Monthly Archive: November 2012

Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Program

For the past few weeks we featured a series of blogs on Culture Change and how it can impact your organization’s ability to be #BetterFasterCheaper in everything it does. This week we return to our favourite topic of business process improvement. After all, it’s what we at Whiteboard Consulting Group are all about!

Putting the Cart Before the Horse

Think about process improvement opportunities in your daily worklife. Go ahead and jot them all down. I’ll wait…

Not coming up with anything? Sometimes that statement is too jargony for people, so we switch to, “what are the points of pain or the problems in your daily work life?” (And yes, you can apply this to your home life as well. Remember, a process is a process is a process.)

Interestingly, the answer to this question is often a solution-based answer. In other words, we hear things like:

  • ”We need to communicate better with our suppliers.”
  • ”We need to upgrade our equipment.”
  • ”Someone needs to fix the accounts receivable process.”
  • ”We need to train our customers.”
  • ”The grocery store needs better scanners at the checkout.”

Each one of those statements is a solution, and yet the question asked for the problem.

It’s natural for people to come up with generalized solutions first. They have been dealing first-hand with bad processes and pain-points for so long that they’ve had a lot of time to think about it. Their gut tells them that solution X will fix everything.

How can you be sure that these solutions, if implemented, will fix things when you don’t know what it is you really want to fix? What if it actually makes things worse, if not for you, for someone else downstream in the process? What if upgrading your equipment in one area means that another area has to change their equipment too, even though there’s nothing wrong with it?

Problem = Defect

Try thinking of it this way. A defect is any result of your process that doesn’t meet the demands of your customer. (And don’t forget, your customers can be external and internal!) (Click to Tweet)

Defects always cost you money – they mean you have wasted time and effort, thrown away expensive materials, and perhaps even caused you to upset (or even lose) valuable customers.

So now we rephrase our question again. What are the defects you are dealing with in your daily work life?

Now the answers might look something like this:

  • ”We receive the wrong shipment from our suppliers several times a month.”
  • ”Our stamping equipment requires maintenance once a day.”
  • ”We don’t know what our accounts receivables are.”
  • ”Our customers can’t figure out how to put the product together on their own.”
  • ”It takes too long to check out at the grocery store.”

Can you look at these statements and see that there could be many possible solutions to the problems described? It doesn’t mean that the original solutions are necessarily wrong – but they might be. Or, they may miss some other opportunities.

Give it a shot. Try describing a defect that you deal with in your life. Are you able to describe it objectively? Or did you jump to a solution? Let us know what examples you came up with. Email us at or tweet us @whiteboardcons using #BetterFasterCheaper.

Next week, Nicole will tackle the tricky Problem Statement. Mastering this makes your process journey so much easier.

Until then,

The Squish Method of Change

Nice Tips, But….

You must be thinking, “Wow, Ruth and Nicole I thought you guys were management consultants and doing amazing things with efficiency and process improvement – and for the past three weeks all you’ve given us are three measly office tips. Worse yet, today’s blog title is the Squish Method. Honestly?”

Well, yes. Sort of. But you have to start somewhere. You cannot create a huge culture shift, without changing a few small things first.

Are you tired of waiting for others? Are you tired of trying to be the office cheerleader? Are you tired of people acting in a way that is “NOT OK”, and they keep getting away with it?

Read on, the Squish Method is for you.

Three Keystones to Change Success: The Squish Method

The Squish Method: Communicate, Role Model, and give Feedback, from the top,down, across and then right back up again creating the “squish point” where magic, and change really happen. Click to Tweet

1. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate.

Head Honcho: Keep talking about what you are trying to achieve. Show some metrics. Detail your expectations. Celebrate your successes. Don’t stop talking (well, you know what I mean) and communicating.

Everyone Else: Seek to understand everything you need to be succesful. Ask questions. Talk to others. Lead the way. Be the change (yeah, I said it).

2. Role Model, Role Model, Role Model.

Head Honcho: Practice what you preach. If you don’t make it to meetings on time, use the word BUT all the time, and then “Risk Slap” (a wrist slap for taking a risk) (Click to Tweet) your team – it is just going to roll downhill, and your big culture shift will disappear and you will just go back to where you started.

Everyone Else: Just try. Honestly. Will it kill you?

