Monthly Archive: April 2013

Tell Me the Story

Once upon a time there was a business analyst named Joe who had worked for days and weeks on a project. He knew the project inside out and backwards, had interviewed stakeholders, collected data, and had a few solutions in mind. After analyzing all the choices, he decided on the best option and went in to see his boss Anna.

After telling Anna what he planned to do, Joe was floored when she looked at him in astonishment and said, “You want me to approve this? I don’t even know what you’re talking about!”

This story did not end happily ever after. What did Joe do wrong?

Sometimes It’s OK to Assume

Joe has lived and breathed this project since the beginning; since Chapter 1, if you will. He’s now well into the second half of the book, approaching the denouement, and has dropped Anna right into the middle of the book, expecting her to be up to speed and to mirror his enthusiasm.

Anna, on the other hand, hasn’t even cracked the cover of this story, and quite frankly isn’t sure she wants to read it.

It’s really important that you assume ignorance when making a pitch or selling an idea. This doesn’t mean that you condescend to your audience or go into too much detail. Rather, it means that you take care to explain the critical elements of the plot before getting into the details of the ending.

If it turns out the listener is aware of the background then you’ll know from verbal or visual cues, and you can then safely cut to the chase.

Be a Great Storyteller

There are a few things that you can do to tell the story and improve your chances in any business pitch, whether it’s to a bank, your boss, or a committee.

  1. Summarize the backstory. Take a few minutes to talk about the bones of the story. How long have you been working on this idea? What are some alternative solutions? Who have you spoken with? What has been the general reaction to your ideas?
  2. Be factual. Don’t interject your bias or opinions when sharing the backstory. Be clear about what has happened, when, and how.
  3. Use data! Data, data, data. (We’ve talked about data’s importance before. Click here to read more.) Data is the key to your pitch, and if you can present it visually, all the better. Remember, the brain processes pictures much more quickly than words. There’s a reason that Infographics have become so popular!
  4. Watch the body language. You’re probably aware of your own body language (at least we hope so), but did you know that your audience’s body language is critical to your success too? Watch for signs that your pace is off (flipping ahead in the materials), that they already know what you’re saying (nodding and looking at their watch), or that they might be looking for more detail (furrowed brows).
  5. Be succinct. The story is important, but if you go on too long, you’ll lose your audience. The trick is in the balance between detail and brevity.

Remember: when making a pitch, don’t drop the audience in the middle of the story. Take them on your journey to help them see that your work is solid and your idea is a winner. Click to Tweet

What experience do you have in telling (and selling) your story? Give us a shout via Twitter @whiteboardcons using #betterfastercheaper or email us

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Until next week!

No more pointless meetings please!

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind at Whiteboard Consulting, requiring serious time management skills. First, we’ve been delivering our Process Improvement, Project Management, and Data Analysis courses for one of our clients. We’ve also been helping another client with General Management activities. And perhaps most importantly it’s birthday month for us (Ruth celebrated her birthday on Sunday and mine is on Thursday… Happy Birthday to us!) Let me tell you, all that requires some serious time management skills. (Interested in our curriculum for your business? Check out our Whiteboard University series we will be offering to the public this summer!)

So today I thought I would focus on project management and provide you with some tips to help manage your time and energy in the most efficient way possible.

In some organizations project management can be a highly developed function with an entire Project Management Office facilitating the organization of projects and timelines. However, other organizations might not be ready for this rigorous approach, so we’ve developed some simple “entry level” tips for using project management techniques to be Better, Faster and Cheaper. Let’s review the basics first.

What is a project anyway?

“A project is a temporary endeavour undertaken to create a unique product service, or result. It is NOT an activity undertaken as part of regular operational business.” (Click to Tweet.)

It follows that anything that you don’t do over and over again is a project, and can benefit from basic project management skills.

The cool thing is that some of those tips can help you time manage just about anything! What about using some project management basics to have more effective meetings, for example?

Have you ever been to a meeting where you are going over what happened at the last meeting? Or where no one completed the tasks that were supposedly agreed upon? Or where things just never seem to happen to any timeline?

Three Project Management Steps that Can Also End Pointless Meetings

1. Have a plan.

Always have an agenda for a meeting so people are prepared, and you don’t waste the meeting time realizing no one brought the necessary information to the table to make a decision. If possible take minutes so that anyone missing can catch up at the future meeting without needing to rehash this week’s content at next week’s meeting.

2. Hold people accountable.

Included with your agenda and minutes, have an action list that clearly outlines who is responsible for a task and when it is due. Review this action list at every meeting to hold people accountable for their tasks. If you are super keen, add an issues/decision log as well so that as new team members join the regular meetings, they are up to speed on things that have already been discussed and decided on. This helps nip “What if we do it this way” conversations in the bud.

3. Communicate, communicate, communicate.

Ugh. So cliche, but so true. Communicate the agenda, minutes, and lists in a few different ways. Send them by email for those who want to read and digest on their own and ask questions later, and also read them aloud in the meeting. Everyone digests information differently, and this allows everyone to be involved at their own level. They key thing here, is to not let up. Don’t let minutes and agendas fall to the wayside because everything seems to be going well. That is precisley the time to persevere and be tenacious and keep prodding along.

