Tag Archives: customer value

The “Lean Startup” approach to understanding customer needs


By John Riddell

Notes from a Cambridge Network talk by Eric Ries

I attended the January Cambridge Network meeting, which was focused on a talk by Eric Ries, the author of a new book entitled “The Lean Startup”.

Eric had developed the book based on the lessons learned by entrepreneurial start-ups of software companies that he had worked with in California’s Silicon Valley.  Most of these companies had been driving forward Web 2.0, and had either failed or been taken over.

Opportunities to use Lean to improve start-up success

Eric saw the opportunity to apply Lean principles both to identify value in the eyes of the customer, and to reduce the cycle times involved for gathering and obtaining learnings and so improve on their performance.

He described a “pivot approach”.  This involves “keeping one foot planted in what your idea is and the other moving with learning”.  The idea is that, as you gain feedback on your product or idea, you “pivot” (or change your plan) towards what the customer really wants.

The value of focusing on what your customer wants

The “Lean Startup” approach resonated with me as “focusing on your customers” is RiverRhee Consulting’s first principle for enhancing team effectiveness.  This enables you to identify what your customers want (and not what you think they want).

Of course you need to work out how to find out what your potential customers want, and it might involve recognition of the failure of the bright idea that you were so enthusiastic about!

Experimentation vs. customer surveys

An interesting point in Eric’s presentation was his differentiation between using a customer survey, where a broad range of feedback can be obtained from a wide sample of customers (with the results shaping general direction and strategy), and the use of experimentation.

With experimentation, customers can handle a product (in a trial or pilot), give feedback on the product, and, most importantly, give feedback as to whether they would purchase the product or not.  Once you have that knowledge and recognise that you need to change direction then you need to fire up and go again!

The more frequent the number of cycles in which this occurs the better.

In his presentation Eric emphasised that there is no point in brilliantly executing a start-up plan to produce something that nobody wants.  He also emphasised not leaving change “until the building is on fire”!

Closing thoughts

TV programmes like Dragon’s Den and The Apprentice have given us all more exposure to the concept of entrepreneurs and new business start-ups.

Eric’s background with software company start-ups in Silicon Valley seems a long way from the pharmaceutical manufacturing environment that I’m familiar with.  It was very interesting to see both kinds of organisation connected by Lean principles.

Notes

John Riddell is an Associate with RiverRhee Consulting.  He has held technical, operational and project management roles in pharmaceutical manufacturing working with both small and large teams from a local to a global basis. John is a certified practitioner in Lean Six Sigma and is highly experienced in knowledge management.  He has developed a successful programme to coach leaders in developing teams that have multiple cultures and are spread across global locations.

 

Customer pain and customer delight – the economy airline way


By Elisabeth Goodman

As a trainer and consultant on Lean and Six Sigma, I’ll find examples of the principles and tools in practice in every aspect of everyday life.  The following blog illustrates the difference between ‘batch’ and ‘single piece flow’ that we might experience when the customer is what is being moved through a process!

Customer pain

Last Sunday I twisted my ankle coming off a pavement in the mad scrum to catch the airport shuttle between Gatwick terminal and my EasyJet flight to a work assignment in Barcelona.

Someone in a yellow jacket and a kind fellow passenger helped me onto the bus, got me a seat, and offered me water and pain killers.  Once arrived at the airplane, the same kind man in the yellow jacket cleared a space for me on the steps leading up to the plane. I collapsed with relief into a seat, bent over with nausea and faintness, whilst waiting for take-off, vaguely surprised at the absence of attention from any of the air stewards as they hurried up and down the aisle. Meanwhile the passenger in the seat next to me had a loud rant about how she hated economy airlines.

This disagreeable experience was an extreme version of my previous unpleasant experiences of being treated as part of a ‘batch’ of customers in the airline process: a system generally adopted by other low cost airlines.

