. If that means Nicole does one event and I do another, so be it. Hard for us to let go of each other’s apron strings, but that’s what it means when you’re a toddler instead of a two-year-old.
  • training. A lot. Our next two public courses are:
    1. Lean Six Sigma for Service Delivery, a 3-day course in May in Toronto. (Click here)
    2. Performance Measurement 101, a 2-day course in April and May in Toronto. (Click here)

Thank you for your engagement, your comments, your “Likes,” “Shares,” “Favourites,” and “Retweets.”  We look forward to even more of those in the coming year!

Until next week,

Ruth.

(Process) Rules Are Made to Be Broken

rules

It’s true. Rules are made to be broken. Even in the world of Process Improvement.

“Wait, what?” you ask. “But Ruth, process improvement is all about rules and statistics and doing things the same way every time, yada yada yada. You’re contradicting the very foundation of what Whiteboard teaches!”

Ah, nothing is so black and white, grasshopper. Hear me out.

Process Improvement is Changing

In my process career I have witnessed and/or been part of many process improvement initiatives – big, small, fully funded and supported, done “off the corner of a desk”, successful, and unsuccessful.

The two things that made the difference between success and failure – in addition to the usuals of effective communication, engagement, and senior management commitment – were:

  1. Early evidence that the new methods work and are worth the effort, and
  2. The ability to be flexible and change your mind.

And this last one, flexibility, seems to be growing in importance. In fact, it also influences the first one – “evidence of success.”flexible

Traditional and, dare I say it, soon to become “old school” methodologies like Six Sigma and to some extent Lean, are based on strict methodologies that work really well in some organizations – usually those in a manufacturing or highly repetitive/operational industry. In other industries, particularly serviced-based, these methods have a more difficult time taking root. It’s not impossible, and there are many very successful examples – but it is harder.

It’s OK to Change Your Mind – Just Don’t Squirrel

When Nicole and I teach The Whiteboard Way©  to aspiring process-improvement practitioners, we are careful to point out the need to be flexible, and to change things along the way if they aren’t working. The ability to do this is refreshing to people who are often nervous about adopting a new method, or taking on “this process stuff.”

I recently did some strategic planning with a client – he was a little nervous about planning tactics for goals that were 12-24 months out. “Things can change, Ruth,” he said. And he was right. That’s why it’s important to have a plan and a process, and then if (when) things change you can make intentional decisions to veer away from or modify the plan. But – the modification is then intentional, not just because you saw a fun-looking squirrel and decided to run after it like the dog in the movie Up (love this clip: click here). Some people do this so frequently, that Nicole and I actually use “squirrelling” as a verb.

In the Four Disciplines of Execution, Sean Covey stresses the importance of using and tracking lead measures – those which you can influence and which drive the progress towards a goal – in the execution of a goal or strategy. His theory is that a “cadence of accountability” ensures that people develop the habit of reviewing their commitments and assessing whether those tactics (or lead measures) are making the progress they expected. If they’re not, then they change the tactics and the things they measure until it has the desired result. (Click to Tweet)

In the The Whiteboard Way© we teach the same principles. We combine traditional process improvement tools with modern theories about being flexible yet accountable, and we show how this approach generates increased engagement and better results.

Have you had success doing process improvement this way? Tell us about it!

Until next time,

Ruth.

How to Process Map When You Don’t Know What You’re Doing

whiteboardconsulting.ca/staging: Peacocks and ProcessesThis week a friend emailed me to ask for some process improvement advice. He has been thinking about a business process in his office, and knows something isn’t working the way it should, but isn’t quite sure what it is.

In fact, he wasn’t even sure how to articulate what he was looking for.

“This is probably the kind of thing that you guys could do for me, but I don’t even know what I want yet. Do you have anything like a template or a document that lists your process for drawing out how a process is working?”

Funnily enough, we don’t. When Nicole and I facilitate process improvement sessions it comes to us naturally, based on a few key questions:

  1. What is the “pain point” that you want to fix? Or, what is that “one thing” that drives you bananas when you drive home on Friday evenings, thinking “if only we didn’t have to deal with “this thing”, everything would be better?
  2. What kicks off your process? What’s the first step? You might think this is an easy question, but we once spent 45 minutes with a client helping them answer it.
  3. When is your process finished? What’s the last step? Is it when something is produced? Or when the customer recieves it? Or when the cheque comes in?

And that’s enough to get us started. From there we interview the key people involved in a process, draw it on huge Post-It paper on the wall, and then review it with people to ensure it’s accurate.

At that point the opportunities to improve pretty much jump off the page.

