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5 tools I never leave home without

5 tools I never leave home without!

By | Lean Techniques, Lean Thinking, Process Improvement | No Comments
I see plenty of lists containing tools and techniques used in Lean Six Sigma projects. I don’t always agree with every item on every list but that can often come down to a matter of opinion. The lists I see are general to the term Lean Six Sigma so I thought I’d offer up a quick list of the Lean Six Sigma tools I believe fit really well into Service improvement (not manufacturing). Read More

5 reasons you don’t have a culture of continuous improvement

By | Change Management, Lean Six Sigma, Lean Thinking, Lean Training, Management | No Comments

Almost all companies want a culture of continuous improvement (CI) – yet so few have it. Why is that then?

Here are our top 5 reasons that prevent you from creating a culture of CI:

1.You don’t invest in training people

Improvement is a skill like any other. Some people have a bit of a natural gift for it – most of us need to be trained. It doesn’t have to be expensive in this day and age and the return on investment you’ll get will far exceed the training cost. It’s also far cheaper to have a Lean Six Sigma training provider deliver the training at your workplace.

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Does high performance equal great customer experiences

Does high performance equal great customer experiences?

By | Customer experience, Lean Thinking, Lean Training | No Comments

We have worked with some great teams. Teams who are experts in their field; truly committed to the cause and proud of the knowledge that they hold.

These teams hit their SLA’s, their visual management is awash with green and they have fantastic people retention. This sounds perfect doesn’t it?

What about their customer’s experience though? Are their customers delighted about the service they receive? Are they leaving awesome reviews? Unfortunately, not always…

The performance of a team is one thing, but the experience a customer has with an organisation can be totally different. We’ve worked with high performing teams but when we get under the skin and gather the voice of the customer and map the end to end customer journey, it can be found that the customer has endured a complex, clunky experience, which has generated dissatisfaction.

So, how can a customer be dissatisfied with the service of a high performing team?

Let’s take a quick moment and look at a customer journey for changing your personal details with your bank:

You phone the bank, key in your account details into the automated service, and then you are presented to an advisor.  You inform the advisor that you need to change your address and your bank details. The advisor asks you to confirm your account details, as well as other Data Protection being carried out. The advisor proceeds to make the necessary changes to your address. Once done, you are informed that another team has to update your bank details. You are then transferred through to the payment team. They ask you Data Protection questions again, and once satisfied, they update your payment details. The total duration of the call was over 14 minutes.

Although both teams met their own call time targets and carried out their Data Protection questions, the customer still left frustrated. Frustrated that they had to provide their account details verbally as well as electronically, frustrated that they had to speak to two different teams, and frustrated that they had to provide Data Protection answers twice.

If this bank put themselves in to the shoes of the customer and walked the process themselves, and documented the process end to end, they would quickly understand why their customers are dissatisfied and work out how to make improvements to the process. So, let’s not ask non value added questions, let’s design a process that delivers first time call resolution and therefore reduce hand offs, and whilst meeting Data Protection requirements, let’s not over process.

Attending a training course with Lean Consulting will provide you with a detailed overview of the tools and techniques required to document and analyse the end to end process and customer journey. The courses shall talk you through the challenges organisations face as a result of their silo approach to meeting customer demand, and the benefits of adopting collaboration and how much more productive and effective companies are if their teams are all rowing in the same direction.

Our training courses aren’t just about learning the tools and techniques of lean sigma either; you will also get so much value from collaborating with others in the room that will maximise your experience and learning.

We’d love to work with you and support you on your Continuous Improvement journey.

Email is not the problem

Email is not the problem

By | 5 Whys, Communication, Email, Lean Thinking, Productivity | 5 Comments

Look at how many products are out there now all claiming to kill the horrible, nasty, useless, time-consuming, email.

Slack, Chatter, Yammer, Hipchat – and dozens more. All claiming to ‘solve’ the problem of email.

There is even a product called Shortmail which limits all email users to 500 characters (because apparently, the issue with emails is they are too long).

But all these systems miss the point and are trying to solve the symptom not the cause. The root cause of issues with email is poor communication skills not email itself.

You don’t solve the problem of poor communication skills by giving people a different platform to communicate on – you just transfer the problem to the new system

Email is awesome if you think about it. I can write a message and send that to anyone around the world in seconds. And it’s platform agnostic. You could be on Lotus Notes, Outlook or any number of web-based services and they all work with each other! Wonderful. In an age increasingly dominated by eco-system exclusivity, what a breath of fresh air.