We seem to have relinquished the right to have any form of quality customer service in return for paying a cheaper fare.  Arriving early at our final destination (with a pre-recorded electronic cheer) seems to be the only other point of the quality, time, cost triangle that we have a right to.

Customer delight

3 days later, sitting in Barcelona airport with my colleague, waiting for my return flight (to Stansted this time), I was describing the wonderful queuing system I’d experienced with Southwest Airlines a few years ago.  We were assigned a boarding letter / number based on check-in sequence.  A line of posts at the departure gate reflected the letters and numbers and passengers calmly lined up in their pre-assigned sequence when it was time to board the plane.  No mad scrum.

What was our surprise this time, when we made our way to the departure gate 20 minutes before final boarding time, to find the a complete absence of people and queues.  We showed our boarding passes and were ushered onto an almost empty bus, whilst I carefully avoided twisting my ankle on the curbs (this time?) clearly marked with yellow tape.

There was no pushing or shoving on the plane as several passengers were already seated, and we found 2 adjacent seats and space to store our hand-luggage.  More passengers gradually arrived, and the plane left, and arrived early.  The general mood on the plane seemed relaxed and happy.

A stewardess joked with me about both of us being short as she helped me reach the overhead luggage compartment to replace my laptop that I’d only remembered to switch off just as we were preparing for take-off.

Although a question remains about extra fuel costs for more shuttle trips between the airport and the plane, for us as passengers, this economy flight experience managed to score highly on all 3 points of the quality, time and cost triangle: true customer delight.

A case study of ‘single piece flow’ rather batching?

Whilst the Southwest Airlines approach is simple and presumably adds no additional cost to the airlines, it will still result in everyone boarding the plane at once: in one batch.  So there will still be the queuing on the plane whilst people find their seats and somewhere to store their luggage.

EasyJet’s approach in Barcelona last Wednesday matched the flow of people boarding the plane to their arrival at the departure gate.  Although we didn’t see what happened when the first people arrived at the gate, what I and my colleague experienced was very streamlined, very simple, apparently very efficient and a real delight.  Of course I’ll be expecting something similar now next time I catch one of their flights!  The Kano model  in action..

Notes

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that helps business teams to enhance their effectiveness for greater productivity and improved team morale. Elisabeth has 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry where she has held line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and in Lean Sigma and is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals), and APM (Association for Project Management).


Enhancing Team Effectiveness in a Time of Change – an introduction


By Elisabeth Goodman and Lucy Loh

Lucy Loh and Elisabeth Goodman have been preparing a few publications and seminars that deal with enhancing team effectiveness, strategies for personal and organisational change, and team development in the context of project management.  We thought it would therefore be timely to write a series of blogs picking up on some of our thinking in these areas.

All organisations, whether in the public, third or private sector, are continuing to experience organisational change on a large scale.  Whether this involves reshaping, redefinition of roles or just addressing internal efficiencies, all of these bring huge challenges.

At the same time, teams within these organisations must continue to deliver today as well as achieve changes to their own roles and services for delivery tomorrow.

Challenges facing today’s teams

As we write, in the second half of 2011, many global economies, including the UK’s, are undergoing unprecedented change.  These macroeconomic changes are triggering change at all levels in the public, private and third sectors.  The public sector faces the challenge of having to do ‘more with less’.  The private sector is seeking increased efficiencies and effectiveness, and is looking at innovation of products, services and the ways in which it does business.  The third sector has the opportunity, and challenge, to take on activities previously performed by the public sector.

Although today’s wave of change has been primarily created by economic conditions, change is now a constant, so this series of blogs is relevant whatever the trigger for change.

Impact on organisations

The economic conditions have created a scale and rate of change to challenge organisations, and the teams within them, as never before.  Within organisations, some teams are being downsized, with difficult choices to make about which people to retain and which to let go.  Often, a team is in the position of waiting and watching as the change ripples down the organisational layers towards them.  Some teams are being reorganised, revising their priorities, or making a case for their survival.  Teams are being asked to be more effective than ever, at a time when they are under more pressure than ever.

