Monthly Archive: June 2012

Numbers can be your best friend. Really!

If you think you can get people to believe you based on your charm and good looks, you’re wrong. There is a reason that people ask you to put your money where your mouth is – they want you to Prove It! And it’s easy, I promise.

Is it Faster to New York or By Bus?

Consider the question: “Is it faster to New York or by bus?” Obviously it’s unanswerable – there is no starting point, and there is no option to consider. That’s the way it is with most, or all, business proposals that have no data – no points of reference, and therefore no way to answer the question or make a decision.

Have you ever presented a great idea only to have people stare at you and just not “get it”? Do you present dynamically and passionately, and then leave the room without a decision from the people who control the purse strings? If someone asks you to gather “relevant data” do you sometimes feel overwhelmed?

Never fear. Although numbers are important, the use of them does NOT have to be complicated and threatening to you, your team, and your project. In fact, just a few key numbers can help you be more successful every day.

Just remember, of the three basic process improvement steps, “Define It! Map It! Prove It!”, the most important by far is “Prove It!”Click to Tweet this!

Main Goal: Help People Believe You

You walk into a room seeking money for staff training. Your pitch is something like, “our costs are going up because our staff aren’t trained properly, so we’re going to start a massive training program.”

You might as well be asking whether it’s farther to New York or by bus. Any financial controller worth their salt will look at you and say “Prove it!”, and then hit you with a barrage of questions.

How much have costs gone up? Over what period? Is the increase significant compared to your sales volume? Could anything else be causing costs to go up? How do you know it’s training that’s the problem? How much do you want?

If you don’t have those numbers to tell your story, the chance of you convincing your financial controller to spend the money on the training program are very low. If, on the other hand, you can add four simple numbers like in the following statement, the controller will have no choice but to support you!

“Our cost per unit has increased in the last three quarters by 5% per quarter even though our sales have been stable over the same period. The only major change in the organization has been the addition of 25 new sales employees who have not yet met their targets. Analysis shows that the new employees would benefit from training program, at a cost of $100 per employee, or $2500.”

Anticipate the questions. Gather the simple numbers. Prove it!

See you next week!



Two Secrets Demystify Process Improvement

Finding the true meaning of life…Process Improvement!

My long time friend recently asked me, “ok, seriously, what exactly is process improvement? I’ve heard it mentioned in the news many times, but if you asked me to explain it, I would have no clue how”. And so I said, “Simply put? it’s the art of looking at the way something is done today, and finding ways to make it better.” “That’s it?”, “That’s it my friend”.

And that’s when it dawned on me; there is a key element missing from classic process improvement! …and that is the way it’s communicated.

So often I have sat in conferences or listened to former colleague consultants of mine talk about process improvement in the most technical of ways, losing their audience five minutes into the discussion. And I would think, why? there is no need, process improvement doesn’t need fancy jargon. No wonder people think it’s a manufacturing concept! Here are my two secrets, and hopefully they help our readers really get to the core of process improvement.

Two secrets to demystify classic process improvement

  1. Use an every day example: There are thousands of processes in your everyday life, and most of us don’t realize it. For example, how do you get ready in the morning, how do you get your kids lunch ready for school? What are the steps you take, and how many?. Everything is a process, right down to tying your shoes. Remember the bunny ears story?….make two bunny ears, pass one through the other and pull tight!
  2. Ask the question: How can I make it better?: Now that you have a scenario (e.g. your commute to work), is there any way to make it better or faster?. Let’s start asking the questions. Does the route you take or the time you leave the house, affect how quickly you get to work? What about dropping the kids off or getting coffee? Maybe you have to move cars in the morning to get out of the garage, can this be arranged the night before?

In the mean time, stay tuned for our next blog next Friday at noon. (Enter your email below to subscribe.)

Make sure to follow us on Twitter @whiteboardcons to stay up to date on what we’re up to this week. Have thoughts or ideas? Use #betterfastercheaper to join the conversation!

Top 3 Business Problems that can be revealed by Process Mapping

Welcome back to the Whiteboard! As I started writing about one of my favorite topics, ‘what is missing from classic process improvement’, I couldn’t help but think about our Process Improvement 101 seminar that took place today (June 15th). This seminar is so full of information, that I feel guilty not sharing some of its goodies with you.

The premise of the seminar is to show you how easy process improvement is, and how much you can benefit from it. Remember the American Airlines story about the olive? It’s a classic! A few years ago American Airlines decided to remove one olive from each first class passenger’s salad in order to reduce costs ( or improve the dining process). In doing so, these guys saved $40,000 a year! It’s just proof that a tiny process improvement can draw big rewards.

