Tag Archive: Process Improvement

What’s Your Corporate Climate Like?

We originally wrote the following blog post last winter, and were thrilled it was picked up by The Huffington Post on March 27, 2017.

What’s your Corporate Climate like?

Before you answer that, let’s just make sure we’re on the same page with respect to the use of the term “climate.”

We aren’t talking about the temperature in your office, or whether it’s really dry from the winter cold, or whether there aren’t any blinds on the west-facing windows so it’s unbearable on summer afternoons.

Rather, we are talking about an alternate definition provided by the Merriam Webster dictionary: “the prevailing influence or environmental conditions characterizing a group.”

What Defines a Corporate Climate?

We define the Corporate Climate as the synergistic effect of all the things that influence how, how well, and what work gets done in your organization. This includes things like:

  • People: There may be people who have influence over others at any level of the organization; it could be the CEO, an administrative assistant, a manager, or a new hire. If that person has a presence that influences (positively or negatively) other people, then he or she is shaping your Corporate Climate.
  • Policies & Processes: There may be policies & processes that are outdated and confusing, or relevant and useful. Some may be formally documented, and others may have evolved over time. Either way, they are impacting the quality of the work that is done.
  • Traditions: Do you hear the phrase “We’ve always done it this way” a lot in your organization? It could be a good thing (We’ve always had a company picnic and included all the families”) or a not-so-good thing (“We’ve always done this manually”). These traditions are a huge part of the Corporate Climate because they influence how and how well work is done.
  • Values: Does your organization have a values statement? Is it recent? Do leaders demonstrate those values and are people held accountable to them? Those values (or lack thereof) impact the Corporate Climate because they influence the way employees and customers engage with the organization.

Why You Should Care

Your organization’s Corporate Climate has a direct and measurable impact on the bottom line.

That’s it. That’s all you need to know.

Oh, you’d like to know how it impacts the bottom line? Ok.

The Corporate Climate influences employee engagement, which causes your team members to:

  • Wake up to the day’s most important news.
  • Stay or quit,
  • Do high quality work or the bare minimum,
  • Work as a high performing team or do their own thing,
  • Treat each other respectfully or tolerate incivility, and
  • Speak well of their organization or trash it.

Gallup Research consistently shows that ​employee engagement is an important predictor of corporate performance, even in a tough economy. They say, “engaged workers have bought into what the organization is about and are trying to make a difference.”

The Corporate Climate also influences the consistency, efficiency, and effectiveness of your products and services which:

  1. Causes customers to love you or hate you,
  2. Adds or reduces your sales and expenses, and
  3. Improves or reduces your level of employee engagement.

So, a positive Corporate Climate = a strong bottom line.

It’s Not Easy, But It’s Possible

Creating a positive, vibrant, and successful Corporate Climate is not easy, and yet – it’s possible!

Step One: Assess your Corporate Climate of your team, department, or the whole company. Consider the four categories we discussed:

  • People: How is our employee engagement? Do we have people that are positively or negatively influencing the Climate? Do we promote or coach those people accordingly?
  • Policies & Processes: When was the last time our policies were updated? What do we expect from our people? How do we treat them and each other? Do we have documented business processes? How long ago were they examined? Could we do better? Be more efficient?
  • Traditions: Are our traditions entrenched in the right areas and challenged in others? What high level traditions do we share and talk about? Do we know what traditions exist at the team level? Do those traditions represent what we are trying to do at the Corporate level?
  • Values: Would our employees be able to state what we value as an organization? Would our customers agree that we demonstrate our values? Have we ever defined what we value?

Step Two: Which of the areas above is the most pressing? Engage people in answering that question, and brainstorm some different answers and impacts.

Step Three: Start with one thing. Measure how it is now, take some focused action, and measure it again in six months. If there’s no change, go back to step two!

Your Corporate Climate is important. Take some time to assess yours today.

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

Whiteboard Workshop: Introduction to Process Mapping

pmProcess Mapping is awesome and fun and helpful and easy and so amazing, right?

No? If you disagree, you’re not alone. We did a quick Twitter poll and asked people what their thoughts are about Process Mapping. Here are some of the replies:

  • Process mapping? More like process napping! (Click to Tweet!)
  • Process mapping is critical, in that if you don’t do it, you can save the rain forest, your time, and your sanity.
  • Who needs sleeping pills when you could participate in a process mapping session?
  • Process mapping is the paleo of the workplace. (Click to Tweet!)
  • AT FIRST GLANCE THEY ARE SO INTIMIDATING AND COMPLICATED (this one was complete with caps)

So yeah. We get it. There are a LOT of people who don’t like process maps.