Impact on individuals and teams

It is important to recognise that all change involves people: what they do, and / or how they do it.  Many people in today’s organisations have spent their working lives in a period of relative stability.  Their expectations about the emotional ‘contract’ with the organisation (their future, their working style, and terms and conditions) may now be challenged, leading to a sense of uncertainty and instability.  Their job content (what a job comprises, how it is to be done, and how performance is assessed) may have been stable for years.

For many individuals, change is demanding, personally and emotionally, as things that were important in the past are put aside, and new ways of working take their place.  But change also offers an opportunity for renewal: to look again at what each team does, and to reposition the team to meet the voice of its customers.

To sustain team effectiveness during change, engagement of the team throughout the process is crucial.  As Peter Senge said, “People don’t resist change.  They resist being changed”. We believe that it is the uncertainty associated with change that can be so difficult and painful to cope with, and that everyone needs to feel that they have some sort of control over their situation.  Team leaders should value expressions of resistance as an opening up of dialogue on what people are thinking and feeling, paving the way for constructive discussion on how best to go forward.

External and internal drivers of change

Some organisational change is driven by factors outside the organisation, to which it then has to react.  In other cases, an organisation can proactively choose to change, interpreting the changes in customers, services and demand likely in the future and reshaping itself accordingly.  In each case, a particular team may discover that its customers have changed, or the needs and wants of their existing customers have changed.  This means that the value which the team delivers to its customers must also change, which in turn alters the nature of the team itself, its roles, and what ‘good quality’ looks and feels like.

In addition, the team members will have a wider set of established stakeholders with whom they have a good relationship, and whose needs and styles of working they understand well.  As the organisation changes, the stakeholders for the team may change, bringing the need to build relationships with a new set of people.

The UK local government election in May 2011 offers a vivid example of change in organisational values.  A number of councils changed from leadership by one political party to leadership by another, with a substantial turnover in the Councillors themselves.  The incoming Councillors held different political views and values (political and other), and had different manifesto commitments to the outgoing Councillors.  Almost overnight, the local government officers needed to stop working with previous Councillors, and begin adapting to a new programme of work described in the manifesto.  This is change at its most radical: a new direction, new values, new stakeholders, a new programme of work, and new ways of working.  This is the ultimate requirement: sustain delivery to the team’s customers in parallel with evolving the team and its effectiveness.

Concluding comments

Jay Galbraith, a world leader on organisation and team development, tells us : “Every organisation is perfectly designed to get the results it’s currently achieving”.  We believe that it is critical for teams to design themselves for effectiveness, to manage the status quo and to increase their resilience for change.

In this series of blogs, we provide insights into the challenges for the effectiveness of teams when their organisations are changing, and practical tips and suggestions on how to lead and maintain a thriving team.

Our intention is to provide ideas and techniques that both leaders and members can use to improve the effectiveness of their team, whatever its sector or current level of performance.  We describe core principles and general approaches to team development (often initiated from inside the team) and show how to use these to address change from outside the team.  We share ideas on how to ‘diagnose’ the current state of the team, whether it is performing well and is strongly aligned with its customers, or less so.

Our next blog in this series will address: “Recognising reactions to change, and responding to them”.

Notes

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that helps business teams to enhance their effectiveness for greater productivity and improved team morale.  Elisabeth has 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry where she has held line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and in Lean Sigma and is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals), and APM (Association for Project Management).

Lucy Loh is the Owner and Principal Consultant at Lucy Loh Consulting, a consultancy that helps businesses and organisations develop their business plans, and manage change in their organisations and teams to be able to deliver those plans.  She is also a RiverRhee Consulting Associate.  Lucy has 25 years’ experience in BioPharma, where she has held management roles in strategy development and all aspects of performance management, as well as extensive internal consulting.  Lucy has expertise and experience in organisation development, benefits management and in designing and leading business change. She is a certified Master Practitioner of NeuroLinguistic Programming (NLP), which enhances her work in change management and individual coaching.  She is also an accredited trainer with the Institute of Leadership and Management for Strategic Leadership.

