I used to work out at a gym that had a bothersome, but almost comedic tendency: Whenever a piece of equipment broke down, someone would diligently and swiftly mark it with an “Out of Order” sign. The particular machine would usually sit like that (broken, that is) for weeks on end. Now, part of this is the result of compartmentalized work: The person whose job it was to properly label broken machinery literally is done with his job once that sign is in place…it’s someone else whose responsibility it is to fix it. But you almost got the sense through the entire club that that’s all that was necessary when something went wrong: label it as broken, and move on. […]
Improving our processes is hard work. There’s a lot of research and thinking that goes into the exercise of getting better at what we do. Add to that the complexities and politics of change management—especially if your organization is large and/or well-established—and it can be daunting for sure. People spend careers refining their approach to Process Engineering, and quite frankly, if it’s being done right, there’s a lot of math involved. And as any one of my cadets can tell you…math is hard.
One thing that (unnecessarily, in my opinion) makes it even more of a challenge is the wrong perspective. I consider it unnecessary because it’s a human tendency, but not an inevitability, to see things from our own perspective and miss those of others. […]
Let me be scandalous for a second here (okay, it’s not nearly as scandalous as I sometimes get in real life, but bear with me):
Stop looking at your scores. Just stop. […]
I’m blessed to have been recruited to work in the field of Customer Experience. I came to the practice of CX via Process Engineering (Lean Six Sigma, or LSS). Using PE to better our CX is an incredibly fulfilling use of a legacy approach to improving what we do. Years ago, before I was involved in CX, I saw how, sadly, PE was often used to ‘find efficiencies’, which usually meant looking for redundancies and people to fire. Back in the day, I mortified my then-boss when I posted the following article to my professional network about why that’s a bad idea. Somehow it didn’t get me in trouble (too much). I recently re-read it, gave it some buffing, and present it to you here today. Plenty of organizations still use PE organically simply to reduce resource use and eliminate waste in their business processes; a noble endeavor as well. Regrettably, the trend still exists to cut people as a spoil of those improvements. For those who aren’t yet using PE for CX purposes, perhaps this can still resonate with you. Enjoy.
One of the things my colleagues and I emphasize when we educate our partners about Lean Six Sigma and Continuous Improvement is that it shouldn’t be used to reduce headcount. Some managers and executives I train think that new-found capacity after a process improvement is made is a good opportunity to draw down. Here are two important reasons why that’s a very bad idea: […]
A few years back I was at lunch with a mentor and there was something we needed or wanted that we had to ask for. The waiter replied somewhat along the lines of: “Well, we’re not supposed to do that, but I’ll go ahead and do that for you.”
We thanked him, but after he walked away, my mentor turned to me and surprisingly said, “what poor form for him to say that.” When I asked what he meant—after all, I was glad he’d singled us out for special attention—he explained, “so what, now we’re in his debt? Like he’s done us a favor?” […]
One of my favorite Process Engineering tools is the Five Whys. The basic principle is to consider a problem or imperfection, ask why it’s the way it is, and then ask why that explanation is so. We keep digging (as the title suggests, five times, but your mileage may vary) until we’ve uncovered the true root cause of an issue. The idea here is to work toward better understanding what’s behind a problem rather than simply fixing the facial, obvious symptoms. This aids in efficiency as we’re less prone to waste our time simply swatting at proverbial flies but rather identifying an underlying failure, fixing it, and thereby avoiding further deficiencies.
Now, as with any tool, it can be overused or misapplied. Some folks will barge into a problem-solving situation, claim to ask “Why?” five times, and call themselves heroes for having broken through the “it’s how we’ve always done it” mentality. Nice try, but the Five Whys is more than just seeming to be an iconoclast or dynamic thinker. If you’re only asking “Why” rhetorically or just to be snarky or look like the smartest person in the room, it’s likely you’ll miss the whole point. The purpose of asking “Why” is actually two-fold: to search earnestly for the root cause, but also to better understand the systems that are currently in place and, well, why they’re there (the jobs they were intended to accomplish). […]