At least they think they don’t – they just haven’t met us yet.

But I “Need” to Do Process Mapping

Despite how people may feel about process mapping, they still need to use them. Either they have to design them on their own, or read some that have been designed by someone else. Some people know the “why” behind process mapping but still haven’t quite mastered it, and others have no idea what they are doing or why, only that “they have to do this for audit purposes.”

The truth is that process maps are necessary and critical in so many situations:

  • Training new people,
  • Documenting processes for audits,
  • Understanding the flow of information in an organization,
  • Having a picture of how customers are impacted by business processes,
  • Identifying areas to improve,
  • Identifying areas that are excelling (and should be modelled), and
  • Imagining a future state organizational structure.

So if you, or someone you know needs to do any of these things (or is responsible for others who are), then our latest workshop is for you. Read on.

1Whiteboard Workshop: Introduction to Process Mapping

If you have been reading our blogs for a while, then you know we love to make processes better, and we loathe things that are over-complicated. It follows then, that we don’t do process mapping (or training, for that matter), like most organizations do.

Our latest workshop, Introduction to Process Mapping, was first delivered on May 26th, and was a great success. Some testimonials:

  • I have done process mapping in the past, but it has been a long time since I’ve been able to utilize those skills. I was so happy to attend and receive a great refresher. Thank you!
  • There was a wide variety of different folks with different backgrounds, and you did great to keep all levels engaged and interested.
  • This course came at the perfect time! Something I really liked was the actual process mapping we did as individuals – it helped me demonstrate what I learned from the course.
  • I loved your banter – so funny and yet still professional. (This was our favourite, because we think we are very funny.)

We have two more dates set this fall. Both are Thursdays, and both will be in downtown Toronto (location TBD based on the group).

People who attend this course will be able to

  1. Understand the basics of process mapping theory and activities,
  2. Articulate the value of process consistency and when it can be “too much” (too rigorous),
  3. Demonstrate the ability to facilitate and develop a process map, and use appropriate levels, tools, and concepts (incl basics of Visio), and
  4. Analyze process maps to identify improvement opportunities.

You should come. You really should. CLICK HERE TO REGISTER. And if you have any questions, shoot us a note or Tweet us @whiteboardcons #ILOVEPM.

See you soon,

Ruth.

 

 

When to Survey Your Customers

Surveys. Love them or hate them, they have a place in business, helping organizations and retailers find out what their customers think about their services and products, and helping them identify ways in which they could improve.

We are peppered by surveys seemingly every time we take a receipt from a store or restaurant, buy something online, or – the worst – answer the phone. In fact Survey Monkey, a popular online survey company, estimates they collect 3 million survey results per day!

But people are getting ticked off. In fact, a Forbes article says that response rates are down from 20% to “a paltry 2%.” Add low response rates to poorly constructed and executed surveys, the article goes on to say, and you are just annoying your customers and not getting the information you want anyway.

survey

So you should stop doing surveys then, right?

No. Not right. It’s very very important to get your customers’ viewpoint – just not to the point of annoying the heck out of them.

So as a business owner, how do you go about getting that crucial Voice of the Customer? How do you know when to go to the trouble of asking clients who might not even respond?

Two Simple Questions

There are two things to ask yourself if you are wondering whether to send out a customer survey or not:

  1. Am I making a branding decision?
    • In other words, are you deciding the direction of your organization based on your personal vision or goals? If so, that’s probably something that you don’t need to ask your customers. This is YOUR vision, and hopefully it’s based on the right amount of market research and has a strong business plan behind it.
  2. Am I making a decision on behalf of a customer?
    • If you’re trying to decide on an action that will impact customers, and you could take action A or action B (both of which are in line with your brand), then it’s wise to ask your customers vs. assuming what they would like. For instance, if you want to institute a rewards program and can’t decide whether to offer free product or free product or service dollars, the tendency is to choose what you would prefer. It’s better to ask them.

