Thursday, 19 January 2012

Listen-Enrich-Optimise

When leading, we sometimes have trouble solving problems. Sometimes things which seem simple at first glance just don't respond to anything we do, and anything attempted ends in dismal failure. When things get really bad, our productivity drops and the profitability of our businesses take a hammering. Then it becomes a diminishing spiral; customers start complaining, and their perception of our product quality falls. We stop addressing customer needs well, so satisfaction also falls.

In December's AMA Leader's Edge Newsletter, Subir Chowdhury of Michigan's ASI Consulting Group has just written an article on this very issue. He says that many of his clients not only don't focus on preventing problems, they aren't able to fix them quickly once they have happened. He works with his clients to create a "structured yet flexible process to uncover ...problems and ...develop specific solutions quickly with lasting effect".

Subir calls this process "LEO", standing for Listen, Enrich, and Optimise:

  1. "LISTEN: Observe and Understand. To obtain a deep comprehension of the issue at hand, put aside past assumptions, and directly interact with all relevant parties – including customers, suppliers, and employees. Add to your findings whatever statistical and observational data can be uncovered.
  2. "ENRICH: Explore and Discover. Based upon the information you have gathered, reach out (especially to the frontline employees) for ideas and possible solutions to enrich your products, processes, systems, and your organization. The wider you cast your net, the more likely you will move beyond the usual suspects to discover new and better answers.
  3. "OPTIMIZE: Improve and Perfect. Examine the solutions you have found and select the best and implement with total confidence. Subject it to every kind of challenge it might conceivably encounter and correct any and all possible shortcomings."
Subir went on to quote the case of a non-profit organisation which builds homes for victims of natural disasters, where rebuilding processes were slow - much, much slower that the organisation - or victims - could afford. In the Listening phase, Subir's team gathered enough information to develop a high-level five step process. Then they drilled right down to what individuals were doing at each step, and found a few key roadblocks, mostly in the second step, which was "Acquire lots to build on" where three staff were dealing with each purchase on a totally ad hoc basis.

In the Enrich phase, Subir'd team got all participants around the table and argued out a "how to" purchase process that stripped out duplication, ensured all legal boxes were ticked, checked that prices were affordable, set a budgets, the builders could build, the local authorities were happy and the clients were happy; an SOP for the “acquire lots” process, written up as a worksheet for staff to use.

In the Optimise phase, they ran "what if" testing - a "What if there was a power cut?" to "What if the CEO died?" type trial run and amended the SOPs. Tweaks were made so they could be sure that the solutions being put in place would solve the organisation's problems, and give them a good framework for solving future issues. As Subir wrote "The goal, after all, was not just to put out a fire but also to prevent it from happening again".

And the results? Subir reports "It used to take each of the three staffers devoted to the process a month to declare just a single lot 'feasible to acquire.' Today, one person using the worksheet can routinely declare 15 to 20 lots a month".


Subir's original article on AMA's website: Chowdhury, Subir (December 2011). Hiding in Plain Sight: Implementing LEO. USA: AMA Leaders Edge Newsletter. Retrieved 16 December 2011 from http://www.amanet.org/training/articles/Hiding-in-Plain-Sight-Implementing-LEO.aspx?pcode=XA9T&CMP=NLC-LeadersEdge&wm_tag=email&spMailingID=3808743&spUserID=MTc3NjkwMTYwNDgS1&spJobID=117947444&spReportId=MTE3OTQ3NDQ0S0


Sam

2 comments :

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