My Response to Him

Assuming you know nothing about a process map (forgive me if you do):

  • square shapes represent a step in the process
  • circles/ovals are beginning and end points
  • diamonds are decision points
  • arrows direct the flow from one step to another
  • the rows, or swimlanes, represent each person or group or organization who “touch” the process
  • A completed process map a beginning and end (duh), has all the process steps in the appropriate row depending on who completes the step, has decision points where ever an approval is needed (e.g. Approved? Y/N) and then appropriate steps for both Yes and No possibilities, has numbered steps (makes it easier to refer to specific steps later if you’re talking to someone about it).

You can use a pencil to document your process directly on the page, or you can have a big piece of paper on the wall and use sticky-notes (one for each step). This makes it easy to move them around if you need to. Use the attached template to help you out. (Click here for the process map template: WBC Process Map Template.)

  1. Determine the swimlanes – who has some involvement (no matter if it’s only one step) in any aspect of the process?
  2. Determine the trigger point – what kicks the process off?
  3. Consider the end point – how will you know when the process is done?
  4. Put a circle shape in the swimlane for the person/group that starts things off. Write the word “START” in it.
  5. Put a square shape next to the circle and label it #1, and write the step.
  6. Proceed with each consecutive step.
  7. Add the arrows last (you almost always have to change them as you go).
  8. When you reach the end point, put a circle with the word “END” in it.

His Response to Me

Ever the clown, my friend responded with, “do you realize how ironic it is that you don’t have a process document for your process mapping process?”

Isn’t it though. So ironic. See if I help HIM out again… sheesh…

Until next time,

Ruth.

How to Hire the Right Consultant

consultantSo you’ve decided you need a consultant, right? No? Not sure?

Well let’s tackle your decision before we get to the “how to hire the right consultant” question. Because actually, the decision of whether or not to hire a consultant is just as important to your overall satisfaction as is the hiring process itself. Click to Tweet

Many people experience angst when deciding whether to bring in outside expertise. After all, we consultants are right up there with lawyers in the ranks of professions who often get a bad rap. Therefore, we recommend you think about it like a business case: if you have a piece of important work that needs to be done, and either a) there is no one in your organization with the right skills to do it, or b) they aren’t available… then you need a consultant to help you. There’s just no way around it.

So now that’s taken care of. You need a consultant.

How then, do you go about finding one that won’t leave you feeling “shmoozed” and left with a bunch of expensive binders and documents that aren’t helpful and aren’t what you need?

Would it surprise you if I said it’s all in the process?

Well it’s true, and it’s really just a matter of asking and answering the right questions, in the right order.

consultant1

  1. Do you have a realistic budget? This may seem self-evident, but you’d be surprised. Some organizations agree they have a budget but haven’t decided on exactly how much. Then, when they finally map out the work they want done, they find they can’t afford it. So first consider the budget. Then when you get to scoping and hiring, your expectations will be aligned with your budget.
  2. Have you decided whether you need Advice or Implementation? The distinction is important. Are you looking for a person(s) who can do a review and provide you with considered advice and best practices for comparison? Or do you already have a clear idea of what you want to do, and therefore you simply need someone to confirm your thoughts and then execute on the strategy? Perhaps you need both, and that’s fine – just remember they are very different skill sets.
  3. Have you clearly defined the outcomes you expect and the timelines in which you expect them? It’s dangerous to be vague in this area, and yet so tempting. We have read many proposal documents that ask for “high level plans” and completion “in the fourth quarter”. (By the way, good consultants will clarify these things via a scoping conversation.)
  4. Have you written a fantastic proposal? Many proposals are dozens of pages long depending on the industry and the sector. Most of them have a “core” section that describes the environment, the challenge, and the expectations as clearly as possible. The better this section is set out, the better the quality of responses you will get from potential consultants.
  5. Are you interviewing more than one candidate? Whether you are in the public sector and required to interview at least three, or in the private sector and can hire whomever you like, it’s important to keep your options open. Why? Because at the very least you will be able to determine a personality fit (which is a key to a successful relationship), and at best you will hear about potential approaches that you never even considered.
  6. Have you set out some on-going support and touch-points for the consultant once they start? It’s often the case that there is a kickoff meeting, a few introductions are made, and the consultant is then left to fend for him/herself. If you can provide a single-point-of-contact for them, set up a few touchpoint meetings in advance, and show your interest and support throughout (even if you assign the oversight to someone else), it goes a long way to building that trusting relationship, which is likely to make the consultant go that extra mile to make sure you’re happy (even delighted!).

We’d love to hear about your “consultant hiring” experiences. Please feel free to comment below, or Tweet us @whiteboardcons!

Until next time,

Ruth.