3. Feedback, Feedback, Feedback.

Head Honcho: Reward your top performers. Encourage your fence-sitters and provide polite, timely, and specific feedback to your folks who refuse to get on the bus. And, even more ASK for feedback. Ask everyone about their opinion, what they think is working and not working, and continually flex and adjust to get the message right.

Everyone Else: Ever coached your boss on something? After a particularly negative, unproductive meeting where your boss was cantankerous – try asking this: “How do you think that went?”. Just try it. Tell me about it later. It’s a magical moment for everyone involved.

Let me know what happens, I’d love to know. Email us at or tweet us @whiteboardcons using #betterfastercheaper.

Until Next Time,

E-Mail etiquette worthy of Ms. Emily Post

And here you have it, as promised two weeks ago, my last secret tip on culture change to share with you; Email: Info & Action please.

I think Emily Post would be very pleased with this approach. It’s simple, cordial, to the point, and it eliminates confusion. More importantly it signals to the intended recipient, whether they need to act, or, sit back and absorb the information for future reference.

Sprinkle a dash of the old rules and a pinch of the new rules…

1. Begin the subject line of your eMail with (Action) or (Info). You can provide more detail if you like, such as (Action: Approval) or (Action: Your Opinion Please). This allows people to sort on subject line and deal with action items first. The rest of the subject line should provide context for the Action or Info contained in the eMail.

2. eMails should be short and concise, along the lines of a Briefing Note. (Click to Tweet.) Consider writing in headings that summarize background, issues, next steps, and actions required.

3. Highlight any action required and the due date in bold red font.

4. Answer “Action” eMails swiftly – within one business day – even if it’s just to say you’ll get back to someone.

5. Don’t attach unnecessary files.

6. Don’t overuse the “High Priority” indicator.

7. Limit the cc list.

8. Don’t reply to all unless “all” really need to read your response.

9. Include an agenda, or at least a detailed description of the purpose of a meeting, in every meeting request.

10. Proof-read the email before you send it. And if you’re writing an email on a contentious issue, consider letting it sit as a draft for a couple of hours or overnight, and then going back to it. It’s also helpful to read it aloud.

I know this might sound like a lot of rules, but trust me, people will be grateful to you for making their life easier, AND, you’ll be thanking yourself as well.

Want to see how many action items you sent this week and how many you need to follow up on? Check your sent box and filter. See what I mean?

If you have some effective e-mail rules that have been tried and tested, we would love to hear from you. Email us at or tweet us @whiteboardcons using #betterfastercheaper.

Until next week,

Culture Shock, Part II

Last week Nicole started off our series on organizational culture and its impact on change and transformation. As she said, small changes are the key to setting the foundation for change readiness. And a great place to start is to start putting some rigor in your meeting practices!

This week I’ll introduce another small but impactful change for you to consider.

How many times have you been in a meeting or on a conference call and heard phrases that start off like these?

“I like that idea, but I just want to add…”
“I agree with everything she said, but you should also consider…”
“I don’t mean to argue, but …”
“I’m sorry but…”

No Buts About It

Next time you hear the word “but” used like that, listen to the context. Essentially, that tiny word negates everything that came before it. (Click to Tweet.)

“I like that idea, but…” means I don’t really like it, or it’s certainly not complete without what I am about to add.

“I agree with everything she said, but…” means I don’t actually agree with everything at all!

“I don’t mean to argue, but…” means I’m about to argue.

“I’m sorry, but…” means I’m not sorry. And in fact, I’m about to shift the blame to someone or something else.

Why do people make this common mistake so frequently? In most cases, it’s a genuine attempt attempt to soften the blow. In others, it’s a passive-aggressive response designed to sound nice, while inflicting some kind of finger-pointing.

And By The Way

The easy way to fix this? Substitute “but” with “and”. Easy peasy! Now you’re giving feedback AND adding to it or changing it with clear intentions. It makes you sound better and makes the listener want to hear what you have to say.

My challenge to you? Listen for the errant “but” at meetings. And especially – listen when YOU say it. Replace it with “and” – you’ll see the difference, and so will your colleagues!

Before you know it, your organizational culture will begin to shift and become more accepting to the seeds of change. Let us know how it works! Email us at or tweet us @whiteboardcons. using #betterfastercheaper.

Until next week,