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What’s Keeping Your Company from Scaling?

What’s Keeping Your Company from Scaling?

 

Is there something going on in your company that is slowing down growth, making it not fun to come into work, or creating tension within your team? In my expe3657801283_d407c24a60_zrience, when things don’t go as planned, what usually happens is everyone starts pointing fingers at other people. When everything feels more difficult than it should be, it’s easy to place the blame on someone else. I have found that in almost every instance, there is a root cause and it’s not your people. It’s your processes. And not just any processes, it’s what I call your Core Processes.

 

What really trips up most companies are the big cross-functional processes that are truly core to the business. In order to get certain things done, some projects or tasks require that they are routed through several departments. This is the major source of the repetitive heart burn. Whenever a process jumps across departments, there is usually a missed hand-off and the gears quickly become out of sync.

 

The Solution:

  1. Work with your leadership team to create a list of about four to five Core Processes that define the company. These should only include the cross-functional processes.
  2. Assign someone to be accountable (preferably a volunteer) for each process. This gives the process a voice and a hand that can be raised during a meeting to address when things that are not working right, or the ability to coordinate a meeting when things need to be streamlined.
  3. Define the key metrics for each process. How are they measured? How do we continuously lean them out and improve them? How do we do them better, faster, and cheaper?
  4. Pick one process to work on first. Which process will provide the most benefit the fastest? These are big processes, so don’t try to fix an entire process at once. Select a section and start there. You’ll be surprised by how much easier it is to fix the full process by looking at one section at a time. Additionally, by working on one section at a time, you won’t stress out your team.
  5. Start documenting, with as much detail as you can reasonably handle. Don’t go overboard, there should be just enough to see the process and speed up training. I like to say a documented process is the foundation for continuous improvement.

 

As you scale, your processes will break. It’s imperative that you build Core Process work into your quarterly planning cadence. Pick one process per quarter and get to work. This allows you to revisit each Core Process annually before big problems arise. In business, it’s much easier to prevent heartburn than to treat it as there is no pill to take to eliminate the pain.

 

One of the biggest benefits of process work is that a majority of the people-problems seem to disappear. Bad or dated processes drive people crazy and the good people in your company will leave over time if the processes aren’t corrected.

 

If your company seems out of sync and tensions are high, go to the root cause and see if your current process, or lack of processes, is causing the problem.

 

(Image: Ju Zheng Bam / flickr)

Let Routines Set You Free

Let Routines Set You Free

yoga-167062_960_720Life is crazy and it conspires to make us and our teams as inefficient as possible. Constantly chasing people, chasing information, chasing prospects, etc., gets tiring and old pretty quick.

But that is the whirlwind most companies have created for themselves. Most entrepreneurs hate structure – or at least the feeling of being locked into one. After all, part of the entrepreneurial dream is to have the freedom to do what you want and when you want. But the lack of structured routines is a problem.

Leveraging the proven Scaling Up framework of meeting routines is one of the most effective processes you can implement to stop the constant-chase mode and turn your company into a prediction machine – one that does not chase, but controls.

Routines To Calm the Whirlwind

Establish the following regular meeting schedule and you’ll find yourself back in control.

  • The routine of the Daily Huddle. This is the number one way to synchronize your team every day and get ahead of the things that might otherwise cause problems. No chasing people through the day. You’ll be able to have a quick connection each day without interruptions.
  • The routine of the Weekly Meeting. The primary benefit of this meeting is to leverage collective intelligence to discuss an opportunity, issues that keep coming up in the Daily Huddles, get the Quarterly Plan back on track, work on Winning and BreakAway strategy moves, etc.
  • The routine of the Monthly Meeting. This meeting looks at metrics, KPIs and financial performance and integrates learning into the company. Struggling to find a day and time to teach the team the new CRM system? Need to get everyone up to speed on the new sales and marketing plan? The monthly meeting is the perfect place for this.
  • The routine of the Quarterly Planning Session. Each quarter, review the last quarter, create goals for the next quarter and the Rocks/Priorities/Action Items to get you there. Keep in mind as you do Quarterly Planning that you need to give thought to the Annual Plan and the Winning/BreakAway Moves.
  • The routine of Annual Planning. This should be one to three days, offsite if possible, to re-evaluate the company’s foundational principals and long-term strategy, backing down into a solid one-year plan.

