Monthly Archive: July 2013

Beware the Camel’s Nose


What? You’ve never heard that expression? Neither had I, until a colleague introduced it to Nicole and me. Apparently it’s an old Arabian proverb that goes something like this:

If the camel once gets his nose in the tent, the body will soon follow.

It’s a metaphor describing the belief that seemingly innocent actions can lead to larger (and unwanted) consequences – if you a allow a camel to slide his nose under the edge of a tent, pretty soon he will work his whole body under it, and you’ll have a big hairy smelly (spitting!) beast in there who won’t leave.

So what does that have to do with process improvement in businesses? Plenty.

Camels and Process Failure

Recently, a client told me “I don’t think that what we need is so much of a process change, but a culture change.” Although he actually needs both, he raises an excellent point. You can modify and improve processes all you want, but if the culture doesn’t shift to embrace and commit to those changes (versus simply complying), then all the work you put into those improvements is likely going to end up wasted. Click to Tweet

Remember when we quoted Peter Drucker and said that Culture Will Eat Strategy for Breakfast? It’s the same thing… your process changes are like your revised strategy, and your organizational culture must be aligned in order to ensure the improvements can be realized.

A lack of accountability to process changes is the thin edge of the wedge, or “the camel’s nose.” Allow slippage with respect to process adherence, and you are begging for trouble.


Three Things to Do to Avoid Process Slippage

  1. Add process accountability to job descriptions and performance contracts. You know the old adage, “what gets measured gets done”. It applies here too. If your team members are measured based on their compliance with processes, then it’s likely they will comply!
  2. Now get the commitment. Provide the background story on why the process changes were made and why it’s good for the organization. Communicate the way your team needs to hear it (more on that here) – if they understand it, they’re more likely to commit vs. simply comply.
  3. Coach and Share. If that camel sticks his nose under the tent and you notice it, then coach immediately. In the same way, if you notice commitment, recognize it right away! Share successes!

Have examples of camels’ noses at your office? Share it with us! Give us a shout via Twitter @whiteboardcons using #betterfastercheaper or email us at

Tweets by @WhiteboardCons

Until next week!

Talk to Me!

Recently we’ve been closing off a few older projects and starting a few new ones, and the issue of effective communication keeps coming up. A LOT.

It really doesn’t matter whether it’s a brand new initiative or one that’s well on its way to closing – communication has a special role in all stages of a project. When teaching our Project Management course, we emphasize the need to link back in with all stakeholders and share the results and intended next steps BEFORE closing a project. With new projects, it’s important to ease people into a project and let them know that you are there to help.

In fact, we always stress the need to engage employees throughout a project or process improvement exercise, and it has to be consistent.

Have you ever heard members of your organization say:

“Well I never heard about that, when is that happening?”
“As usual, they didn’t bother to keep us in the loop.”
“They never ask for our feedback, but we’re the ones that do the work!”

If so, then you may have some disengaged employees that just want communication

And there are three simple steps to get there…

3 Steps to Effectively Communicate Your Process Improvement Initiative

When you want to plan a communication, consider the following:

  • WHEN?
    Timing is key. If you communicate too early (before solidifying your ideas and establishing what to say and how to say it) you might confuse your audience. If you communicate too late, your new idea has a high risk of falling apart. (People won’t know what’s happening, and thus no actions will take hold.) Plan ahead. Create a communication plan.
  • WHAT?
    What are your key messages? You need to tell the ‘story’ to your audience. Clearly outline the setting, characters, event, climax, and ending (read more on telling a business story here .)
  • HOW?
    Everyone is different. Consider your audience. Are they visual learners (i.e. they absorb information best with face to face presentations (body language), illustrations, videos, graphs, etc)? Are they auditory learners (i.e. they are absorb information best through talking and discussions- face to face is not required)? Are they verbal learners (i.e. they think in words rather than pictures – eMails work well with this group)? In all likelihood you will have a mix, so craft your communications plan so it addresses all three.

What complicated messages did you have to share? Tell us about them! Give us a shout via Twitter @whiteboardcons using #betterfastercheaper or email us at

Tweets by @WhiteboardCons

Until next week!

