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- Transplanting, a Formula for Success
Transplanting, a Formula for Success
As process consultants, we recognize common structures across a wide spectrum of specific cases. In this article I will explore multiple instances of three common process structures. Process Renovation works with our clients to help them gain a process perspective of their activities and align them with the strategic goals of the organization.
Documenting and understanding a process has many benefits. It helps get everyone on the same page, provides a common structure for evaluating and improving the process, and supports training for consistent execution.
Processes can be viewed at varying degrees of detail. At each level, a different process structure may be employed. In many cases a hybrid structure is appropriate. We are going to look at three types of process structures that span different environments but have the similar structures.
Structure 1: Getting the right materials and tools in the right place at the right time.
From a process structure point-of-view the following examples are virtually the same and provide the same benefit in a variety of situations: They ensure you have immediate access to required tools and basic materials.
For my daughter’s landscape company, I built custom racks for the service trucks to hold tools and supplies.
When Sara started her landscaping company, at the end of each day a list of what should be taken to accommodate the next day’s jobs was made. At the start of the day those items would be gathered and placed in the vehicle. This took time, was not always accurate, and did not allow for clients to request additional unplanned services. Together, we renovated this process to have each service truck have over 95% of materials and tools needed to deliver the range of services her company provided.
This saved time at the end of each day and at the beginning of the next day. It also allowed for an improved customer experience with unplanned request being fulfilled and to employee satisfaction by them being able to say, “Yes, we can do that while we are here today”. This change increased profitability.
Construction Site Trailers
I volunteer for Habitat for Humanity and have relied upon the Construction Site Trailer inventory to accomplish planned and unplanned tasks. For the primary task involved in building homes, Habitat has well defined processes that get the right materials and tools into the hands of volunteers very effectively.
Unplanned opportunities often emerge as the build unfolds. As an example, one Saturday, I saw volunteers and staff struggle to get in and out of the house that was under construction. The problem was that the foundation backfill was nearly 3 feet below the threshold of the door. Using scrap materials and tools/fasteners from the Construction Site Trailer, I made a temporary set of three steps with a handrail. I probably would not have built the steps if the needed items were not at the job site. Having a well-equipped construction site trailer allowed me to react to an unanticipated need and save the 20 volunteers and staff on the build that day significant effort and increase safety on the job site.
ER Crash Carts
My wife was recently in an emergency room where the team prepared to use an ER Crash Cart to provide special medications, supplies and a defibrillator. Fortunately, her condition was resolved before needing to use the items on the crash cart. It was great to see all effort focused on the patient and resolving her issues, not on gathering the tools needed.
A few years back, when my mom was at an assisted living center, I appreciated the process they had for assisting residents with showers. They would schedule the showers so the residents could anticipate when it was their turn. The aid would prepare a cart with all the items needed to do a set of showers. This included towels, soap, shampoo, etc. In addition, it included all the supplies needed to replace bandages.
One reason I notice the Shower Cart is that my mother had spent 2 weeks at another assisted living center years earlier. It had a much less efficient process. Showers were done on request and each one was prepared for separately.
Having the right tool in the right place at the right time can improve customer experience, improve volunteer/employee success and safety, and save lives. These are very different situations that seem to have very divergent requirements, but the solution to each is structured in the same way and then adapted to the specific circumstances.
Structure 2: Staging items in anticipation of action.
A second process structure that fits many different environments is using a staging area to gather all the appropriate items so when it is time to move/use the items, they are easily accessible. I have seen this in a wide variety of environments including manufacturing, non-profit fundraising, professional cooking and my personal life.
- Manufacturing Shipping
- Volunteer Event Support
- Mise en place
- Family Weekend Trips
I was working with a manufacturer that only had one loading dock door. However, they needed to quickly load four Semis in a 2-hour window each afternoon. In the morning, they staged each of 4 trucks contents in 4 locations on the loading dock. This allowed them to verify that everything on the packing lists was ready to go. At the time of loading the trucks, it was simply a matter of clearing each of the staging areas into its assigned truck.
