business team

The Lean Processes: horizontal operational reviews

In a Lean workplace, attention is tightly focussed on how work flows from one activity to another rather than how the individual work areas function within each team boundary.

Such an overview ignores workplace boundaries and encourages the work to be produced cleanly and smoothly throughout the entire length of the business process. This ensures that it flows without errors, increased costs, excessive backlogs or a wasteful need for others to rework your work.

Staff and Management seeing the same picture

First Line management using visual management methods facilitate Horizontal Operational Reviews encouraging everyone to surface problems of ‘Flow’ by creating a blame-free space where  collaborative, problem-solving activity is designed to eliminate such Flow interruptions as persistent errors, unclean work, backlogs and delays.

The frequency of the meetings can vary from bi-weekly to twice a week, depending on the critical nature of the business process and/or scenarios where production volume necessitates more frequent reviews.

Implementing lean

Improving the Business Capability to Produce

The Middle and Senior Management communities will also conduct Operational Reviews with their staff using the very same visual management board and performance data but with a focus on improving end-to-end delivery capability to produce the required volumes of work while First Line management and below continue to focus on removing errors that impact flow.

That last point brings this full circle and captures the Lean difference. Improving an entire business flow instead of a strict focus on individual department functions has a more substantial impact on the companies output and quality.

Adaptability and speed to market are now the key differentiators


Global I.T. is changing.

And with these changes, being able to adapt your technology, people and processes to respond in an increasingly competitive marketplace is what separates success from failure.

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But many organizations are still functioning using a build and sell mentality – where one size fits all.

It’s a business model that worked well throughout the 20th century. But adaptability and speed to market are now the key differentiators separating success from failure in an increasingly competitive landscape.

Untitled 32In this new environment, you need to ask yourself, ‘Is your organization capable of adapting, or is it simply treading water and hoping the circling sharks don’t notice it flailing about in the water?’

Lloyd Parry delivers strategy and implementation that transforms businesses where technology, people and processes need to change and come together in order to work smarter and adapt faster.

Our firm works across a wide variety of industries including:

  • Financial institutions
  • Legal Services
  • IT services
  • Government

Our team will develop a single program to ensure all aspects of your business are aligned to the needs of customers. Furthermore, we’ll create the institutional ability to change rapidly with the marketplace.

How?

Simple.

We work with stakeholders across your business, including:

  • Product Development
  • Marketing and Sales
  • Service and Delivery
  • Technical help desks
  • and other customer-facing services

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Our process changes the way employees, managers, and leaders think about how internal operations react and respond to external changes. The result is improved differentiation within competitive markets and an increased ability to get your products and services to market – fast.

  • When you bring us on board, we’ll work with your executive team to:
  • Complete a system wide review of your operations
  • Design and deliver a custom change program
  • Sustain that change by transferring our knowledge to your internal organization

So don’t wait. Our experience working with complex organizations with multiple stakeholders makes us the obvious choice for companies who know they need to do better. And have to do it right the first time.

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How Lean changes organization structure, workplace priorities

Sometimes the best way to illustrate how Lean works is by looking at the direction the company was heading before and after a Lean transformation.

To help with this illustration I would like you to imagine a compass dial where South represents the direction of typical Direct and Control Mass-Production environment and North represents a business operated on Listen and Adapt Lean-Management principles.

compassAll businesses have a management compass needle that tends to point either north or south. An uneasy compromise between these two opposite management directions can be found when the needle points either East or West.

Let’s take a look at a major global IT business of 2,000 people where the management compass needle pointed South East. In other words strongly practicing direct and control mass-production management. This organisational design creates technical silos with little or no coordination between them. The business was losing market share and failing to respond to changing customer needs. Customer churn was increasing and profitability was taking a dive.

What we learned about this organization was that improving products was not a priority. They actually had good engagement with their customers – but only in a reactive mode when things went wrong.

The management team faced a choice, ‘do we try harder with mass-production and drive the needle even further south or do we change our approach and go north towards Lean Management’?