Don’t Get Carried Away

Once you’ve decided to do a survey, make sure you follow these three simple rules so that you can get the right data AND not risk the loyalty of your customers:

  • Don’t offer people free stuff just to do the survey. It will dilute your response and encourage people to click through quickly for the reward at the end.
  • Make your survey SHORT. Statements like “this survey should take 5 minutes” are misleading – you don’t know how long it takes people to read! Keep it under 5 questions, and keep each one very short.
  • Make the questions relevant! Don’t bother asking stuff you’re just curious about – only the things you really need to know.

It’s always a good idea to ask permission too. In these days of spam and junk mail and survey overkill, it’s wise to allow people to opt in to your survey.

Good questions, well asked, will result in priceless information for your business, and will allow your customers to speak for themselves. That’s ALWAYS better than assuming you already know what they want to say.

Until next time,

Ruth.

 

 

Happy Birthday to Us!

bday

On March 28th Whiteboard turns 4 years old. 4 years! This is a big deal – according to Start Up Canada, only 70% of the more than 100,000 new small businesses that open each year actually last to year 2, and only 51% to year five. These are pretty daunting stats, and we are really thrilled to still be here, loving what we do.

What’s our secret?

Besides persistence and patience you mean? Well, the other day Nicole and I were talking about how our business has changed and grown in its short four-year existence. We started out as a company focused purely on process improvement consulting, determined to help businesses become more effective and efficient using our own methodology, The Whiteboard Way©.

We soon discovered that people didn’t just hold up their hands and say, “Oh pick us! We need process improvement!” No, in fact a lot of people don’t even know what the term means or why they should care about it. So we found ourselves trying to explain our business to people, most of whom nodded politely or stared like a deer in the headlights.

We found our work shifting to training and facilitation, knowing that what people REALLY need is a culture shift that will encourage innovation, inspire creativity, and allow people to try, fail, and try again. It is only by developing culture that organizations can attempt a massive (or moderate) change and hope to be successful. As the saying goes:

We started focusing on proving training on things that are most likely to help organizations be successful at implementing change. Things like:

  • Learning how (and when) to have rewarding conversations with people at work. Yes – conversations. It’s not as simple as you might think, and our coaching course helps people-managers build their skills in this area. It’s probably our most popular course.
  • Understanding the difference between leading and managing, and why that’s important in building an effective team.
  • Becoming self-aware and realizing how that can lead to truly effective communication.
  • Knowing how to set goals and understanding why measurements are important (hint: people like to know when they’re winning).
  • Helping teams understand the flow of work through an organization, and how gaps in process can cause frustration and inefficiency.

So now we don’t do process improvement? We teach?

Uh, no.

Don’t misunderstand me. We “do” process improvement. It happens to be one of the most amazing tools there is to help organizations improve business results. It’s just not the only tool.

We now describe ourselves as Change Management consultants who help uncover hidden opportunities to improve business results. And we do that by seeking to understand our clients, our course participants, our partners, and – always – ourselves.

  • Through our coaching program, we seek to understand you – the person – and help you get to the root of whatever barriers are in your way.
  • Through our process improvement work, we seek to understand the organization, and uncover hidden opportunities to improve business results.
  • Through our psychometric assessments (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) we help you seek to understand yourself and the people around you.
  • Through our speaking, training, and facilitation, we seek to understand our participants, and by so doing we ensure our workshops are dynamic, fun, relevant, and valuable.

And for our 5th year?

Not only have we added new services to our repertoire, but this year we are also excited to be exploring a new associate model which will allow us to expand the Whiteboard brand to other cities! This is going to be awesome, so stay tuned for more on that later in the year.

Thank you to all our clients, partners, and supporters who make it continually fun to do what we do. We couldn’t – and wouldn’t – do it without you!

Until next time,

Ruth.

 

The Process of Managing Change

This week I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Lisa Chicules, a brand and strategy expert, for her radio show “Chat With Chicules” on the Voice America Radio Network. Lisa is a real expert and leader in her field, unearthing the brand potential for organizations of all shapes and sizes. One of my favourite quotes of hers is “uncover the right insight and don’t stop until it’s brilliant.” She may not know it, but with thoughts like that, she’s not only a brand expert, but also a process thinker!

Needless to say I was both honoured and excited to be on her show. It was a first for me – talking isn’t a problem, but having a big shiny microphone in front of you is a whole different ballgame. We had a blast, and I really enjoyed our topic: The Process of Managing Change. (You can listen to it by clicking here.)

Because everything is a process, right?