 

Lean Six Sigma and Project Management – triangles and (virtuous) circles


By Elisabeth Goodman and John Riddell

On 6th July, we held a very enjoyable second iteration of our APM workshop on this topic in Norwich, having run it previously in Stevenage in May.

As with the previous seminar, our audience ranged from people and organisations with very limited knowledge of Lean and Six Sigma, to those who had adopted it as a way of working.  So the challenge was, in 1 to 1 ½ hours, to give enough of an overview of Lean and Six Sigma for those who were new to the subject, without boring those with already a fair amount of expertise.

At the same time, our goal was to make the session as interactive as possible, with discussions and exercises that would enable people to actively reflect, learn from each other, and more importantly, consider if and how Lean and Six Sigma could assist them in their roles as Project Managers.

Our mapping of Lean and Six Sigma against the project triangle seemed to resonate with the delegates i.e. with Lean aiming to reduce time and cost, and Six Sigma aiming to increase quality.

We achieved an excellent level of discussion and interaction in both seminars, and here are some of the conclusions that the delegates came to.

There are many Lean and Six Sigma tools that people have already found to be useful and/or anticipate being useful.

Examples of tools highlighted during the discussion in Norwich were:

  • Kano (and Voice of the Customer)
  • Time value map
  • Use of historical data
  • Control charts
  • 5 Whys
  • Gemba
  • Poke Yoke
  • Pareto Analysis

Our audience in Stevenage listed more or less the whole gamut of Lean and Six Sigma tools!

Lean and Six Sigma can definitely enhance the delivery of projects.

Delegates were unanimous in this,.  One break-out group suggested that Lean and Six Sigma fits particularly well with the operations area of organisations, and that process improvement initiatives will lead to projects.

Delegates identified several ways for how Lean and Six Sigma could enhance the delivery of projects.

Using Lean and Six Sigma at the start of a project (during the concept and definition stages).

The Define, Measure and Analyse stages of the Lean Six Sigma DMAIC framework and associated tools can be very effective in identifying the problems which will lead to generating and/or justifying projects.

They help to define what the problems are and how to address them, and also to define the project brief.

Tools such as Pareto analysis help to identify the things that are important, and make sure that the biggest issues are tackled first.

Process analysis will help to eliminate waste before implementing new (e.g. IT) solutions.

The Lean Six Sigma tools and the data-based approach create greater confidence.

Delegates particularly liked the ability to use robust data collection techniques and tools such as force-field analysis to structure their thinking.

They also liked the ‘5 Whys’ for getting at the root causes of problems and surfacing clients’ real issues.  They also suggested using ‘5S’ to organise information (not just physical things)

The Improve stage of DMAIC can help with the implementation stage of projects

It can help with the definition of roles in a project, in particular in relation to sponsors and to ensure that the project is focusing on what is of value to the customer (this also happens at the Concept and Definition stages of projects), and relating that to the realization of benefits.

The Control stage of DMAIC (and Knowledge Management) can help with project close out

Many delegates were already familiar with the idea of capturing learnings at project close-out, but they liked the fuller ‘After Action Review’ (AAR) frame-work and the emphasis on considering who can learn from the lessons learnt.

They also liked how the various visual tools of Lean and Six Sigma could help with ‘highlight reporting’ in project management.

The Lean and Six Sigma and Project Management ‘virtuous’ circle may go on infinitely or break and re-start depending on the organisation.

Our presentation included a suggested overlay of the Lean and Six Sigma DMAIC structure over the project lifecycle.  Delegates pointed out that this may be the case in organisations such as Pharmaceutical R&D where projects are the regular way of working.  In other organisations, the DMAIC structure continues into the operational way of working once a project is completed, although it may in time spawn new projects.