In Praise of Signs

In Praise of Signs

If you’re of a certain age, you may remember the 1970 hit “Signs”. The chorus, in classic 70s style, is both angry and sarcastic in its protest against the overuse of signs (which hamper freedom and discriminate against “long haired freaky people”).

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign,
Blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind!
Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?

So that was 43 years ago, and I’m here today to tell you that I think signs are awesome, helpful, and when used properly, save a lot of aggravation. Namely, mine.

It’s Not About Marketing, It’s About Service

I enjoy travel, and while I manage to leave the business back home in Nicole’s capable hands, I still can’t shake my tendancy to analyze (over analyze?) business processes everywhere I go. One of the things I am constantly struck by is the poor use of signage and its impact on the customer experience.

*On a recent cruise, I arrived at the port area in Venice with a group of similarly travel-weary people. Greeting us was an enormous terminal with maybe two signs, neither of which were helpful in pointing a person to the right area. In fact, the signs were not in use at all, which was a shame since they were just standing there taking up space. Dozens of people dragged heavy luggage to the wrong area, only to be redirected by a harried staff member. PUT UP A SIGN YOU IDIOT, I wanted to yell, but didn’t.

*Many of the cafés in Italy require you to pay for your purchase before ordering at a different counter. I’ve only seen one café that actually had a sign to let customers know this. You can imagine the chaos that ensues every single lunch hour in absence of a sign. At least for the tourists.

*Airports are notorious for being confusing, especially if what little signage there is is not in your native language. How nice would it be to walk in the door and have the logo of your airline and an arrow pointing in the direction of the check-in area, rather than wandering back and forth looking for the Air Transat logo that is all the way at the end of the terminal? (Not that I did that.)

Five Ways Signs Can Improve Processes for Your Customers

While I focused on the travel industry in this blog, the same rules apply for any business with face-to-face customer interactions. Signs are good! They don’t need to be fancy, they just need to be helpful. In a pinch, even a post-it note will do. Remember, a good sign should:

*Be short and yet abundantly clear.
*Be visible and easy to spot.
*Be helpful.

Here are five reasons for using signage in your place of business:

  1. To provide direction. Point the way for your customer. Have signage at all corners, intersections, and stairs so they never have to wonder which way to go.
  2. To set expectations. Let your customers know what they need to have in hand when they meet with you (specific paperwork or documents?) and how long the process will take.
  3. To give instructions. Tell the customers where they need to go, and in what order they need to do things.
  4. To share information. Provide interesting information to increase the customers’ understanding of your business processes. Tell them why things happen the way they do.
  5. To say thank you. No harm in posting a thank you note for your customers at the end of a process. Thank them for their patience, their business, their sense of humour, and their time!

PS – don’t forget that your employees are your (internal) customers too, so signage works in the office in the same way!

Have examples of signs that work? Share it with us! Give us a shout via Twitter @whiteboardcons using #betterfastercheaper or email us at

Tweets by @WhiteboardCons

Until next week!

Overproccesed, bothered, and bewildered

So often we gripe to you about how organizations need to document and build processes in order to be successful, but what about when an organization has too many processes or is too rigid about them. So today’s blog is about “Overprocessing” (that’s not too much hair dye in this case).

My best friend (henceforth known as bestie) and I often go to a nail salon in our neighbourhood. It’s a bit of a catch-22. We love it because you can always get in, you never have to wait, you are in in and out in 30 minutes or so, and it is extremely reasonably priced. On the other hand, their processes are so rigid that they often alienate us as customers. We’ve affectionately named them “Military Nails”.

Now as a consultant, I’m pretty sure I have their business model down. No frills, low cost, fast nail services. They get you in, you pick your colour, you get your pedicure, and then you get your manicure – FAST. They don’t do designs, they don’t do paraffin wax treatments on your feet – they have their processes nailed, and it is successful. If you want a fancy spa-like treatment, you just go somewhere else. If you want something reliable, fast, and cheap, you go to “Military Nails”.