But we’re all drowning in it. I get people want a way of ‘reclaiming’ their work day and getting out from underneath email.

So let’s practice some Lean skills and think about WHY we’re drowning in emails.

  • We receive too many emails. Why?
  • We include people on a message who don’t need to read it. Why?
  • We are including them just in case it becomes important later on. Why?
  • We are worried about doing the wrong thing. Why?
  • We lack the appropriate delegated authority or have micro-managers.

We could run this exercise over a few times and find different root causes of course – there isn’t just one.

There are all sorts of ideas and tricks on the web about how to better manager you email, but it seems to me that the real issue why you’re getting so much in the first place.

It takes seconds for someone to add your email to the address bar but in doing that – they’ve guaranteed to take up 5 minutes or more of your time in reading, filing and maybe replying to that email.

So that’s the behaviour that needs to change. And that’s why these alternatives to email become appealing – not because they offer any real solution to the problem, but because they represent change. It’s far simpler to change a system than it is to change people behaviour. Especially in larger organisations.

But that’s what really needs to happen. We need people’s behaviour to change. And it starts with thinking differently:

  • Does the person I’m including on this email need to read the content?
  • Would I physically write this email out 10 times to mail it to all these people?
  • Why am I copying in these people?
  • Would a catch up on the phone, face to face or even a quick meeting be a better use of everyone’s time?

I know one executive who’s trying to do this. They rarely respond to emails anymore, making it an unreliable medium for contacting them. The upshot of this? If it’s not important, people don’t bother emailing them (as they know they won’t read it). If it is important? They call, text or pop round to see him in person.

This works because adding someone to the CC field of an email is something we don’t even really think twice about. It’s so easy. But if you had to call that person – you wouldn’t bother them unless they really needed to know something.

Perhaps that should be the litmus test of whether someone is included on an email. Would I pick up the phone and speak to this person about this discussion? No – then don’t cc them.

It’s time we all took a little ownership about how to improve our communication skills – especially email.

Customer Journeys can be tricky buggers

Customer Journeys can be tricky buggers…

By | Customer experience, Fintech, Lean Thinking, Management | No Comments

Recently, we moved our business bank accounts from one of the major banks to another. We’d had repeatedly bad service to the point where going through the hassle of changing banks was better than stay where we were.

By and large, it’s been ok. Not great, but OK. Would I recommend our new bank? Probably not. Would I warn people not to use them? Probably not either.

I’m completely ‘meh’ about them. Here’s why.

Today, I received an email from them (a real email!) saying I had IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS added to my library. IF that wasn’t enough it went on to say “Please take some time to read it as soon as possible, as it may need a response.”

So I duly logged into my online banking to read this incredibly important message. You see, a few weeks ago I opened a second bank account with this bank.

I open my messages to find… a letter advising me that they have set up online banking for me.

They literally just told me to log into my online banking so I could read a letter confirming I have online banking! Obviously completely unnecessary.

It likely stems from moving all the old world paper-based comms into the digital world, without really taking the time to understand how the message changes or is impacted by the digital world. We see this all the time. A kind of ‘lift and shift’ from paper to digital. It creates a poor and clunky customer journey.

The problem with this is that they took up my time reading the email they sent me. More time logging into online banking with its 2 stage verification. Then downloading the letter itself and reading it. 10 minutes of my time wasted.

Things like this are important – not because it will make a customer leave, but because it’s death by 1000 cuts. It adds to my overall sense of being underwhelmed with the bank.

And there have been other examples of this. Like the time I first used their online banking. I went to pay all my staff and they flagged all the payments as potential fraud. I had to call them to verify the payments. Extra layers of security including explaining what each payment was for (why would they need to know that!?). When I asked why these had been flagged, the response?

“Well sir, you have to admit it’s highly suspicious when you’ve only had your account open for a few weeks and you start making large payments. Of course it’s going to trigger an alert with us”.

It’s a business bank account! Of course there are going to be large transactions moving through it.

I can’t be the only employer out there who pay’s their staff, right? Or have I got this whole running a business thing mixed up?

I have more little examples of time wasting but I’ve taken up enough of yours. I won’t be leaving the bank unless (until?) things start to go really bad, but I won’t be advocating them to anyone. No referral business will be generated from me.

And that’s a missed opportunity if I ever saw one.