Gain Efficiency Through Elimination

Boost your business efficiency using Post-it Notes

As the owner of a small/medium business you may have done all you can to make your business run smoothly and efficiently. This included mapping your business processes and defining performance indicators to measure compliance with the processes. It took some time to get buy-in from your employees – the shift to thinking about work as a process instead of a function does not happen overnight. Despite this, you are still experiencing glitches and even major problems in delivering a great service to your customers. You have considered hiring some Six Sigma experts, but the cost is prohibitive. Well, guess what, even Jack Welch did not get it completely right.

It’s all about the Customer

“Six Sigma saved General Electric and brought us profits of $300 million through reducing operating costs.” (Jack Welch CEO of General Electric 1981-2001)

“While we were focusing on efficiency, we forgot about the customer.” (Jeff Immelt, CEO of General Electric, 2001-)

There has been a great deal written about the polar opposites in management styles of these two CEOs. However, Jeff has hit the nail on the head: the customers’ needs ultimately drive your business, no matter how efficient you make your processes. This core belief is what makes Apple and other admired companies great. You probably have heard about the “Outside-in” approach, where you ensure that your business is built around your customer. Here is a quick overview of the concepts and how to apply them.

Moments of Truth (MOT)

What is a moment of truth? It is also known as a customer touchpoint. It is any activity where there is an interaction between the customer and the business, ranging from a face-to-face encounter to a purely electronic one, such as an automated email or text message.

Moments of truth create risk (and reward) and always carry some baggage, in the form of breakpoints and business rules. Now it may seem counter-intuitive, but the less moments of truth you have in your process, the better your customer service will be. This is because every time you interact with the customer, there can be a positive or a negative outcome.

Breakpoints

Every time there is a communication with the customer, there is a risk of it failing or not following through, and the process flow getting interrupted. Clearly this can be a major pain point and inefficiency.

Business Rules

As a rule of thumb, you can expect to find around three business rules for each moment of truth. Business rules are scary, they often linger on long after they are needed, causing dangers and annoyances. You may have read “Kill the Company” by Lisa Bodell. One of the chapters is called “Kill a Stupid Rule”. Well here is a very easy way to do it.

First Steps in Mapping Customer Process

Obviously, the complete roadmap on becoming an Outside-in company cannot be described in a brief article (although it is remarkably simple to achieve). If you follow the steps below, using a process that is filled with pain points, you will see the benefits. You can try this in isolation, or even in a workshop.  You will need some pens and 4 different colours of Post-it notes.

STEP 1 – Map the Process

Write each activity in the process on a Post-it note and stick them on a wall or whiteboard.
Choose different colour Post-it notes for the activity, the moment of truth, the breakpoint and the business rules, e.g.
Activities = yellow
Moments of Truth (MOT) = pink
Breakpoints (BP) = blue
Business Rules (BR) = green

STEP 2 – Discover the moments of truth

Put the MOT colour post-it note next to or overlapping the activity

STEP 3 – Breakpoints

Put a BP sticker for each breakpoint next to or overlapping the activity

STEP 4 – Business Rules

Put a BR sticker for each business rule next to or overlapping the activity.

Ideally, you should write what the MOT, BP and BR is on each note, but once you have stuck the notes up, you will have an amazing new view of your process. The critical activities in your process are the MOT. You can now see their impact, especially when you consider the business rules clustered about them.

STEP 5 – Remove or Improve

This works really well in a workshop. Common sense rules when simplifying the process. The aim is to see which moments of truth can be eliminated or improved according to their importance to the customer. Any activity that is not a MOT can be ignored.

Consider each MOT and put your customer’s shoes on. Grade the MOT on its importance to the customer (HIGH MEDIUM or LOW) and its importance to your company. An MOT that scores “LOW-LOW” can probably be removed, along with its rules.

The Results

Forget 5 or 10% process improvement – this method can simplify and improve your process way beyond that. Try it and see!

 

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