In the seminar we take you through 3 key steps of process improvement:

  1. Define it! – creating a succinct problem statement, using facts and leaving out solutions, to describe your problem.
  2. Mapping it!- creating a visual, using several tools of the trade, to represent your problem
  3. Prove it! – collecting the hard facts that will support your problem statement, and most likely, also your gut instinct.

Out of these key steps, Mapping it intrigues me the most. Why? Because of the human learning style. Did you know that approximately 65 percent of the population are visual learners?

Visually representing a process by mapping it, allows you to see things that may not necessarily jump out at you when you read them.

Top 3 business problems revealed by process mapping:

  1. Touch points. How many people, teams, departments must a product or service pass through to reach the customer? The higher the number of touch points in the process the longer the process will take, and the higher likelihood that a defect will occur.
  2. Duplication. Process maps are great at visually highlighting work that is duplicated across the company by different teams. Do you ever have two people sometimes doing the same task when you don’t mean to?
  3. Bottlenecks. Bottlenecks occur when there is a blockage in the flow of information or work. Have you ever been in line at customs? Planeloads of cranky travellers trying to get home or start vacation and only 10 customs agents to serve them? (Stay tuned for an upcoming blog post on the Glascow Airport security clearance area – what a great job they’ve done!)

In the mean time, stay tuned for our next blog next Friday at noon on what is missing from classic process improvement. And it’ a lot! (Enter your email below to subscribe.)

You can also get our free process mapping tool as well as a course module on the seminar today – it will be just like you were there LIVE! Just email us! We’ll be posting them on the site for download soon too.

Make sure to follow us on Twitter @whiteboardcons to stay up to date on what we’re up to this week. Have thoughts or ideas? Use #betterfastercheaper to join the conversation!

Until next week,

Welcome back to the Whiteboard!

Last week Ruth gave you a virtual tour of our new website (which we love). This week, I thought I would introduce you to the kind of work we do. We spent the first few weeks in our new adventure telling people what we do. We described ourselves as management consultants, but that was sometimes met with a blank stare. Then we tried business process improvement specialists? Equally blank stares. Finally we settled on – Business Problem Solvers. People got it!

What is a management consultant?

Wikipedia says:

Management consulting refers to the practice of helping organisations to improve their performance, primarily through the analysis of existing organisational problems and development of plans for improvement. Organisations may draw upon the services of management consultants for a number of reasons, including gaining external (and presumably objective) advice and access to the consultants’ specialised expertise.

That’s exactly what we set out to do when we started this company. Years in both the private and public sector gave us a ton of exposure to consultants. Plus we were successful internal management consultants for a number of large organizations. We always knew what we wanted – creative honest THOUGHT LEADERSHIP. So, we thought we’d give you our top 7 tips to hire a management consultant.

How to choose a management consultant?

Here are the Top 7 Criteria you should look for when hiring a management consultant.

  1. Look for an expert. A great consultant will have both tangible business experience in your area paired with accreditation in a methodology.
  2. Keep it simple. Look for a consultant that doesn’t overcomplicate a problem in order to increase their billable hours. Some problems have simple solutions.
  3. Find a guarantee. Consultants can’t always guarantee on-time delivery or 100% project success. But, they should be setting metrics that define success and aim to meet them. Look in your proposal or contract for something that makes sure you as the client are happy.
  4. What can I get for free? Negotiate for some additional training or template materials you can use for their next project. Our strong client relationships are what keeps clients coming back time and time again.
  5. Look for honesty. A consultant should never sugar coat your situation or not speak their mind. They have experience and should speak their mind. offering honest and objective advice every time. That’s what you are paying them for!
  6. Find a unique product offering. What can the consulting firm you select do that other’s don’t offer. Do they offer end-to-end solutions? Do they just write recommendations, or can they successfully implement them for you too?
  7. Look for innovative solutions. Consultants should be setting you up for future success, therefore the solutions they recommend should be forward thinking, applying the most up-to-date (but cost effective) technologies.

All that for the right price. Easy, isn’t it?

Stay tuned next Friday at noon for our next blog posting. We’ll teach you the basics of process improvement and how you can apply them in your own organization – so you can be better, faster, and cheaper. (Enter your email below to subscribe.)

Make sure to follow us on Twitter @whiteboardcons to stay up to date on what we’re up to this week. Have thoughts or ideas? Use #betterfastercheaper to join the conversation!

Until next week,