Volunteer Event Support
I was a volunteer at the Raise the Woof fundraiser for Habitat for Humanity. In preparation for the 16 teams completing their unique dog houses during the Saturday event, we used a staging area in the warehouse so each team would have easy access to all the materials and tools being provided. That included precut sides, fronts/backs, studs, roofing, nails, screws, etc.
In the days leading up to the event, we were able to verify that all items were prepared in the appropriate quantities. There were also safety items including: gloves, earplugs, safety glasses and dust mask. Having staged all the parts, the event volunteers and staff could focus on the teams and observers enjoying the event.
Mise en place (setting in place, positioning)
Professional cooks always assemble equipment and ingredients prior to starting to prepare food. Process Renovation partner Adam is the restaurant consultant on our team and he can explain in greater detail the importance of Mise en place. In recent years, Adam has demonstrated Mise en place as he has taken the lead on our family’s holiday dinners.
Mise en place is the religion of all good line cooks. — Anthony Bourdain
Family Weekend Trips
In my personal life, for decades, my family has used a staging area to prepare for weekend trips to our cabin. On the day we are departing, everyone gets their personal belongings into a designated area near our front door. When our children were young, this included toys and homework. Now it is my c-pap machine, our medicines and laptops. It should be no surprise that we use a staging area at the cabin to prepare for our return home.
Using a staging area makes moving material easier since the preparation is spread over time. It also improves accuracy by facilitating verification. And most importantly to me, it eliminated much of the stress of getting my family to a weekend of relaxation at our cabin. When I said, “it’s time to load the car”, everyone knew exactly what to do.
Structure 3: Using a checklist to verify a predefined process is executed as planned.
The following examples all use the same structure and basic concepts: Planning the steps and materials to be used in the process, sequencing steps and preparing a timeline, executing the process, and then verifying step completion. They use checklists to facilitate completion and ensure no steps are missed.
- Preparing Thanksgiving Dinner
- Back to School
- Airplane Take-Off
- Manufacturing a product
In my family, this annual tradition has taken many forms. When I was growing up, my involvement was limited to gathering chairs, help setting the tables and of course helping with cleanup.
As an adult and parent, I was involved in scheduling, shopping and food preparation. Well in advance there would be a lot of phone calls and conversations about the menu. Then there was negotiating the delegation of dishes to various family members. Each dish had a recipe either explicitly or implicitly known by the preparer that is a combination of ingredients, quantities and process steps.
Recently, with a chef in the family, I have watched how a professional makes it look simple. Planning the menu, shopping, prep and most impressively execution on the day. He had a plan for when each dish would go into the oven or onto the stove and when they would all come out at the correct time to have a lovely relaxing dinner. Growing up, I sensed my mother, mother-in-law and grandmothers being more stressed.
It’s a very common annual ritual for adults to help their children get ready to go to school. In my experience a checklist was central to this process. My mother made several lists to help me and my two brothers return to school. These included shopping list for clothing, general school supplies and special items like a graphing calculator.
When I fly on a plane, I trust the pilot and copilot have meticulously completed the preflight checklist to ensure our safety. I can imagine one of them reading out the items and others acknowledging that they are completing each step with “Check” or “Roger That”.
Manufacturing a product
Requires multiple lists. Typically, the first is a list of customer orders or a forecast of needed products. For each item to be manufactured there is a bill of materials that may be multi-level including its sub-assemblies. There is also a list of routing steps and/or shop instructions for how to transform the raw materials into the finished good.
A checklist can be as simple as milk, bread and peanut butter. Or, as in the case of a Boeing 777, have over 3 million parts, provided by more than 900 suppliers. However, the basic steps remain consistent: plan, sequence, execute and verify.
Seeing the process underneath the details is a combination of experience, methodology and perspective. All process improvement must be preceded by understanding of the current process. Then the stakeholders involved can look for opportunities to simplify and improve the process. In addition, consistent execution usually requires documentation and training.