Notes

  1. Elisabeth Goodman is Owner and Principal Consultant and John Riddell is Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting– a Business Consultancy that helps business teams to enhance team effectiveness for greater productivity and improved team morale.
  2. To see previous newsletters and blogs on subjects relating to Lean and Six Sigma, and Project Management see the RiverRhee Consulting newsletter, and Elisabeth Goodman’s blog site.

2nd Business Process Excellence for Pharmaceuticals, Biotech and Medical Devices (1 of 2)


Business Process Excellence for Pharmaceuticals, Biotech and Medical Devices, The Brewery, London, April 2011 (1 of 2)

John Riddell and Elisabeth Goodman, RiverRhee Consulting1

This was the second of IQPC’s specialist conferences on this theme, and as last time2, many of those questioned by the authors were finding it of real value for learning about the specific application of Lean and Six Sigma in their environment.

The conference extended over 2 days, with pre-conference workshops covering a range of topics3. With the conference themes including strategy, change management, relevance to non-manufacturing environments, and innovation, it was obvious from the start that deploying Business Process Excellence was going to be about more than Lean and Six Sigma tools.

Business Process Excellence is not just about the (Lean and Six Sigma) tools

Martin Conroy, Director, Global Lean Sigma at Medtronic, kicked off the conference by reflecting about the pains encountered when moving to a continuous improvement culture and what can be done about them. He argued that Lean is an apparently simple concept, but one that can be difficult to ‘nail’: it’s not enough to have the tools, but they need to be used intelligently (with know-how), together and, especially, with the right mindset.  He also emphasized that continuous improvement is neither a ‘bolt-on’ nor something to be done once (quickly) before moving onto the next initiative: it is something that requires careful planning and integration within the business.

Linking continuous improvement to organisational strategy

Many of the speakers referred to the importance of taking a holistic approach to implementing Lean and Six Sigma and of linking this to organisational goals.  See for example Elisabeth Goodman’s4 presentation that included case studies on this.  Tom Cochrane, Head of Security Operations and Process Development, Napp, described how their charter supports a continuous improvement culture although Lean and Six Sigma are never explicitly mentioned.  Instead, they take a systems approach to the whole production process, and use statistical process control as an intrinsic continuous improvement tool across all disciplines, with cross-functional teams operating from the QA department.

Damian Morgan, Senior Executive, Accenture described how industry pressures and the Pharmaceutical Industry’s own responses were resulting in slowing growth and margin pressures.  He suggested a consequential increased reliance on Operational Excellence (in the sense of Process Excellence) for winning.  Pharmaceutical companies need to be agile, to be operationally excellent, and have differentiated capability.  Indeed a cross sector study has shown that those who ‘win’ make investments in people and processes and, although they may look worse than their competitors who make draconian cuts in the short term, they recover more quickly and their recovery lasts longer (for more than 5 years).

Sauman Chakraborty, President and Global Head of Quality, HR & IT, described “Dr Reddy’s Way” which is a 4 strand strategic framework combining versions of EFQM’s Business Excellence Model, the Balanced Scorecard, Policy Deployment, and a Strategy and Tactics Logical Tree and underpinning everything that they do.

Top-down, middle-out or bottom-up implementation

Elisabeth Goodman also explored the pros and cons of taking a top-down, middle-out, or bottom-up approach.

This was a theme that came up in the first panel discussion.  Responses centred on “Yes, leadership can be sceptical” or “just don’t get it”, but can be brought round if they understand, or more importantly, tangibly see the benefits.  The bottom-up approach can be used to generate examples that demonstrate value and approaches.  Middle-out must not be forgotten, and here champions and change agents provide a key influence.