Right. If you’ve been following our blog for a while, you know that we believe a process is a process is a process, whether you are making a martini, filling out your tax forms, or implementing a major new project or change initiative in the office.

And yet, as Lisa pointed out, so many organizations struggle with the process side of change. They focus on the “Big Shiny Goal” and forget about all the little things that go in to making that goal successful. “Why is that?” Lisa wondered.

Well, frankly, it’s because the Big Shiny Goal is more fun. It’s sexier, it’s what gets noticed, and it’s where a lot of Senior Leaders spend their time and energy. Then when they’ve developed this latest and greatest thing, they pass on their idea to someone else, say “Make It So,” and then move on – you guessed it – to the next Big Shiny Goal.

The problem is that “Make It So” doesn’t even begin to convey all the information required by an implementation team to make the Big Shiny Goal a reality. As it turns out, there’s quite a bit of context required in order to support the process (yes, process) of managing the implementation (or change) effectively.

John P. Kotter, business guru and best-selling author, developed a model that shows the 8 Steps of effective Change Management. Thankfully, I’m only going to focus on the first one because in my humble opinion, it’s the most important.

Kotter

The first step in our process is to create a sense of urgency. In other words, provide the context that is SO STRONG, that people will understand the reason for the change and why it has to happen right now. They may not love it, but they’ll get it.

For instance: let’s say you have to move your office to a new location. There are two ways you can announce this to the team:

  • The usual way: “Hey everyone, in three months we will be moving to a new office location on the other side of town. Now before you get excited, let me tell you how amazing this new building is – first of all, it’s all floor to ceiling windows, so it will be really bright and you’ll all have a window seat. Secondly it has a fully equipped kitchen, a Starbucks in the lobby, and gym membership is included. And finally, the elevators are all brand new so you won’t have to wait for ages like you do in this ancient old building. Ha ha ha. Isn’t this great?

What they hear: “Hey everyone, in three months we will be moving to a new office location on the other side of town. That’s right, an extra 30 minutes commute for you, and a completely different location from your wife. You may even have to get a second car. And you know your kid’s daycare that’s right across the street now? You probably won’t be able to pick them up by the 6pm cutoff any more. Oh and one more thing, there is no public transit, and it’s $6/day to park.”

You see, people don’t hear benefits right after a change announcement. They are overwhelmed by the impacts on their personal lives, and they they start to think – what the heck are they doing this for? This is awful!

Now let’s try to re-frame using the “hot problem / cool solution” concept, in which we state a problem that EVERYONE wants to avoid, and then provide the solution. This creates a sense of urgency that people can buy in to.

  • The better way: “Hey everyone, we have a fairly urgent issue to deal with, and I want to share it with you and tell you what we’ve come up with. As you know, budgets are being cut, and we’ve had to come up with $1.2 million in cost savings over the next three years. As you can imagine, there are a few ways to do this and we’ve been trying to figure out the way that will have the least impact on this team. In order to keep this team and its operations whole, we are going to have to move to a different office on the other side of town. I know this is going to have an impact on some of you, and I want to discuss it with each of you personally and see if we can come up with a solution.

Only then is it ok to start talking about benefits.

The second step in our process involves setting metrics so that people know if they are winning. Stephen Covey’s The Four Disciplines of Execution talks about the need to have a scorecard that is displayed in a public place so that everyone knows if they are meeting their goals. It sounds simple, yet so many organizations miss this piece and fail to set their goals in a measurable way at the beginning of the change or strategic implementation.

What are your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)? Note the word KEY. If you have more than 5-7 KPIs in your organization, then they are not the key metrics. Do you have a big spreadsheet with 20+ measures that are tracked regularly and reported to a large group?

Yes? Well that’s too many.

Many operational areas must track dozens of measures. That’s normal. But don’t call them Key Performance Indicators and share them with the whole organization – it’s not relevant, eyes gloss over, and the important story is lost.

Business analytics is all about telling the story, helping people understand what they are measuring, whether they are winning (on track), and if not, what some possible root causes may be. It is imperative that these metrics are set out at the beginning of any implementation.

Finally, the third process step I discussed with Lisa was effective communication. If you have ever participated in an employee engagement survey, then you know that communication is almost always in the top 3 things to improve. Why is that? Why can we never get it right?

communicate

I believe that too many of us communicate with others in the way that WE like to be communicated to. That is – I like eMails, so I send eMails to everyone and think I’ve done an awesome job communicating.