Companies with a serious focus on Scaling Up should create a routine of Strategy Development and Execution meetings. This should be with a small handful of senior leadership and should meet twice a month. Digging deep into strategy gets difficult with four or more people. Having solid strategy ideas going into Quarterly and Annual Planning makes the sessions much more effective. You’ll spend less time brainstorming ideas and place more focus on vetting and prioritizing solid ideas.

Routine will set you free and give you and your team much desired control. Stop chasing!

(Image: PDPics / Pixabay)

Growth-Related Chaos? Take A Step Back

Growth-Related Chaos? Take A Step Back

By Katie Smoot, People & Process Consultant

chaos-485493_1280-geralt-960x720Rapid growth is exciting … and chaotic. When your growth strategies start paying off, the processes that worked well when you were smaller can break down as you add clients, revenue and employees to your business. As you get more decision makers, with differing opinions on how to do things, your processes can become so cumbersome that they threaten to slow your business and increase your risk.

This was the situation faced by one of our clients, a global pharmaceutical services company that saw an enviable 880% organic growth rate over the last four years. Its employee headcount and active customer list were growing beyond capacity, and they had a serious case of growing pains. They knew their processes weren’t working anymore, and they asked us to help them retool to both absorb growth and continue doing what produced their steep growth in the first place.

Take a Step Back

Anytime you’re looking for new, better ways of doing things, you must first define how you’re currently operating to figure out what’s really causing your problems. This process of defining your core processes – a group of related activities that transform various inputs into an output that adds value to the customer – is the best way to ensure that the solution you adopt is a Breakaway Move that supports your overall strategy.

To get there, step back and 1) look at processes to see how things are currently done; 2) determine if new systems would improve efficiency; and 3) challenge your processes and see where there might be opportunities to make them leaner.

Here’s what that looked like with the pharmaceutical services company we’re working with.

First, we had to get clear direction on what problems needed to be solved. We had to get the team laser-focused on the outcome and make sure we didn’t try to “boil the ocean”– to try to do more than was realistic or necessary.

Next, we defined the cost of poor quality – the things that could be negatively impacted by not making changes (for example, customer satisfaction, employee effectiveness, compliance).

Then we recorded all of the existing processes. When we began, the team thought they had 10 processes, but once we really dug in and challenged the team and each process, we found there were over 20 different processes in place, with multiple touch points and people involved. We got there by breaking each process down by the following components:

  • Define the process: What 1-2 sentences does the process owner use to describe it?
  • Inputs to the process: What steps, actions, templates or tools are needed for the process to start?
  • Process steps: What is the activity and/or transformation that takes place?
  • Outputs: What is the result of the activity and/or transformation taking place?
  • Controls: What manual or system controls are in place? What’s on your wish list for the future?
  • Risks: What risks are in the existing process?
  • Regulatory requirements: Are there any U.S./international regulatory or compliance requirements that must be considered?

Finally, we took the team through a “wish list” exercise to capture all areas of potential opportunity the client didn’t have capability for, but hoped to see after they made changes.

Potential solutions were weighed against a cost-benefit analysis to ensure that what they chose to adopt (and their priorities for adoption) would provide the biggest payoff in terms of alleviating problems and making processes better, faster and cheaper.

When your processes are causing a lot of business pain, it may seem like a lot of time and trouble to take a step back to define your core processes, but it’s the most effective way to implement processes that are more than a Band-Aid, but fix your problems for the long run.

Image: Geralt / Pixabay


Katie Smoot joined Insight CXO in 2014 and currently serves as People & Process Consultant, where she guides Insight CXO clients on developing processes and talent to support growth.

Her career in process development began in 2001 when she joined Bank of America, when the bank was introducing the Six Sigma methodology across the organization. This allowed her to be one of the first associates to go through Six Sigma training and become certified as Green Belt and DFSS Black Belt. She also served as a Business Operations Manager for the technology line of business; Senior Vice President in charge of business operations for Global Commercial and Investment banking technology; and lead for one of the bank’s 13 Strategic Risk Initiatives handed down from the Federal Reserve.

