Monthly Archive: May 2013

Size Doesn’t Matter!

That’s right, it doesn’t. At least not when you’re talking about process improvement projects.

Too many people are scared away from process improvement because they think their idea isn’t big enough or important enough, or that it doesn’t save enough money.

Today I’m here to tell you that there is more to this wonderful world of process improvement than saving money from every project. Click to Tweet

Blasphemy you say? Read on.

Isn’t the objective to save money?

Well I’m not going to lie – it’s always nice if a process improvement effort results in savings to the organization. The question you have to ask yourself is, “are there any other benefits that might be just as (or nearly as) important as cost reduction?

The answer will, of course, depend on your situation.

If you’re a small business owner looking at financial statements with red all over them, then no. There isn’t anything more important than finding some wasted cash and funneling it back in the company.

If you are a large organization spending tens of thousands of dollars on formal process improvement training, and you want to see a positive return on your investment with a longer term positive impact on shareholder value, then no. There isn’t anything more important than saving money. At least not at the start.

Two Outcomes Often Forgotten in the Quest for Improved Processes

If you don’t fit into the either of the descriptions above, then chances are you’d love to save money, and there are also other opportunities that are just as impactful and important to you right now.

  1. Customer Satisfaction. Many process improvement activities focus on cycle time, or the time it takes to complete a process. How long does it take you to respond to your customers? To answer their eMails? Provide a proposal on a job they’ve requested? Send an invoice? Provide a refund? Deliver a product or service? Improving those processes may not save the company money in the short term – I can guarantee you that improving processes that make your customers happier will save you money in the longer term.
  2. Employee Engagement. Are there processes in your organization that are exhausting and aggravating to your employees? Maybe the level of approvals that are required on a (relatively) simple document? How about the processes for tracking time, requesting vacations, taking sick leave, or completing a performance appraisal? The Gallup organization has proved a substantial link between employee engagement and organizational outcomes. (See more here) It follows then, that impacting employee engagement will also impact your profitability in the longer term.

See what I did there? Any process improvement idea, regardless of initial focus, will eventually lead to a positive impact on your bottom line. Effective process improvement is funny like that. Click to Tweet

Do you have a business story? Share it with us! Give us a shout via Twitter @whiteboardcons using #betterfastercheaper or email us at

Tweets by @WhiteboardCons

Until next week!

Tell me a story please….

Who is the protagonist and what is a denouement?

You are thinking UGH. Whiteboard is like a corrupted MP4 file. (I thought record player would be out of date) – all they ever talk about is telling a story through data. I get it already – you talked about it less than a month ago here.

Well, there’s always more to learn! Recently we were teaching a data course for one of our clients, and one of the participants brilliantly asked us:

“You keep saying tell the story – but what’s in the story? What makes a good story and a bad one? What components do we need?”. Hmm. Good point. Luckily I think fast on my feet. I gave Ruth an “I’ve got this” look and ran over to a whiteboard and started mapping something out.

We often say that when presenting a change or new idea, our peers, senior leaders, or employees aren’t at the same “place” that we are. What we mean is we have done all the thinking, analyzing, and planning before we present to others. But those others are completely in the dark! They haven’t had time to process yet! Do you have continuous improvement project, operational excellence initiative, organizational design change, or a project that’s changed scope or timing suddenly, and have to tell the story?

Read on for the key components to telling a good business story (using data of course).

It’s all about the drama.

5 steps to telling a good business story

1. Setting
What is the context for your story? Where did the idea come from? What has happened in the past? What has happened so far?

2. Characters
Who are all the players? What are all the data pieces? Can each “data character” tell a story through their own lens?

3. An event
What triggered things to change? What was the turning point that identified the need for change in a process, project, or organizational culture?

4. The Climax
What will happen if we don’t change? What is your burning platform?

5. The Ending
What will things looks like in the future? What is your future vision – an ideal state of how the project ends, the process improves, or the organizational design improves the efficacy of your workplace?

Simple as that. Do you have a business story? Share it with us! Give us a shout via Twitter @whiteboardcons using #betterfastercheaper or email us at

Tweets by @WhiteboardCons

Until next week!