The problem is, many people don’t read those emails, so I haven’t communicated with them at all.

But that’s their fault, right? Shouldn’t they have just read the emails?

Yes. And by saying so, I’d be right. I’d also be really ineffective.

The great leader considers the people to whom he/she must communicate – all their differences in language style, medium preference, and even cultural concerns – and adjusts their communication accordingly. It might mean an email to some, a phone call to others, and even a quick face-to-face with a few others. It may seem like a waste of time, but it really isn’t.

Easy peasy, right?

Well maybe not. This is an awful lot to think about, even though it’s only three steps. And yet these things are absolutely essential in implementing a successful change. Miss out on any one of these things, and the best project plan in the world will not save you.

Remember:

  1. Set up the right metrics at the outset.
  2. Use Change Management theory to ensure you have set the context.
  3. Communicate to be effective, not just right.

If you’d like to listen to the radio broadcast I did with Lisa on this topic, click here and it will take you right to the recording. You can also download it from iTunes as a podcast if you search “Chat with Chicules” and look for the episode on The Process of Managing Change.

Until next time,

Ruth.

Sometimes the Flavour of the Month is Chocolate. And It’s Good.

flavour2

If you work for anyone other than yourself, you have probably lived this phrase in some way:

“Ugh – this new initiative is nothing other than the new flavour of the month. It’ll never stick and next year they’ll roll out something else.”

Sound familiar? These words have probably assaulted your ears (or crossed your lips), when the organization is trying with best intentions to make a change or an improvement. The person who is responsible for the change is excited about the initiative, and is frustrated beyond believe with this blasé response from the team.

So why do people say it?

First, a little Change Management theory for you – we know from Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross‘ work that people experience grief in an emotional roller coaster. When Kubler-Ross pioneered the concept of the 5 Stages of Grief, people became aware that grief impacts us all the same way and yet differently too.

In other words, we all go through the stages of Grief (Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance), but we may go through them differently. Some may linger in one stage or another, and some may fly through a stage so quickly as to appear to bypass it. The way in which we go through these stages is greatly impacted by our personal resilience, the amount of stress we are dealing with at the moment, and our experiences with grief in the past.

The same is true with change. In fact, Kubler-Ross’ model has been adapted to create the Change Curve, used by Change Management experts, teachers, and coaches. There are several different variations of the curve itself, and we like this one the best:

change curve

You can see the similarity to the 5 Stages of Grief – in this model we have Denial, Anger, Exploration, and Acceptance.

Imagine then, an employee who is not only experiencing change at work, but also at home (spouse has been demoted, child has moved out, parent is ill). This employee, we’ll call him Rob, has been a good worker and has been around for about 15 years. You are Rob’s manager, and very excited about a new program to create a more efficient process for doing the work of Rob and the entire team. When you meet to discuss it, Rob breaks open the “Flavour of the Month” remark, and the team snickers.

This is because Rob has been around for a couple of business cycles. He’s seen change implemented, re-implemented, de-implemented, and implemented again. He’s tired and his resilience is low – he feels that change is a pendulum, and that people should just make up their damn minds and stick with something.

Well, here’s the thing…

The United States’ National Bureau of Economic Research states that since 1945 the average business cycle has been just less than six years. That length of time may also be impacted by your industry, budget issues, technology advancement, and general business trends.

So in other words, every few years the business world changes. And in order to be relevant in that world, an organization must change with it. The change the organization is implementing is probably the right thing, for right now. In a few years it may no longer be the right thing. So yeah. It might well be the flavour of the month, and there’s nothing wrong with that (unless an organization is making change for change’s sake – and that’s a whole different discussion.)

The trick is to implement the “new flavour” carefully, using change management best practices from the outset and communicating the “why and why now” message in the most effective way for the team.

If that’s all done correctly, then the answer to Rob is as easy as, “Yes Rob, it IS the flavour of the month. It’s chocolate. And it’s good.”

Until next time,

Ruth.

 

How to use process tools for anything. Even moving!

Moving is a Process.

Think of your last move. You and your spouse/partner giggling hysterically while you pack boxes.  Flirtatiously throwing bubble wrap at one another while you pack? Then after a smooth experience with your moving company, arriving at your new home, giddy with excitement, settling into at least 10 glasses of champagne next to a cozy fire.