The theme also came up in the second panel discussion, when Karsten Benzing, Boehringer Ingelheim said that their most successful project were those driven top-down by leaders.  A further thought was that a bottom-up approach only has a finite life as “you can only do something for so long without your boss’s approval”.

Engaging leadership: senior management need to be involved

It was suggested in the second panel discussion of Day 1 that there are two levels of leadership support – passive – “I’ll let you do this”, and active – getting involved and showing commitment.

Celia Banks’ (R&D and Medical BT CI Lead, Pfizer) initial work in Pfizer was as a contractor engaged to prove the benefit of a Continuous Improvement programme to a sceptical leadership (they were unsure how a “manufacturing programme” could be applied in R&D).  Some pilot projects were carried out, ensuring that they tied in to a strategic imperative, and the necessity of top-down support identified.  Celia also recommended the use of Nemawashi with senior management i.e. introduce ideas step-by-step (and involving them in developing), and not going to them with a packaged solution.

Engaging staff: it’s about improving people’s lives at work

The first panel discussion on day 1 included the theme of engagement of staff.  Delegates and panellists discussed the importance of using simple language, giving recognition, and ensuring that people’s lives improve.  The word “humility” was used in the context of recognising that managers “are non-value-adding” and that their role should be to ask questions and facilitate and look for their people to provide answers.

Chris Christodoulou, Head, Laboratory Compliance, MedImmune came back to this theme in his presentation when he described how Operational Excellence is introduced to new employees during induction, and yellow belt training is available to everyone, with a target of >80% take-up.  There is an emphasis on communicating successes to show measurable result, and showcase projects including small yellow belt projects.  All projects are expected to deliver tangible benefits.

The underlying message of his various case studies (management of consumables in the lab, analytical process simplification, 5S of the fridge, templates for writing up, and eliminating duplicate HPLC testing ) was to “do simple projects to make peoples’ lives easier and happier, and make things work better.”

The value of training everyone: organise training so that it is utilised immediately

The second panel were asked about the value of training everyone.  Chris Christodoulou said that this would result in everyone talking the same language and plant seeds [i.e. it’s part of the culture change].  David Hampton, Rath & Strong, “controversially” pointed out that training itself is non-value adding and that green and black belt training needs to be integrated with a project and support.

Celia Banks described how specific training was devised for Continuous Improvement leads – on-demand, on-line, rather than as a block in a classroom.

Charles Aubrey, Vice President Performance Excellence, Anderson Pharmaceutical Packaging, echoed the approach of integrating training into application. Their programme was initiated through 4 days of training with the Leadership Team (to create understanding) then a pilot project was carried out in order to get buy-in.  From there a comprehensive programme developed with the aim of everyone in the organisation having a role e.g. Yellow belts objective was to improve the way they work (they defined the 8th of Ohno’s wastes as that of the human mind).

The role of black belts

Martin Conroy was the first to raise the role of black belts in organisations.  He referred to them as experts parachuted in “behind enemy lines” and described the challenges that they face the biggest one being the need for people to recognise that continuous improvement is not about these experts “doing things to or for you”.

A panel discussion later in the day came back to the role of black belts.  It was generally thought that they should be full-time so they are more practised in the basics and have a wider set of tools, but there were mixed views on where their expertise should be applied.  One panellist’s view was that black belts can be a “nuisance” e.g. in causing processes to be reworked unnecessarily e.g. Kanbans, to achieve standardisation across an organisation.

Using consultants: bring in someone to help kick-start programmes

There was agreement in the first panel discussion, that building internal capability is essential, but external involvement by consultants can bring in lessons learnt and play a role in mentoring senior management.

Panellists in the second discussion suggested that consultants were useful for transformational projects, although a further guarantee of the success of such projects was that they would necessarily involve senior leadership commitment.