Well I wouldn’t be telling the story if they didn’t venture north. Having made the choice it was now time to map out a new route to success that would include a difficult turn around in management practices, measurement systems, customer and employee engagement, behaviours and even redesigned the organisation and the job roles.

So how did it go?

Eighteen months later we had a result: a complete shift in mind set and skills from the more than 2,000 people who worked there. This changed how they engaged with customers day in and day out. It was a complete reinvention of the company culture where surfacing problems without reprisals wasn’t just accepted, but encouraged. Indeed actively seeking out problems became the norm. And when the reports remained green for a long enough time, we turned them all red just to raise the standard!

Staff were anticipating changing customers’ needs almost in real time and seeking to change the measurement system to reflect this new type of customer value being expressed. And since they were now working in an end-to-end business, they had to change the measurements to reflect the new structure – basing rewards on collaboration.

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This was all very different from 18 months before when staff were simply seeking to meet internally derived efficiency targets. Now it was the customer with the help of the staff who we driving change in the organization.

Senior managers are not making the day-to-day operating decisions anymore.

It’s not even the middle managers driving operating decisions: it is the first line management. Middle management make sure that front line staff are not overburdened, but the basic improvement and the change is in day-to-day review built in at the front line level.

And that is a Lean difference.

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Sharing knowledge key to an adaptive workplace

Most of the business principles that we operate from, even to this day, come from the 19th century.

It goes back two hundred years when people were coming off the land and selling their labour to the industrial revolution.

People were considered disposable parts and workers rights were very hard to come by. Over time, that led to a social change in labour, specifically unions which while needed, unfortunately reinforced those stratified interests and divisions between management and workers.

Two business people discussing data or planning work on background of their colleagues handshaking

Today, people don’t expect to be ‘command and controlled’ as then: they look to be consulted and developed. In fact, currently, younger workers expect to be entertained.

So today’s workplace is much more of a community. The credo is ‘I’m not working for the guy at the top: I’m working for my colleagues’. In that way, it’s more of a living space.

One of my strategies is to to turn the workplace into a living and breathing space that fosters people to willingly contribute, instead of a rigid system of incentives and control. People won’t put up with that anymore.

This is a fairly recent phenomenon over the last 25 to 30 years, especially in industries where knowledge is of paramount importance. Withholding labour is obvious to the eye: someone doesn’t put the effort in and it shows. If you do that with knowledge you are withholding the ideas in your head and today’s economy needs that knowledge. It needs to be given freely.

If the environment isn’t collaborative and energizing, the question arises: ‘If I think of an idea, should I patent it myself or contribute it to my company?’ These aren’t theoretical questions but very real value propositions taking place in workplaces today.

Implementing lean

Some organizations say ‘We pay you for your ideas and own them’ and then kick the person out the door. If you do that, what results is a work culture zeitgeist where people don’t contribute their knowledge. In the adaptive world, it’s all about the learning, sensing and responding and that requires a lot of knowledge, collaboration and experimentation.

One thing is clear. You can’t run a company on 19th century principles anymore.

Data is the sword, the customer your shield

When discussing Lean with change makers, I tell them ‘the data is your sword, the customer is your shield’.

Paradoxically, I also tell them ‘if you’re armed and prepared to fight, you will not have a fight’.

Parry Presenting 4So why do I tell them that? Because if you’re fighting for the customer, you won’t have much of a battle.

I guide the changemakers to put themselves in the place of the customer instead of the department that they are attempting to change.

That is a very important neutral point because all organizations are built to serve customers.

And data and findings that reveal that customer needs are not being met are as important to the employees as the CEO.

Faced with such information, it would take a very brazen CEO to turn their back on that data.

If the data was viewed with an eye to department performance, there is an opportunity for some very mundane arguments about department structure and such.

Why are the arguments mundane? Because they’re subterfuge that hides the real issue about customer satisfaction.

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When you argue from the customer position, the discussion turns to the resources expended to delivering a substandard service to dissatisfied customers. With the customer as the focus of the discussion, solutions have to run through a client-focussed user experience.

As a CEO, if you don’t’ take the part of the customer and fight for them, you don’t have a business. Or, alternately, you have an illusion that you have a business which is possibly worse.