If you just snorted or guffawed- you aren’t alone.

What does a living hell look like?download

The first thing I did when we bought our new house was open a bottle of wine (it wasn’t going to open itself was it?).  Then, being the process geek I am, I began to map the current state of moving that I had experienced in the past. I won’t bore you with the VISIO document. But it sort of went something like this:

Step 1. Buy House

Step 2. Start Packing random stuff.

Step 3. Stop packing for a while because have run out of Cardboard Boxes (so has nearby grocery store).

Step 4. Unpack most of things packed in Step 2 because I needed them.

Step 5.  Nearly murder partner/spouse because they have to date packed nothing.

Step 6.  Pack frantically and angrily for a number of days.

Step 7.  Stop packing.  Realize move is still 3 months away.

Step 8. Unpack 90% of Step 6 items while looking for yoga mat that have not used in 3 years but need for “Girls Yoga/Brunch” on Sunday.

Step 9.  Realized have not booked movers.  Panic.  Call first movers that appear on The Google after searching “Movers Toronto”.

Step 10. Begin frantically packing again. Rip 7 boxes because I overpack them and everything falls through the bottom.

Step 11. Stop packing because it is Les Mills Release week and I have to go to every gym class ever.

Step 12. Begin frantically packing.

Step 13. Cancel girls indoor rock climbing date because “I HAVE NO IDEA WHERE THE #&$^#% MY ROCK CLIMBING SHOES ARE.

Step 14-18.  Slight wine induced blur of packing, crying, fighting with spouse irrationally, and scramble packing.

Step 19. ARRIVE AT NEW HOUSE!! Look lovingly at spouse/partner and sip champagne for about 13 seconds.  Immediately proceed to next step.

Step 20. Unpack frantically trying to get house ready for guests.

Step 21. Repack 70% of items as realize new house does not have closet space.

Step 22. Frantically look for that black top for girls wine night. WHERE THE &#&^#^#^#^ is that TOP?????

Step 23. 6 months later feel settled and have shit together.

So pain. So pain.

So this time, older, wiser, armed with process tools out the wazoo I vowed that this time my move would be better.  So first I focused on what I felt were the key pain points  (or for us process geeks, two Lean Wastes) for me during this process:

lean

  • not being able to find one blasted thing before or after the move, causing packing and unpacking again (OVERPROCESSING)
  • running out of  boxes/ripping boxes due to overpacking and having dead time where I wasn’t doing anything. (INVENTORY/WAITING)

The first thing I did being the consultant I am – I outsourced.  I rented reusable, stackable boxes that come with little labels  from (no kickbacks or anything for me, I just found these guys awesome and fast). No running out of boxes. Check!

The next thing I did, was made some space in my garage, and I used huge post-it notes to label each major room in the house (Kitchen, Living Room, Master Bedroom, Master Bathroom etc.)

Next I started packing things that 100% would not be required (i.e. Summer clothes, clothes that no longer fit me yet I am very hopeful that one day I will look like I did when I was 22, shoes that I paid alot of money for however never wear because I work from home in workout wear 98% of the time).

I packed one to two boxes a day.  Every day I brought them down to the garage, put them beneath the room they were assigned to, and labelled the box K1 = Kitchen box 1.  I then quickly wrote on the post it note on the wall, K1= dehydrator, stand mixer, and baking supplies. This way – when I nonsensically needed to make jerky in a hurry or bake homemade bread for the first time before we moved, it would be simple to find which box it was in.

Champagne Wishes and Caviar Dreams.

 

Screen Shot 2016-01-28 at 3.03.53 PM

Fast Forward 3 months later this was me on moving day.  Ha. It was great.  The easiest move ever. Check me out with my feet up on moving day!

And then when we arrived at the new house and got ourselves settledd my husband turned to me and said – “Sweetheart, do you know which box the Apple tv is in?”. I gleefully pulled out the post-it notes I had collected from the garage, and promptly announced: “LR11!!” with a huge boastful/gloaty smile.  He replied: “Gosh you are an amazing woman!”.  We quickly connected to the internet (that I had arranged installation for weeks in advance)and were cozily catching up on our favourite documentary. *

We laughed and giggled, clinked our champagne glasses together, and smiled.  Life was good. **

Notes:

*I forgot to to order internet installation. So we didn’t have internet for about 3 days.  I’m the worst.