Notes and further reading:

  1. RiverRhee Consulting enhances team effectiveness using process improvement, knowledge management and change management.  Follow the links to find out more about RiverRhee Consulting and about Elisabeth Goodman and John Riddell
  2. Business Process Excellence for Pharmaceuticals, Biotech & Medical Devices – April 2010 – Key Themes http://wp.me/pAUbH-2u
  3. John Riddell and Elisabeth Goodman ran a workshop entitled: “Communities of practice and other knowledge management techniques to implement and sustain continuous improvement”.  Please contact us if you would be interested in arranging a version of this workshop for you. http://slidesha.re/eoqKH5
  4. Elisabeth Goodman.  “Sustaining Effective Continuous Improvement In An Organisation: A Holistic View”. Presented at Business Process Excellence for Pharmaceuticals, Biotech and Medical Devices, The Brewery, London, April 2011 http://slidesha.re/h2vVhN

Transitioning Library and Information Service customers from consumers to collaborators – we still have a way to go..


Last week I attended Day 2 of Internet Librarian International 2010 (#ILI2010), to hear the latest on the use of social media in libraries.  The title of this blog is inspired by Dr Hazel Hall’s1 keynote presentation where she talked, amongst other things, about the need to help Library and Information Services users to evolve from merely consuming the information they receive through social media, to collaborating in its creation and evolution.

Two-way communication with customers on social media is hard to achieve.

Hazel Hall, and later speakers Karen Wallace and Nancy Dowd described how social media such as Flickr, Twitter, Facebook or just simple text messaging, can be used to extend information services.  Many Library and Information Services are using social media in this way.  However, from recent discussions at NetIKX2 seminars on social media, and also on SharePoint, truly two-way conversations and interactions with customers that will lead to actual collaboration and innovation are much harder to achieve via these media.

There are still untapped face-to-face opportunities for achieving strong customer engagement.

My train journeys to and from London and France, are great opportunities to catch-up on my reading, and the CILIP article on ‘customer journey mapping’3 was an excellent illustration of what more can be done to better understand customers’ needs and engage with them in service development.  Erika Gavillet gave examples of how sitting with customers whilst they use some aspect of her services, or having staff members be ‘a customer for a day’ can identify re-designs to make work spaces more effective, result in improved instructions, and generally help staff to engage more closely and effectively with their customers.

I particularly like the ‘customer journey mapping’ approach as it resonates with my view about the need to get closer to our customers.  Questionnaire-based surveys tend to be the default approach to understanding customer requirements.  However even short face-to-face or telephone discussions are so much more powerful in building the kind of relationship with our customers that can ultimately lead to collaboration and partnership.

Branding is also a route to greater partnership with our customers

As Antony Brewerton and Sharon Tuersley of the University of Warwick Library explain in the October issue of Library and Information Update4, branding is not only about names and logos, but also about the quality of our information products and services, and, most importantly but least tangibly, about the actual and perceived value of what we deliver to our customers.  When customers truly identify with our brand, not only will they use us in preference to others, but they will also advocate us to friends, family or colleagues, and take greater interest in how we develop our products and services.

As Karen Blakeman powerfully illustrated with an anecdote in her presentation at #ILI2010, a library user might tweet about the lack of books by a particular author in their library, so that social media can be a valuable, and possibly essential way to monitor user feedback on our brand.  But we still have a way to go to really engage customers so that they become not only consumers of Library and Information products and services, but real partners in their development.

Notes

  1. Dr Hazel Hall is Director of the Centre for Social Informatics in the School of Computing at Edinburgh Napier University. She also leads the implementation of the UK Library and Information Science Research Coalition. Hazel was named IWR Information Professional of the Year in December 2009.
  2. NetIKX – www.netikx.org
  3. Erika Gavillet (2010).  Short cuts to satisfied customers.  Library and Information Gazette. 2-15 September 2010 p.11
  4. Antony Brewerton and Sharon Tuersley (2010).  More than just a logo – branding at Warwick.  Library and Information Update. October 2010 pp.46-48
  5. Elisabeth Goodman is Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, enhancing team effectiveness through process improvement, knowledge and change management. Follow the links to find out about how Elisabeth Goodman and RiverRhee Consulting can help your team to work more effectively for greater productivity and improved team morale.  Read Elisabeth Goodman’s blog for more discussions on topics covered by this blog.