How to Get Organized and Stay Organized in 5 Simple Steps. No Manual Required

How to get organized and stay organized in five simple steps. No manual required

Organization. What a daunting word, especially when it comes to your office. I find myself flipping through design magazines, and even pick up the Ikea catalogue for some kind of guidance. The multi drawer desks and hand made containers you can make in two minutes all look lovely, and would, to most people’s chagrin, be fun to put together, but it still doesn’t take away the mess I’m looking at. Ugh.

A few sips of java, and eureka! It comes to me. The 5-S ! Thank you my brilliant Japanese masterminds.

What is the 5-S you ask? It’s a theory, made up of five Japanese words that start with a ‘S’ used to manage workplace organization. In fact, this theory is so simple and effective it can extend past the workplace, and be used in many aspects of your life. So Martha Stewart, move over!

The 5-S

Sort (Seiri)– This is where we collect all the papers and random items sitting around your house, that have desperately wanted your attention. Put them all in one place, and start to sort the necessary (e.g. invoices, income statements, and you know, that notice to renew your now expired driver’s licence that you should have paid attention to, etc.) from the unnecessary (e.g. cool but useless goodies picked up at your last conference, piles of articles and magazines you’ve been meaning to read for the last year but haven’t, etc.). Whatever you don’t need, donate it, recycle it or dispose of it. Remember, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

Straighten (Seiton)– Now that you have sorted everything you need, create a designated and accessible place for it. This does not mean you should start creating a new pile of papers on your desk, or a new pile of magazines at the foot of your couch or start dropping all you miscellaneous items in a little container in the front foyer table. Yes, I know, we’re all culprits. Mea Culpa. What this means is, paper is appropriately filed in folders or drawers, desk is clear of any items, supplies are stored in an organizer; you get my drift. The only rule of thumb you need to keep in mind is, nothing goes on the floor.

Shine (Seiso)– This step may be easiest, requiring little to no decision-making. Just clean! Sweep, vacuum, dust, mop, you know, give it the works. Make this part of your regular work routine. Every time you finish work for the day give it a little clean and put everything back in its designated place. A clean workplace creates a clear mind.

Standardize (Seiketsu)– Standardizing is not a big deal if it’s just you who uses the office or work area, but it’s key when there are more people using it or sharing it with you – e.g., your spouse, kids, business partners, colleagues. Set a standard for the area. For example, if you share a computer, come to an understanding as to how you should leave the settings, that way, whenever anyone uses it, it’s ready to go. This makes me think of when I was a kid, and we had to rotate classrooms through out the day, you could bet your bottom dollar that at least one classroom you’d enter would require rearranging because of the class before; you know, chairs all over the place, tables and desk pushed back against the walls. We would generally lose 5- 10 minutes of our class trying to put things back together.

Sustain (Shuitsuke)– This last step is very important, and may take a little effort if it’s more than one person involved. What this says is that anyone who uses this space is responsible for, well, the 5-S! Make sure everyone understands what is required, and if anything slips, communicate again. Since I’m a big fan of lists, maybe you can make a checklist everyone can follow as they leave the work area.

Alright, now that I’ve refreshed myself on the 5-S approach, it’s time to get started!

If you have a great alternative to the 5-S method or you think it would be that much better with an extra step, give us a shout via Twitter @whiteboardcons using #betterfastercheaper or email us at

Good luck if you’re on your own mission, and have a fabulous sunny weekend.

Until next time!


Teaching You to Fish

You’ve probably heard the old saying by Lao Tzu, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

It’s a great saying, and applicable to so many different situations.

If you’re a parent, you experience it every day when you teach your kids to do things for themselves. It requires a lot of patience, and in the end it’s worth it. Imagine if you didn’t have the time to teach your child to tie their shoes, and you had to do it yourself for the rest of your life!

What About Giving People Fish at Work?

Ok, so you know I don’t mean actual fish. Rather, I mean metaphorical fish. Do you give people in your office the fish? Or do you teach them?

One of the great skills in leadership is the patience to delegate and teach. So often, especially when new to the manager role, it is much easier to get in there and do it yourself. Click to Tweet

I know what you’re thinking. “I have deadlines and it is more efficient for me to just do this stuff.” I get it, believe me. Not only does it feel like you’re being more efficient, but you also may be the type who gets a rush from doing things yourself and putting out fires.

How does that serve you in the long run? Not well – think about it strategically, and suddenly the firefighting you’ve been doing becomes a terribly inefficient way to run your business.