 

**Actually, I collected the post it notes from the garage and randomly jammed them into an ottoman as the movers were putting it into the truck.  I didn’t find the post-it notes until 3 days later.  When husband asked for them and I couldn’t find them he may have replied something along the lines of:  “You are a total bozo.”

Moral being – there is ALWAYS room for more process improvement – in ANY process.  Just imagine using this in a more formal way at the office and you can only imagine the reduction in stress, overtime, and rework!

Tell us about your favourite day-to-day process improvements especially moving @Whiteboardcons #movingisaprocess!

Until next time,

Nicole

The Same Only Different

imp vs

Have you ever heard people use terms interchangeably that are really quite different? Does it make you cringe inside?

It’s like nails on a chalkboard when I hear people say “performance management” or “mentoring” when they mean “coaching.” Or when they say they need someone to “facilitate” when they actually mean they need someone to “train.” And one of my favourites: “leading” vs. “managing.”

Another, and the topic of today’s blog, is Innovation vs. Improvement. This mix-up, while seemingly innocuous, can lead to real organizational design issues, confused roles & responsibilities, and broken down processes.

Potato Po-tah-to?

The thing is, these groups of terms aren’t the same at all (although they can be related,) and yet people seem to use them as if they are synonyms. I’m not sure why, although I suspect it has to do with business culture that loves to invent words (incent, for instance), create catch phrases and buzz words (like Dashboard or Viewability), and even completely misuse words (like Key Performance Indicator for every single metric in an organization. Ummm… “Key” means “most important,” not “all encompassing.”)

In our course The Process of Coaching, we spend some time discussing what it means to coach vs. mentor. I hear the two phrases used jointly all the time:

  • “You need some coaching and mentoring.”
  • “Do you have a coach or mentor?”
  • “Let’s set up a coaching/mentoring program.”

The same is true of Innovation and Improvement.

  • “We have a great Innovation and Improvement department.”
  • “What we need to do to at this company is improve and innovate.”
  • “I’m the Innovation/Improvement manager.”

My Dad had a great phrase, and I think it helps here:

“ All crows are blackbirds, but not all blackbirds are crows.”

So all (or almost all) Innovation is Improvement, but not all Improvement is Innovation. The following diagram shows what I mean more clearly:

imp

Why is this important?

Some of you may be thinking, “Oh come on. It’s just semantics.” Well, actually, no. It’s not.

Lets take a look at what makes these terms different:

  • Improvement, or process improvement, refers to looking at how something is done – the steps, roles, and materials used – and making it more effective and efficient (Side note: effective and efficient are two more terms that are often used interchangeably. Effective means doing something with high quality. Efficient means doing something in a way that makes the best use of required resources – either the company’s or the customer’s.) This could be something like boarding planes by zone instead of rows, bankers lines instead of individual lines, or even something simple like improved signage in busy places.
  • Innovation means doing or creating something that is new in order to grow, keep up with competition, or be groundbreaking industry leaders. It can be a new process (for instance, the ability to tap your credit card at many stores), a new product that changes the way we live (smart phones), or a new business model that changes the way we interact with organizations (online shopping). You can see that the new process of paying by tap is also an improvement to how you pay today, whereas online shopping was an entirely new model, never conceived of before. Does it improve things? Some would debate that! But it certainly changes things.

In “Coaching for Improved Work Performance,” Ferdinand Fournies said that the biggest reason for people not doing what they are supposed to do is that they don’t know what they are supposed to do.

Sounds so simple!

If we fail to distinguish between Innovation and Improvement, we fail to be clear in our message of expectations to our employees. Is an Innovation & Improvement team supposed to increase efficiency or lead groundbreaking change? A manager with skills and background that is heavier in one area than another could influence the direction of the team greatly.

In fact, the two goals are different enough that they could be at odds if not managed correctly. Imagine asking for project approval – which one gets higher priority in the budget? Or, think about what would happen if you hired a bunch of Process Improvement experts and asked them to be creative and innovative as well? I would argue these are very different (although not mutually exclusive) skillsets.

If you want both Innovation and Improvement, make sure that the team or teams are clear in what their goals and responsibilities are. And if both Innovation and Improvement are under the accountability of the same person, make sure he or she has a clear and balanced plan for each.

It’s not just semantics. It’s important.

Until next time,

Ruth.

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.

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