Katie holds a bachelor’s degree in Marketing and Communications from Clemson University. She is certified as a Six Sigma Black Belt and Project Manager. In her spare time, she partners with Greater Charlotte SPCA’s dog and cat fostering programs and helps support and build out their administrative routines. She is married and has two children, 11 and 8, who are her passion.

Scale Up Faster With A ‘Play To Win’ Mindset


Scale Up Faster With A ‘Play To Win’ Mindset

By Robert Fish

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One of the most challenging phases for CEOs or executive teams who start a company is to break out of the startup mindset.

In an organization’s early stages, it’s all hands on deck and everyone is a generalist, wearing many hats.

The CEO is involved in every decision and every transaction. The realities of cash constraints, funding payroll, etc. – and the whirlwind of emotions tied to them – are hard-wired into the entrepreneur’s brain.

Then, over time as the company grows, two things happen.

First, the company reaches a ceiling of complexity – things get harder and not easier. Hiring more people feels more like an anchor than a sail.

Second, the startup mindset and the emotional imprints it creates turn the founder(s) into a bottleneck, or the constraining factor to growth.

To grow, the CEO and senior team must become hyper-aware of how their past experiences can be limiters on future plans – and commit to change. Reading Scaling Up by Verne Harnish is one of the best ways to learn how to punch through the ceiling of complexity and continue to grow in a fun, healthy and drama-free way. BUT, the tools don’t work unless the CEO and senior team 100% commit to a Play to Win mindset.

What does Play to Win mean? It means NOT playing not to lose, which is an entrepreneurial trap. It’s why so few companies make it past the $10,000,000 revenue mark. To escape the trap, the next time you are having a growth- or strategy-related discussion, ask yourself and your team: “Based on the plans we are discussing, are we Playing to Win or just playing not to lose?” You’ll be surprised how the conversation – and your plans – can change with that simple question.

5 ways to create a Play to Win mindset

  1. Be very intentional about including your team in strategic-level thinking and problem solving. It’s hard to Play to Win by yourself … you’ll need a team.
  1. Realize that you and your team might not have all the answers. Look outside the organization for help. Hire an expert, coach, consultant, trainer, join a peer group, etc. An expense-centric mindset limits access to information and learning. Most high-growth companies are investing in resources to make big leaps.
  1. Imagine yourself winning. As a professional mountain bike racer, I can’t achieve a podium finish without first believing I can and imagining it happen. I let myself experience the start- and the finish-line sprint. Only then can I plan my Breakaway Moves.
  1. Use the term “Play to Win” with your team. They’ll get it. It’s energizing. Everyone loves to be on a winning team.
  1. Create an enemy. Create a race. Create a finish line. Create competition. High-growth companies create plans to crush their competition. Flat-lined and slow-growth companies stop competing, stop getting upset when someone else wins.

Create a Play to Win mindset for you and your team, and get your company on the podium every time!

 

Image: Skeeze / Pixabay

Find Your Never-Ending Energy Source: Core Purpose

Find Your Never-Ending Energy Source: Core Purpose

By Robert Fish

Nothing can grow without energy – not people, not animals, not plants, not businesses. Whether you’re an organism or an organization, if you don’t have enough fuel, your growth will be slow and stunted, your potential unreached.100982980_aeb0a3be1a_z

If your business is rapidly growing (or looking to do so), you need a powerful and renewable source of fuel to sustain that growth, to maintain the willpower to execute on your strategy, to empower the A-players who have the drive to make a positive difference, not just show up for a paycheck.

The strongest fuel you can find is one you can create on your own – your company’s Core Purpose. I like to say, “It’s where the batteries come from.” It’s the organization’s unique and never-ending energy source, its reason for being. It’s the guiding star that fuels you and enables you to make your Breakaway Move™ to beat the competition.

