Many of us have been at an organization where the business has identified there is a problem or an inefficiency, but the root cause has not been identified.
Sometimes, people feel they don’t have time to spend looking into the issue and then the problem lingers. Other times, the quick fix is let’s hire more people or let’s buy this piece of technology. You might be nodding your head, but these seemingly quick fixes are usually not the long-term solution.
I often get approached by groups that have a problem, but they don’t know what is causing the problem. Recently, I was approached by a group that had spent months trying to improve their operations. They brought in different people to help turn things around, but they still were not seeing the expected improvements. They were at the point, where they were contemplating a new technology solution. While this may sound like a slam dunk for many people, I am a strong believer that you need to figure out your current state before making a recommendation for the future state.
To figure out the current state, it requires bringing together what I call the TRIFECTA. The TRIFECTA is people, process, and technology or some refer to it as the three legs on a stool. The TRIFECTA is essential to having successful business and/or teams. You can have one, but without the others you will struggle to succeed.
You can hire amazing people with great skills and experience, but if you have inadequate processes or technology these people may struggle. When people struggle, they often get frustrated and can potentially quit. You can give a person a canoe, but if you don’t tell them where the water is or give them a paddle and tell them how to use it, they may not make it far.
You can have wonderfully detailed standard operating procedures (SOP), but if you do not have the people that are invested in following the SOP then it is just words and pictures on paper. If you do have great people and processes, but lack technology you can only scale so far. You can give a person instructions, but if they are in French and you can’t read in French and you don’t have a device to translate them with you are left with a lot of paper that might end up being beneficial to start a bonfire.
This is my favorite. “If we just buy “x” system it will fix all of our problems”. I really wish it was this easy, I truly do. However, there is no easy button in life. You can have great applications and software, but if people don’t know how to use it or aren’t bought in on why they should use it then you have this wonderful technology just collecting dust on a shelf. You can buy a bike, but if you don’t learn how to ride it, then you just have a nice a bike.
While pulling together the TRIFECTA might seem like a tedious task, in the long run it often pays off. In the above example, we spent two weeks interviewing team members, mapping out processes, and identifying opportunities. We discovered over 100 opportunities and put together themes for leadership to prioritize. It took a few months to execute the identified changes and technology enhancements, but they have seen improvements across the organization and the process flows hang in the office as a reference and training aid.
Some of you might be thinking we can’t spend two weeks on this because “we have a business to run”, “I already have a full-time job”, or “we will do it later”. Taking the time to meet with teams and talk about the people, processes, and technology that is used in their day to day helps identify problems or inefficiencies. In my experience the root cause is often more than one thing, but a myriad of things, if you don’t talk about them, they can linger.
Some organizations may think that they can throw anyone in and they can do a great job at business process analysis, but it really requires a person with a specific set a skills and behaviors. They don’t have to know anything about your business or process, but they need to be curious and passionate about learning how things work and have a desire to help improve the process. A person that can ask tough questions and help identify where the opportunities are.
Next time you identify that you have systemic issues, pause and think about if it makes sense to pull a small team together to dive in and do some analysis. Getting leadership approval for a team might seem daunting, however if you put together a business case and document the skillsets that would be needed to be successful it will be easier to share the need and vision with your leadership. You may find once you have successfully pulled together the TRIFECTA there is a desire to repeat it in other areas of the business. Having a small team that can be dedicated to business process analysis and improvements is ideal as it allows for these individuals to dedicate their time to work through these specific problem areas. Some of you may already have people in your organization with the necessary skillsets and behaviors that you could leverage to successfully drive these types of efforts. Your leaders may worry that this type of work will dwindle, but having people with diverse skillsets and behaviors can allow them flex with multiple groups like business analysts, lean champions, or continuous improvement teams.