In many ways the cliché “there is nothing new under the sun,” is an illustration of the universality of process. As technology, norms and paradigms evolve the opportunity for process renovation is endless. That is why I love being a business process consultant.
- Landscaping to Process Consulting, I Use the Same Skill!
Landscaping to Process Consulting, I Use the Same Skill!
You’re skeptical, I know, but it’s true. When I was selling in my gardening business, I was doing process consulting and I didn’t even know it. In process consulting, when we work with our clients we are walking alongside them guiding, deliberating, supporting decision making and eventually seeing them thrive.
What does that have to do with landscaping though? Well, when you know that this person used to have a green thumb before the surgery, that they spent their weekends and evening outside in the dirt or appreciating the outdoors, then you know that their deepest desired outcome for a gardening project or relationship is to be able to reconnect with their environment. Their desire is to feel progress and have hope. This means you can suggest putting in large pots on the patio that they can grow vegetables in while sitting in a sturdy chair or put in a stable walking path to the bench out by the coneflowers and black-eyed susans. This means that you can set up a bi-weekly visit where they can sit outside and instruct able-bodied people on just how they need the work done.
This means we are building a relationship and understanding. We are listening, learning, and are invested in the outcome with our client. For Let Us Get Dirty For You (yep, that was my gardening company) I always and I mean always met with the potential client face to face. I needed to see, intuit and address their concerns. I wanted to know them, their hopes, their fears, their pets names, their relationship to their home and their environment.
Selling our gardening was not just transactional it was reaching out and telling them that it was possible. What about the black thumbs? They still had yards, that needed tending. For many it was just another stress on the list. Must do: make sure yard doesn’t look like total trash. They still needed someone to come and enter their space, tend to and care for things.
There is vulnerability in that. Saying, “I know other people seem to handle it themselves, but this I just can’t do. Could you help me?” Asking for help. It’s tough. And brave. I would tell them we could make a plan that gets you to manageable. You can enjoy your yard if you feel you have a black thumb or the time never seems to allow it. I liken these folks to my consulting clients who tell me numbers aren’t their thing or they just don’t think about processes. My first task is to set them at ease. Anyone can be good at process or keep the numbers in order. It is just about getting the process streamlined and effective. I can help with that.
The thing is taking care of nature is not a one-time act (well it is if you cover it with asphalt, but I don’t condone that.) Plants grow. The weather changes. Weed today. Another will pop up in a month’s time. My job was to build the relationship with the client so they could trust my people to care for their environment. The same holds true for processes, we build in elasticity, resiliency and a plan for the future.
In process consulting we ask six basic questions why, who, what, when, where and how. Why did the client call me? The problem we need to solve in their yard. Who is involved? The people and pets that live there. What are the expected outcomes? The way the client wants to engage with their yard. When are the key dates? The deadlines like family are coming to visit, the house is going up for sale or desire to engage with environment ASAP. Where will the work take place? The view for the neighbors matters or enjoying being out on the back deck is the priority. How will we proceed? The stages necessary to reach the outcomes and deadlines like coming on a regular basis or a big one time event.
The big difference is that with gardening I was providing the resources discovered in this process and with process consulting we are engaging in the discovery and helping the client identify the resources necessary to thrive then empowering them to make it happen.
There is a saying among our local gardeners. If you plant it in Central Illinois, it will grow. It will grow bigger than the labels tell you it will grow. It’s true. I like to think that it extends to more than just plants. When I meet with my potential clients, I would plant the seed. It is possible. It can happen. There is hope. The benefits will outweigh the cost. Solving the problems of today will make the problems of tomorrow easier to overcome.
- Strategic Messaging Matters
Strategic Messaging Matters
When you hear messaging you might think of texting, email or chat apps. While those are all forms of communication, messaging in the marketing sense is the story you are putting out to the world and what your potential customers, users, volunteers, donors, partners, and more are receiving. Whether or not you are actively cultivating your message and brand, you are communicating something. Is your success due to your messaging or in spite of it?