Costner Law, a Charlotte Business Journal #3 Fast 50 company in Charlotte, NC, is very clear about its Core Purpose: Making real estate transactions easy and simple. This Purpose drives Costner’s strategy, the kind of people they hire, the technology they use, the kind of clients they work with, the way they design their internal processes, and so on. As a result of being clear on their Purpose and doing things right, Costner is on track to becoming the largest real estate law firm in the southeast.

Define Your Purpose

If you don’t have a clearly defined purpose, a good place to start is by watching Simon Sinek’s TED Talk called The Golden Circle. It’s been downloaded more than 22 million times. But be forewarned, discovering your purpose is one of the most challenging strategy developments you will make. Not because it’s so hard, but because it’s so uncomfortable. Figuring out why your company exists becomes emotional and it engages the limbic part of the brain that does not have language. It’s where gut feelings come from. It’s why you might like one car over another, even though the other has clearly better specs. One just feels right to you … you just connect with it.

Ask Five Times

Another method is to start with a simple statement describing what your business does, then ask “why is that important” five times. Ask yourself and your leadership team: “why is that important? – why does that matter? – why is that important? – why does that matter? – why is that important?” This should reveal the organization’s Core Purpose. If you think you have gone too far, just back up one level. You’ll know when you got it right, because you will emotionally connect to it. It will feel right.

Reach for the Stars

Just like a star, Core Purpose is not something you can actually reach but is something that keeps you on the right path and constantly motivated. So, to find your never-ending energy source to sustain your journey, develop and leverage your Core Purpose, and set your course for the stars!

 

Image credit: Jason Boyle / Flickr

Eliminate Waste And Errors With Defined Processes

Eliminate Waste And Errors With Defined Processes

By Katie Smoot, People & Process Consultant

I’m pleased to introduce Katie Smoot to Insight CXO. Katie joined the firm in late 2014 as a process consultant and has since expanded her role into talent management and development for Insight CXO clients. For more about Katie and her professional background, please view her bio at the bottom of this post. – Robert Fish, CEO, Insight CXOarchitecture-768432_1920

 

Does it feel like as you add employees things just get harder and not easier? Is your team spending too much time fixing avoidable problems causing frustration or doing unnecessary and expensive rework impacting the bottom line? In my experience, the No. 1 root cause of errors and rework is lack of defined processes.

Have you ever played the Telephone Game? One person whispers a phrase into another person’s ear, then it’s passed from person to person. What you will see time and time again is that the phrase is never what the original person said – it’s been interpreted over and over to the point that it’s been misunderstood, and by the end of the line it’s a totally different phrase with a completely different meaning.

That’s what happens when processes aren’t written down. The information is just passed via word of mouth, and invariably the receiver mixes up something. Additional complexity comes in when there are multiple people supporting the particular process and/or there are multiple shifts that are trying to maintain consistency of the process over a 24-hour period.

There is a simple solution to help ensure everyone is on the same page and completing the same tasks to get to the end result.

  1. Find the Why
  2. Write it down
  3. Talk it over
  4. Test it
  5. Maintain it

1. Find the Why: the value proposition

It’s human nature to ask, “what’s in it for me?” Help your team understand what’s in it for them within the process – why are they performing the steps, and why is it so important to be able to repeat and reproduce the steps by person, by role and over a period of time. This could be done by aligning the process back to the company goals, core values or internal/external risks associated with not completing the process consistently. Find what works with your team and define the value proposition.

2. Write it down

There are varying levels of process documentation. This can range from bulleted steps, to process maps, to a detailed workflow that includes standard operating procedures, time value maps or spaghetti maps that show the product movements around the production floor throughout the day. The first step is to pick what works best as a learning/training tool for your team, and just write it down.

3. Talk it over

Work across the team that completes the process to make sure that the steps that you wrote down will accurately describe what really happens. This is where you start to learn where people do things differently and where inconsistency in process can cause errors, rework and employee frustration. Come to a consensus regarding how the process should work, then write it down. Then it’s time to test it.

4. Test it

Have each team member responsible for the process complete the steps, exactly as written by the team, over a period of 1-2 weeks. Debrief on what’s working, what’s not, where there are still gaps and what could be done better to get the best out of the process. As the team agrees on changes, update the process and test out the changes.

