Judy Dobles, General Management Consulting


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  • During my career I have had the wonderful opportunity to work on and solve very complicated process issues.  My success is based on 8 steps that I follow when faced with a complex situation.

    [1] Have the knowledge and skills to pursue the problem.   First, be sure you have generic “lean/six sigma” skills. [My post next week will address what the key skills are and how to get them.] These skills are vital and transferrable from project to project.  Second, read existing process documentation.  Third, talk to people who do the work; leaders, experts and anyone else you believe can provide pertinent perspectives and insights regarding the overall process.

    [2] Create a business process flow chart or value stream map.  Using a white board, large piece of paper, Excel, Visio or any other flow chart software, create a complete business process flow chart. In one case, the company I was assisting had a very well written and thorough brochure which included terms and conditions.  By reading it cover to cover, I was able to accurately create a flow chart of the business process flow.  If you are the individual charged with leading the change, creating the flow chart yourself gives you unparalleled insight into the process.

    [3] Corroborate the business process flow chart with others.  Once created, review the chart with the people doing the work.  Almost always, you will find a few things that need to be adjusted.

    [4] Identify where problems occur in the process.  In a facilitated discussion with staff, using the flow chart, identify where problems in the process occur.  Every time I have led such a session, numerous problems were identified.  Then prioritize the list to determine what the most pressing issues are.

    [5] Understand current written work instructions, policies and procedures.  During this step you may find inconsistencies that must be rectified.

    [6] Identify root cause for the top issues.  Uncovering the issues is just the first step.  Now you and the team have to dig into the detail [peel the onion] to determine what the true root cause is.  You must do this for all the key issues.  In this step it is absolutely critical to get the data.

    [7] Develop potential solutions.  With the root cause of an issue clearly understood, the team can create potential solutions.  It is important to have several to choose from because the perfect solution may be too costly to implement.   The team should then select what they believe to be the optimal solution.  Gain approval as needed.

    [8] Implement and monitor the solution.  Once the green-light is given, plan out the implementation.  A robust project plan will ensure success.  [Note: trying to implement a change without a project plan is a recipe for failure.] Be sure to create the appropriate process metrics so that the team can track how well the process is doing after the changes are implemented.  Nothing is ever perfect.  It is likely that the team may need to make some slight modifications.

    You can see how this becomes a continuous cycle of improvement.  Select the most pressing process issue.  Fix it.  Then select the next process issue.  Fix it.  Repeat this again and again.

    Call me if you would like to discuss the 8 steps in more detail:  585-329-3754.  I love discussing operational excellence and continuous improvement.

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  • Continuation of Monday, Feb 13th discussion

    Any organization is made up of individuals with diverse backgrounds and experiences. While this is a great strength, clarifying desired values is required. Stated values provide common nomenclature and expectations for everyone. They are standards of behavior that guide decision making and assist in identifying priorities in the workplace. Once the values are agreed upon, communicate these values through words and actions, every day. (Note: examples are easy to find. Google corporate values and the name of a company you admire. Almost always a link to their values appear.)

    People will never follow you to the future if you cannot show them the path of how to get there. Saying, “Trust me, let’s go” just does not cut it. At this point develop an effective strategy and tactics for moving the group from the current state towards the vision. Put it on paper; then position the path forward with the organization.

    Communicate, communicate, and communicate. Organizational change is typically monumental, something big, something new. For an individual to embrace the new, they must let go of the old. That is hard and does not happen overnight. Use multiple communication modalities to build a common shared understanding of the vision, the mission, the strategy, the tactics and the values. Always remember the first time you ever heard a really big new idea. My guess is you did not believe it. Just like Lord Kelvin, President of the Royal Society, c. 1895, stated, “Heavier than air flying machines are impossible.” Help your staff and the organization through all the questions and concerns they have. My rule of thumb: you need to communicate 7 times, 7 different ways before people begin to assimilate the new concepts.

    Spend time to build alignment in the organization. By engaging with staff you will create a personal interest and willingness for investment in what needs to be accomplished. Doing this builds alignment and fosters harmony. Think about the sport of sweep oar rowing, which is done in pairs, fours or eights. If the rowers do not pull in concert with each other, the racing boat (or shell) gets off-course and slows down. The same holds true for a work team.

    Build an environment which creates spirit and purpose. The workplace must be one where individuals know that their thoughts, creativity, feelings and personal determination are valued and required as the organization moves toward the vision. The work place should be filled with enthusiasm and excitement directed and aligned towards achieving the vision. Everyone must get in on the action; there must be no passive watching from the side-lines.
    To be continued.

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