Are people confused and have to figure you out or do you make it easy for them to know just who you are and what you do? So often when I ask a client what they want the community to think of them, they give me something vague about whatever will make them spend money. Sometimes it is positive thoughts. Or they tell me something that they personally like about their business. Those are great messages for potential customers to get. How are they getting those out there?
Here is an example of messaging that we all do every day and women in particular will resonate with this. When you put on your clothes in the morning, you pick business attire, casual dress, a little bit of flare, something that expresses your unique style. You pick the shirt that brings out your eyes, the sleek shoes that make you look sharp, the dark colors to make you look slim, or the bright colors to get you noticed. This is messaging. You are non-verbally communicating to people who you are and how to interact with you.
So you might liken that to a store front, office, uniforms, et cetera in your business. Most people consciously or unconsciously work on this type of messaging all the time. You wash your windows and clear away clutter to make the space inviting. You use dress codes or uniforms to create consistency and professionalism between employees. There are many more components to messaging to explore.
I have a colleague that works in the copy-editing department of a bigger firm and they have a style guide that they employ to keep their written communication consistent and on message. Whenever there is a question about how something should be handled, they have a clear procedure to follow. This level of consistency communicates to their customers that they are reliable and trustworthy. Who wouldn’t want people to think those things about them?
This level of consistency communicates to their customers that they are reliable and trustworthy.
People need to hear/see things 7 times before it sinks in. Consistency in communication ensures the message is breaking through the filters. Great marketing managers repeat their messages. Take a look at Lodgic Everyday Community. They put their primary message in their name: Community. It’s logical. It’s an everyday thing.
Their photos are bright and sunny, the colors of their location and online/print marketing all match, they attend family friendly events and invite people to visit them on a frequent basis. Message: welcoming, cheerful, inclusive, clean, modern and fresh. It asks you if you identify with those things and tells you that you can share in it too. They appeal to your intelligence and desire to belong then normalize it.
You don’t have to have a degree in communications to perceive these things. You see it. You know when the messages are working for you.
As a manager you employ strategies all the time. You make strategic decisions about staffing, task management, materials sourcing and effective sales. It is time you check in on your messaging. Let me explain a test I employ.
A routine I have when I meet someone new at a networking event (I try not to challenge people randomly so this is a place where people are representing their company) is finding out how well they can tell me the company’s mission. This tells me a multitude of things about the company.
Firstly, I can see how passionately the employee is buying in to their employment. Mission alignment matters. Your employees are the first line of marketing. Customers are charged up and excited by enthusiastic and happy employees. The message you send to employees is just as important as what you send to your customers.
Secondly, positioning. How well do your employees understand your position in the marketplace? Can they communicate the value you are providing? Do they know what differentiates your company from others like it? If you are a coffee shop, what makes them walk the extra block to your store? Is your coffee better tasting or responsibly sourced? Are you catering to the businessperson looking to get in and out quick or interested in a quiet meeting place? Do you know your target market and do your employees understand how you are meeting that market’s needs? Turning your employees into brand advocates is a surefire way to increasing your messaging returns.
Thirdly, how strategic your management team has been. A warning sign starts flashing when employees can’t communicate the company’s mission. Mixed or muddled messages are communication killers. If I can tell these warning signs from a 3 min conversation, your customers are getting that communication too.
I help my clients develop mini-strategic & mini-marketing plans to address these issues. I start with where they are today and the actions they already employ then build on their mission. In a one day session, we walk through the steps to define strategies and get them headed in the right direction. Here is my list for you to start your own mini-strategic plan.
- Clarify your mission and vision.
- Make sure you have a strategic marketing plan.
- Develop a tactics plan for rolling it out.
- Get your employees energized and on message.
- Make your message consistent.