5. Maintain it

Once you have a process documented and working as originally designed, ensure you put measures in place to maintain the integrity of the process. These would be considered the quality checks. Along with quality checks, make sure there is a method to train new employees on the process once they come on board.

This simple five-step process will help ensure that your processes are clear, well-understood and easily followed by your team, and should eliminate costly and frustrating errors and wasteful rework.

If you think you may have more people-related issues in your company than you should have, start by cleaning and defining process first. You’ll be amazed at how many “people” issues go away once processes are clear.

 

Katie Smoot joined Insight CXO in 2014 and currently serves as People & Process Consultant, where she guides Insight CXO clients on developing processes and talent to support growth.

Her career in process development began in 2001 when she joined Bank of America, when the bank was introducing the Six Sigma methodology across the organization. This allowed her to be one of the first associates to go through Six Sigma training and become certified as Green Belt and DFSS Black Belt. She also served as a Business Operations Manager for the technology line of business; Senior Vice President in charge of business operations for Global Commercial and Investment banking technology; and lead for one of the bank’s 13 Strategic Risk Initiatives handed down from the Federal Reserve.

Katie holds a bachelor’s degree in Marketing and Communications from Clemson University. She is certified as a Six Sigma Black Belt and Project Manager. In her spare time, she partners with Greater Charlotte SPCA’s dog and cat fostering programs and helps support and build out their administrative routines. She is married and has two children, 11 and 8, who are her passion.


Learn more about how to Scale and Grow your business – including more ways to build your A-team – at my April 29 Scaling Up Business Growth Workshop in Charlotte. These workshops, based on the Rockefeller Habits™ 2.0, have empowered more than 20,000 executives and their leadership teams with proven tools and strategies to scale up smarter. Click here for more information.

 

Image credit: Geralt / Pixabay

Get Creative with a Quarterly Theme

Get Creative with a Quarterly Theme

brainstorming-441010_1280One of most misunderstood or left out components of the Gazelles One Page Strategic Plan is the QUARTERLY THEME section.  For larger companies, this is one of the most powerful and transformational techniques that you can leverage for growth.

Here’s the deal and reality.  You and your Senior team just had a quarterly retreat (you do have quarterly planning right?) and everyone is pumped up, aligned and ready for battle.  Then somehow, the core messages from the retreat fail to resonate with the rest of the staff.  They did not have a full day to discuss, debate and agree on what matters most.  And in less than a third of the way through the quarter, all of the momentum from the retreat is lost and it’s back to the old habits again.

The power of the Quarterly Theme is it connects the retreat to the rest of the company for the entire quarter. And the Theme is usually created in a way that is fun and keeps the #1 Thing from the retreat top of mind for everyone.  These Themes can be posted anywhere and there is almost never any issue with prospects or clients walking through and seeing the progress.  In my experience, talking about a Theme with an on-site prospect is a deal closer.  It changes the conversation from ‘what’ we do to ‘how’ we do it and run the business.  Trust and confidence is accelerated and so is the sale!

Involve employees to help with the creative aspect of the Theme and let them help decide what the reward is if they hit their goals.  They will ‘own it’ this way and won’t have to be sold on it.

The idea for the Quarterly Theme can come from several sources. My favorite Theme generation method is to connect the #1 Thing the company has to do in a quarter to win the race.  Just think about the power of having 100% of your staff thinking every day of the quarter on the #1 thing for the business!

Warning…Themes by design usually come last on the agenda in a retreat and are often left out due to lack of time or energy to complete.  Creating a Theme should be a high priority in the retreat Objectives and agree in advance what is going to happen if getting a Theme done is in jeopardy.


Here are five easy steps to create winning Quarterly Themes:

  1. Focus on the #1 Thing for the quarter or the top one or two Rocks (Priorities) for the Theme topic.
  2. Based on the above, determine what the measure of success is going to be.
  3. Allow the team to brainstorm and create a fun and engaging Theme including design.
  4. Create a reward to achieving the goal… does not have to be monetary.  The best usually do not.
  5. Discuss how the Theme will be communicated throughout the company and rolled out.