These simple tips can help make meetings Better.Faster.Cheaper. People will be prepared, not need to re-hash conversations, discussions, and decisions, and you can get things done on time! Sounds easy right? I get it. Doing this stuff is a royal pain – but, I promise that the effort put in is far less painful than that of never moving forward.

Want a quick and easy template for agendas,minutes, and action lists? Just send us a note and we’ll send you a template for one that makes the whole process a snap. Give us a shout via Twitter @whiteboardcons using #betterfastercheaper or email us

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Until next week,

What’s the Plan, Stan? Part II

Back in December I wrote an article about how important planning is if you’re collecting data to boost your business case. (Click here to read it.) A week later, Nicole wrote about the basics ofplanning a project implementation. In both posts we stressed the importance of a well-thought-out plan to ensuring the success of whatever it is you’re trying to do.

This week I’d like to talk about an even more important plan, especially if you’re a small business owner – the business plan.

Do you have one? Do you need one? Read on.

Yes, you need one.

“But Ruth,” you’re thinking, “my business is up and running and all is going well. You only need a business plan when you’re asking for money from someone.”

If that’s what you’re thinking, then you’re half right. Whenever you are seeking funding from a reliable source (bank, grant, etc), you absolutely need a business plan. In fact, they will probably have a template you will need to follow.

But guess what? You need one even if you’re NOT looking for money for someone. Take a look at the following questions:

  1. Do you have a specific strategy for the next 12 months, with documented activities and timelines?
  2. Do you have measurements that show your results for the last year and have targets and projected results for the next year?
  3. Have you assessed all the risks and opportunities in your market?

If you answered no to any of those questions, then you need a plan.

Business Plans Come in All Shapes and Sizes

I’ve been following the career plans of one of my nieces for the last few years, and am really impressed with the process she’s put together – whether she knows it or not, she’s using a business plan, with her career as her “business”. She’s planning on being a speech pathologist, and has been mapping out the things she needs to put in place in order to get into the Masters program that she wants. She will need specific courses, mentoring, volunteering, job experience, and of course, good grades.

If you think of your business as your career, (which is what it is, actually) you should put the same care into your plans for its success. And that means, a business plan.

Do you need a full blown 50-page document? No, not unless you’re approaching a financial institution for funding. But you do need specific things documented, and then you need to review them on a regular basis and make sure you’re on track. At a minimum, you should have a 12-month strategic plan with key performance indicators and action items. Otherwise, you’re just winging it, and that’s not something you should feel comfortable doing with your business. Click to Tweet As Yogi Berra once said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you may end up somewhere else.”

Don’t like doing this kind of stuff? We do. And we can help. Give us a shout via Twitter @whiteboardcons using #betterfastercheaper or email us at

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Until next week!

What is Six Sigma?

It seems like everyone likes to jump on a particular certification flavour of the month. Today I thought I’d give you the coles notes summary of 3 major ones.

What is Six Sigma?

Depending on the “Hot” certification or degree, people tend to rush out to get their MBAs, Project Management Certifications (PMP), Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA), Chartered Management Accountant (CMA) – the list is endless. Now there are contract management certifications, risk management certifications, appreciative inquiry – you name it, there’s a course for it.

Being in the process improvement industry, there are a few out there that people often ask us about. Today I thought I’d tell you a little about each of them.

Lean, Six Sigma, MTM – OH MY!

So let’s do a quick crash course on these three types of certifications:


Description: Lean focuses on elimination of waste. The 7 wastes in Lean are:

1. Defects
2. Overproduction
3. Transportation
4. Waiting
5. Inventory
6. Motion
7. Processing

Eliminating non-value added activities and reducing wastes are the key process improvement strategies.

Cost & Time to certify: ~2-6 days, $3-8k per person (depending on certification level)

Six Sigma

Description: Six Sigma is focused on identifying and reducing defects and errors in processes. This methodology focuses largely on statistics and rigorous infrastructure for both people and project management to achieve process improvement.

Cost & Time to certify: ~5-20 days, $5-20k per person (depending on certification level)

Method Time Measurement (MTM)

Description: MTM is a procedure based methodology for improving methods and standard time for repeatable processes. It involves identifying, classifying, and describing the motions used or required to perform a given operation and assigning pre-determined time standards to these motions.

Cost & Time to certify: ~5 days, $3,600 per person (depends on type)

So what if I don’t have time or that kind of money?

Well, that’s when you might want to consider hiring a consultant 🙂 Our methodology, (ALERT:shameless self promotion) The Whiteboard Way, combines the best tools and methodologies from each of these, while also adding an appreciative inquiry lens to achieve the positive results (ie. culture shift, or simply Better.Faster.Cheaper). We are rigorous in our approach, but make it simple enough that it doesn’t overwhelm or scare people who need to use it.

The methods above, project management expertise, and a creative and sensible approach are the best way to attack your business conundrums. No one organization or business is the same, and therefore you should seek customized solution for your business that aligns with your business culture. So, if your culture isn’t already data driven, Six Sigma, as an example, is going to be incredibly overwhelming. Sending everyone for thousands of dollars in training is not going to yield great results until the culture and processes support data and its management to get everyone started.

There are a million different books including Six Sigma for Dummies or Six Sigma for Everyone (I used this one during my MBA) that you can use to simply guide you along the way.

Do you have any stories about process improvement training that went really well (or really poorly) at an organization? Tell us more!

@whiteboardcons using #betterfastercheaper or email us at

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Until next week,