But occasionally, I wait for bestie to arrive in the hopes that perhaps we can sit near each other and chit chat during our pedicures, or catch up on the latest news. This seems to throw the Military nails people, they get confused, wonder why I won’t sit down yet, or they force me to sit in their waiting room (instead of standing as I often would). Other times, we see a new nail design in a magazine and see if they can do it (the technicians are incredibly talented) – but this usually results in a great deal of approvals from their manager, reiterations about costs, and it becomes a bit of an unpleasant experience.

So how can you ensure that your organization has processes that work and deliver services to your customers the right way?

2 signs your organization is over processed:

1) Your processes focus on processes, not on your customers.
Focus on your strategic vision, if it is to be “no-frills” then keep it that way, but think about how the outcomes can affect your customers.

2) Your processes require burdensome approvals.
Make sure that your employees have autonomy to make decsions that appeal to your clients, while still meeting that strategic objective.

Have examples of over processed organizations? Share it with us! Give us a shout via Twitter @whiteboardcons using #betterfastercheaper or email us at

Tweets by @WhiteboardCons

Until next week!

Are You a Great Coach in the Office?

Are You a Great Coach in the Office?

Have you heard about the concept of being a coach at work and wondered a) what does it mean, and/or b) why the fuss?

Well, let’s start with the coach of a sports team. What does she do? Well, she focuses on an individual to build on their strengths, help them overcome challenges, and perform as part of an amazing team that wins games.

Now. The coach at work. Well… it’s pretty much the same. He focuses on an individual to build on their strengths, hep them overcome challenges, and perform as part of an amazing team that delivers results for the company.

More and more businesses are realizing that management is more than task-based directive behaviour. Effective coaching leads to more engaged employees, and research shows that engaged employees lead to happier customers which of course leads to improved business performance.

So that’s “why the fuss”.

Here are ten questions that will help you improve your coaching style:

  1. Do I know what it’s like to work for me? This is a tough question – do you know? Have you asked your team? Would they be honest with you? A formal 360 survey is one way to find out. If you have a good relationship with them, you can do an informal, anonymous survey as well.
  2. Am I aware of the impact my moods have on my team? You may have a bad day and try to shelter your team from it, but storming through the work area on your way to your office is going to give off a vibe. If this happens frequently, it will impact your approachability.
  3. Do I refer to my employees as my “staff” or my “team”? Think about this. Doesn’t it sound nicer (and more coach-like) to refer to your “team”?
  4. Do I schedule regular coaching sessions? When is the last time you had a coaching session with one of your team members? Was it during a performance discussion? Which brings us to…
  5. Am I aware of the difference between coaching and performance reviews? All performance review discussions should contain an element of coaching. But all coaching is NOT performance-based. This is a very important thing to remember.
  6. Do I take advantage of “coachable moments”? This is a great phrase to work into your business vernacular. It helps the employee’s awareness that they are actually being coached, and they actually listen a little bit harder. It also helps your awareness of casual opportunities for immediate coaching.
  7. Am I kind and curious? I worked with an amazing coach who taught me that kindess and curiosity leave no room for anger and resentment. Click to Tweet It’s so important to consider this before jumping to conclusions about an individual’s performance or behaviour.
  8. Do I know things about my team that aren’t work related? Do you have casual coaching in the form of discovery conversations? Do you know their spouse’s name, how many kids they have, and what they love to do on the weekends? This kind of information is important in establishing trust.
  9. Do I avoid difficult conversations? Oh we all hate these. You have to talk to someone about an outburst, a body odour issue, or a performance problem. Avoiding confrontation is so natural, and yet so damaging to an effective coaching relationship. Properly handled, these conversations can build your relationship.
  10. Do I provide praise and feedback in equal measure? I don’t want to advise you to provide the “kick with the kiss”, ie. to provide a compliment at the same time you provide difficult feedback. No, it’s best to be blunt and get the feedback out there. But also be aware of opportunities to praise!

How did you do?

Do you know a great coach at work? Share it with us! Give us a shout via Twitter @whiteboardcons using #betterfastercheaper or email us at

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Until next week!