As a consultant, one of the most powerful questions in my ‘toolbox’ is “why”?
Why do you do that? What’s the value?
It forces you to think beyond the superficial and dig into the real meaning of a piece of work. To understand what it ultimately adds to your business or customer.
It’s easy for me, to turn up at a new client’s premises and ask those questions. But why don’t businesses ask it enough of themselves?
What do you do to ensure you constantly challenge yourself and every person in your organisation, to consider the value in all that they do?
Asking ‘WHY’ is a great example of how the Skore approach consistently helps businesses using it, stay at the top of their game. It challenges team members at all levels within a business, to think about what they do and why. To always challenge the status quo and ask;
- What value is this process adding to the customer?
- How does each step contribute to that value?
When I am training clients teams on using the Skore approach, I often find the following anecdote highlights the importance of asking WHY.
Several years ago, I was working with a large construction and services company helping them define a standard process for a back-office function. A mundane but necessary step in their wider improvement programme.
In one session we started by capturing all the key steps in the process. These were displayed, in the order that they happened, on the screen for everyone to see. The room was full of heads nodding in agreement. A great start!
I then started to walk the team through each step, asking “why does this step happen?” or “what value does this step bring?”. As we moved through the steps it generated some great discussion and opened up a whole bunch of improvement ideas for the future. Ideas I duly captured and shared with the client team later.
Eventually we arrived at this innocuous step “produce weekly reports”. Again, I asked the question, “why do we do this?”. The team turned to look at the person who had described the step. “So that the weekly reports are produced?” was the response.
Hearing the past tense used to describe why something is done often rings alarm bells to me as it usually suggests that there’s little, or worse, no value in the activity. It’s hard to articulate, and isn’t always the case, but is a pretty good indicator that we need to try a little harder to uncover the value. I tried again, this time “OK, what do you do with the report once you’ve produced it?”
“Print it out and file it in the cabinet at the end of the office” came the reply. At this point the colleagues all looked at each other. My next question, “does anyone use that report?” was met with a sea of blank faces.
After investigation it transpired that this person was spending three hours every week producing these reports. The reports were filed away and never looked at. What’s more, we found no compliance reason for them to exist.
It turns out that when the colleague had joined the organisation 18 months before, their predecessor had included this activity as part of their job handover.
In that time over 210 hours had been wasted and if we hadn’t caught it, many more would have followed!
Through the application of the Skore approach, the identification of these types, and levels, of waste are commonplace.
Traditional methods of process improvement require a high level of discipline to apply it correctly, or alternatively, for a consultant to come in and do it. The more commonly used approaches to capturing and visualising ways of working don’t generally ask “why” at each step and therefore improvement opportunities, such as those described above, are easily missed.
It is for this reason that we built the “why” questions directly into the Skore platform.
When Skore is used to define and describe work processes it routinely asks;
- What happens?
- Who does it? and
If the questions are not answered, they remain visible until the are completed, acting as a reminder to investigate and understand them fully at some later point during the process.
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