- The Competitive Edge of Continuous Training (in Restaurants)
The Competitive Edge of Continuous Training (in Restaurants)
In the general business world it is becoming more widely known and discussed that continuous professional development is important for a multitude of reasons. Ranging from attracting and retaining great employees to better performance, the gains exceed the costs if it is done right. Unfortunately, there are still a lot of industries that don’t recognize this value. Restaurants, particularly smaller chains and independent operators, are quite noticeably prominent in not seeing the value.
The food-service industry is a fast-paced and always rapidly changing. Anyone in the industry knows this, and restaurateurs are always trying to stand out. With consumer reviewing playing a greater role and more companies than ever being competitive on excellent customer service restaurateurs need to make sure their staff is up to the task, well-informed, and engaged with their work. Continuous training is one of the best proven methods to do all of that.
With rising minimum wages all around the country and rapidly changing industry trends there is more reason than ever to invest in making your workforce the best it can be and instill loyalty to your brand, especially for restaurants. Training is more important than ever before for small businesses that employ minimum or near minimum wage employees, both because of rising wages and trends in the the current generation of the workforce who see growth as one of the largest reasons to take and hold a position.
Some of the most overused arguments against this investment like “time my employees are training is time the aren’t doing their job” and “it is too expensive” have long since been debunked and you can see this yourself with a quick cost-and-benefit analysis. Time spent training is time spent working because it sharpens skills and in the long-run leads to smoother and more efficient operations. The great news about the expense is that the cost of this training is getting lower all the time with excellent resources for online programs and better information accessibility. With the importance growing and cost lowering is there any reason not to invest in continuous training?
- Process Mapping My Health
Process Mapping My Health
Nothing like having to record every detail of your activities with consideration of the potential outcomes. When two weeks ago I had a headache and nausea, I thought it was a fluke and would pass. Yet the next day I was persistently frustrated with a strong perfume/chemical smell. Fast forward to two days later and I am searching my home for a dead mouse (a cat gift) or forgotten food wrapper in the trash because there was a strong smell that was just plain awful. I found nothing. So I asked for assistance, but they couldn’t smell it. How could that be? It was strong and pervasive. I was sure it was there. Two more days of this and I am sitting in the doctor’s office feeling crazy and confused. They tell me it is a migraine. I have had no pain in days though. That came later, but the point here is outcomes can be confusing when you don’t have a good picture of the causes. My preconceived idea of a migraines timeline and standard symptoms had to be altered.
My task was laid out for me. Write it all down. What I ate, where I had been, how much sleep had I gotten, how did I try to fix it, create a timeline, think of all the factors. When you are getting results you didn’t want, how do you respond? Do you layout the factors that brought you to the current situation? I dove into the record like I do with process mapping for my clients. Lay it all out there. Put everything down, even if it seems irrelevant. Question everything. Try not to assume anything or take things for granted.
I drink coffee every day. Could too much have been a factor or did I have withdrawal that contributed? There was a big storm front pushing in. Did the pressure changes affect me? There is no sole cause for migraines. There is only history and commonly known triggers and symptoms. Olfactory responses are not that common, but it happens. My triggers may be similar to others (caffeine, weather, sleep, stress, food, etc.), but mine have a unique combination. The same is true for processes. The stages may look similar to other processes, but each process is unique in its makeup.
Ask experts for assistance in your evaluation. I reached out to an APRN to make sure I was considering everything I should and get affirmation of the conclusions I was developing. When working with a food service process, I turn to experienced restaurant managers to layout the factors to consider. When dealing with software integration, I turn to IT experts to understand the possibilities. I access resources at the library or through trusted websites. I consult people with perspectives I value.
For migraines the treatment requires you be ready at the outset to take action. The medicine is most effective if applied at the first sign of trouble. My groundwork now will prepare me to take immediate action when it counts and develop a plan for prevention. I will leave room for adjustment as I track the next incident and pay more attention to the factors as they happen. The process renovation work that I do is all about prevention and laying the groundwork of resiliency and elasticity. I work with my clients to map the current situation and contributing factors, I analyze for cause and effect, and I help my clients create a plan of action.