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lean thinking

This one thing can help get your process improvement approved

By | Lean Thinking, Problem Solving, Process Improvement

When you are looking at improving a process, we naturally look at all the benefits that the process improvement will deliver. It’s often necessary for a business case and to get buy-in/approval.

But the one thing we tend to neglect is looking at all the possible reasons why the process improvement shouldn’t be approved.

This is not a new concept – Edward De Bono, one of the world pre-eminent leaders around ‘thinking and creativity’ developed this concept much more fully in his 6 Thinking Hats method. You can find out more about this great tool here (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Six_Thinking_Hats)

The Yellow Hat thinking and Green Hat thinking are almost always what we think about when completing process improvement. The Yellow Hat is all about brightness and optimism. Under this hat you explore the positives and probe for value and benefit. The Green Hat focuses on creativity, the possibilities, alternatives, and new ideas. It’s an opportunity to express new concepts and new perceptions.

We’re really good at thinking of the positive benefits of a process improvement. It would be rare to find a process improvement where this doesn’t naturally happen (probably could happen better though!).

Red Hat thinking and Black Hat thinking are almost the opposites of the Yellow and Green. The Red Hat is where we can consider emotional responses like fears, dislikes and hates. Black Hat thinking is about looking at all the thing that could go wrong – all the negative stuff.

When I’m preparing to talk to key stakeholders about a potential process improvement, I start to think about all the barriers that could possibly come up. For example, if I’m looking to change the way we handle customer service I start thinking about:

  • What might compliance have a problem with? Why would they be resistant? What arguments might they present to me to be opposed to the change?
  • What might the call centre object too? Are they worried it will drive call handling times up? Or drive more calls into the centre? Or maybe it will reduce calls and make the call centre smaller – thus reducing the perceived importance of the Call Centre Manager?
  • What might IT object too? Will it mean a new technology being implemented? Would their nose be out of joint because it wasn’t a technology that they suggested? Or maybe they don’t want to allocate resources? Perhaps it’s a reduction in control for them, reducing the operational dependence on them?

This is not an exhaustive list – but you get the idea. I try not to only focus on technical aspects – I also try to consider the emotional response they might have. Sometimes, the technical reasons why something won’t work is masking the truth, which is an emotional response.

Pretend reason – “I am really worried about the impact on the customer”

Emotional (real) reason – “I am worried that I will look stupid because it was my idea to handle customer service the way we currently do it”

Knowing the reason why someone may be opposed to an improvement does a few things:

  • It helps you think about what your response might be – rather than having to come up with a counter-argument right on the spot
  • It might change the way you engage with a person about an improvement

It goes without saying that a collaborative, inclusive approach to change also helps bring some of these barriers down. But even in that environment, you can get people who are negative or opposed to changing things. Understanding why is hugely important to the success of any change initiative.

It’s great that we’re thinking about all the positives that our process improvements can bring to bear.

It’s equally important that we start thinking about all the negative reasons too. If you spend just a little time thinking about this before meeting with stakeholders it may help reduce the barriers to change and improve your project delivery.

Next time you’re prepping for a meeting, pop on your red and black hats beforehand J

-Lean Consulting

Every time i access the NHS it's painful & wasteful

Every time I access the NHS it’s painful & wasteful

By | Customer experience, Customer Service, Lean Thinking
On Tuesday I had a flare up of an ailment I sometime get (once or twice a year) in my foot. A simple medicine takes care of it – but it requires a prescription.

Irritatingly, I went to take my medicine to find I only had 1 or 2 pills left. On Wednesday, I called by doctors surgery to ask if they can give me another prescription for the medicine. They’ve prescribed it before and it’s not a very dangerous class of drug. Read More

5 tools I never leave home without

5 tools I never leave home without!

By | Lean Techniques, Lean Thinking, Process Improvement
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

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.

Read More

Does high performance equal great customer experiences

Does high performance equal great customer experiences?

By | Customer experience, Lean Thinking, Lean Training

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.