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,