Knowledge management and creativity / innovation – valuable adjuncts to project management. A case study


Knowledge management and creativity/ innovation enhance project management.

I am a firm believer in the value of knowledge management to enhance project management.  I also believe that the use of formal structures, such as those advocated in Lean and Six Sigma (or process improvement), and project management, give people more rather than less scope for creativity and innovation.  Creativity and innovation in turn, of course also enhance the quality of our processes and projects.  So, I was delighted to read the Turner & Townsend case study in April’s APM (Association for Project Management) magazine: Project1.  Even more satisfying is that this feature article was the result of T&T winning the APM Project Management Awards in 2009.

Why would knowledge management and creativity / innovation be important to an organisation such as Turner & Townsend?

T&T is a project management consultancy, with more than 2,400 employees, 770 of which are project managers, operating worldwide across 59 offices.  So they are a prime example of an organisation that would benefit from effective knowledge management to ensure that employees can:

  • Learn from their successes as well as their mistakes – so that they neither reinvent the wheel, nor repeat the same mistake twice
  • Continuously improve the way they do things – in this case, the ‘art and science’ of project management
  • Tap into the whole organisation’s experience and insights when working with their customers, and so not only achieve customer satisfaction, but customer loyalty

Creativity is the precursor of innovation:  it generates the new ideas which if accepted and applied within an organisation result in innovation.  An organisational structure that encourages and supports new idea generation and follow-through, will not only enable continuous improvement of its processes, projects and resultant customer experience, it should also result in greater employee satisfaction, morale, personal development and ultimate retention.  A recent internal staff survey suggests that T&T is achieving this kind of result with 86% of staff feeling proud to work there, and 84% indicating that they would recommend it as a good place to work.

How does T&T enable knowledge management and creativity / innovation?

Fundamental to the T&T approach is the emphasis they place on a range of formal and informal communication opportunities, using both face-to-face and electronic media, across all levels of the business.  Examples of these include:

  • An ‘excellent ideas’ intranet portal – a platform for posting new ideas, suggested good practice, and tools / products.  Apparently more than 200 ideas have been posted since the initiative started two years ago, and 50% have been applied or are in the process of being so, with another 18% under review.
  • Knowledge breakfasts – an opportunity for junior staff to discuss specific project related topics and then present the outcomes to their teams.
  • Intranet feedback – an opportunity for employees to submit best practice and guidance for continuous development and improvement of technical and service knowledge and delivery.  The intranet thereby functions as an online knowledge base that is continuously improved.

T&T also have a strong infrastructure to support knowledge management and creativity / innovation.

These knowledge management and creativity / innovation practices are supported by the organisation’s emphasis on continuous development, with people being encouraged to participate in various training programmes.

1% of turnover is invested in research and innovation, resulting in new project management tools and techniques.

T&T also have a well-defined model or set of processes for their work with clients:

  • Assess and engage: understanding client requirements, building a business case, building strong working relationships with the client and key stakeholders.
  • Develop & improve: strategies and plans for implementing the project.
  • Project execution plan: i.e. the manifestation of the previous step.
  • Deliver & benefit: implementation for successful delivery

Although the article does not discuss this model any further, it is this kind of infrastructure that supports the identification and sharing of experiences, insights and new ideas that lies at the heart of knowledge management and creativity / innovation.

Notes

1. Head Turner. Project – the voice of project management, issue 227, April 2010, pp34-35

2. Elisabeth Goodman is Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, using process improvement, knowledge and change management to enhance team effectiveness.

Follow the links to find out more about RiverRhee Consulting, and about Elisabeth Goodman.