What if You’re Not a Great Teacher?

When I was a kid I remember tutoring someone in math. I can see it so clearly: I was sitting at the kitchen table and my Mum was pretending not to listen as I explained how to calculate the area of a triangle.

Me (using pencil and paper as I speak): It’s 1/2 b x h.
Student: What do you mean?
Me (underlining the formula): one-half, base times height
Student: I don’t get it.
Me (underlining and speaking slowing): one. half. base. times. height.
Student (wide-eyed): but why?
Me (a bit louder): What don’t you get? 1/2 b x h. That’s the area!
Mum: Ruth, can I talk to you for a second?

I’ve learned a lot since then and I actually enjoy teaching. Am I perfect at it? No. But our clients like our teaching style, so I thought I’d share a few tips with you.

  1. You know more than they do. It’s really helpful to remember this. Not only so you feel confident about what you’re doing, but also so you remember to be humble while sharing your knowledge.
  2. Avoid jargon. Ugh. This is a hard one. It’s really easy to slip in all the company acronyms and buzz words. Try not to.
  3. Draw a Picture As Nicole said last week, the brain processes pictures much more quickly than words. Can you draw a picture (or a process map) to help explain what you’re doing?
  4. Set Expectations. Make sure that the person you’re teaching understands their role in the process and what you expect of them.
  5. Follow Up. After your teaching session, check in within 24 hours. This is the best time to ask for questions that make have occurred to them overnight, to reinforce the main points, and just to reassure them that learning takes time.

At Whiteboard Consulting we love to teach, and we have several courses in Process Improvement, Management Coaching, Project Management and Data Analysis. All of these can be customized for you and your business! In fact, we will be offering some courses to the public this summer. Click here for more info.

Do you give people fish or show them how to fish? Give us a shout via Twitter @whiteboardcons using #betterfastercheaper or email us at

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Until next week!

Organic Networking

A Love Hate Relationship

Half of you are saying “Yay networking!” The other half are in between a groan and a yelp “Ugh networking!”. Over the past year we’ve done our share of networking, from formal networking referral groups like Business Networking International to what I like to call “Organic Networking”.

Formal networking environments can be really nerve wracking. You’ve got to know your elevator speech, be able to talk about your business confidently, go up and talk to people you don’t know and who may not be interested in your business! And trust us, this kind of networking is a necessary type of any business.

What if you could augment the formal stuff with something a little more….“organic”? Learn three simple tips to making connections easily. This kind of networking helps to make you a trusted advisor. A role that we have often developed with all our clients and a role that keeps our business strong.

Organic Networking is as easy as 1,2, 3…

So my method of networking is based on some highly reputable business methodologies.
The Bridget Jones Diary School of Networking. So you find yourself running into a friend while at a business meeting. I jump right into Bridget mode:

“Hi Emily! This is Peter, Peter is a rocket scientist and was responsible for the latestNASA mission. I met him last year at a client dinner. Peter, this is Emily, my best friend since grade school, she works at a Rocket fuel company. You two probably have alot in common that I know nothing about!!”

Pardon the silly example, but 90% of the time, I’ve managed to introduce the two people in such a way that they either have a similar career, hobby, or something else. It gets them chatting. Often this leads to a future friendship, networking opportunity, or even a job opportunity, and makes me a reputable connector. This might not yield an opportunity for me personally, but it often does!

Here are three areas to search for a connection:

1. Personal: Is there a personal connection you can make? Friends or family perhaps?
2. Work: Do they have mutual business interests? The same company, industry, supplier etc?
3. Hobbies: Do they have any mutual extra curriculars? Are they both runners? Do they go to the same gym?

With these in mind, I’ve had great success in putting the right people together, and became known as that person who can always find the connection. So what? Well, it helps to build a bit of a “trusted advisor” role for me. People trust the people I make connections with, and I dont’ make referrals where I cannot personally vouch for the services I’ve received.

The next time you are dreading a networking event, or run into someone at a party – turn it into ORGANIC NETWORKING, and think of the connection you can make: personally, career wise, or with a common hobby. (Click To Tweet.)

What experience do you have in Organic Networking? Give us a shout via Twitter @whiteboardcons using #betterfastercheaper or email us at

Tweets by @WhiteboardCons

Until next week!