June, 2011

Volume 1, Number 6

In This Issue

·    Excellence Begins With Awareness

·    Street Smarts for Change

·    Dealing with the Non-Listener

·    Shared Expectations

·    Link of the Month

·    First Things First

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Excellence Begins With Awareness

People generally first undertake operational excellence initiatives when there is a gap between where a company currently is and where they want to be.  Often there is enough of a performance gap that it is causing concern or outright pain to the organization.  Our job then is to escort the organization from current to desired state as swiftly and effectively as possible. 

If you are driving any process improvement in your organization, you are basically the corporate equivalent of an ER physician (except your patients are not human – they are processes that present in various states of disarray.)

As such, your first step is to diagnose why there is a performance gap, then prescribe a fix, and finally help the organization implement and improve. 

Diagnosis is an important first step.  Without it you could be treating symptoms, not the underlying root cause (“take two aspirin and call me in the morning”).   Businesses are doling out corporate aspirin all across America – which is why you may have seen the exact same problem being fixed multiple times in your organization.

We often skip this step because we love fast closure and at times it feels like we are genetically encoded to skip right from problem to solution (without any due diligence to diagnosing the true root cause).

Thus, true operational excellence starts with awareness. An awareness of what the gap is and what the true root cause is.   Without a proper diagnosis you may be headed in the wrong direction!

Have an excellent month!


Jeff Cole


JCG Management Consulting

Street Smarts for Change

How do you get a number of people who don’t report directly to you to change their behavior?   Perhaps stop using old processes and start doing things a new way?  It takes a street smart approach.  Recently, Jeff Cole was interviewed on the internet radio Operational Excellence Channel where he discussed his section of the new Amazon.com best-seller Driving Operational Excellence.

In this show, Jeff shares some street-smart tactics for driving immediate and effective change in any organization.  To hear this short interview (which starts at about 2 min. into the show), click here.

Dealing with the Non-Listener

Whether we want to or not, we often have to deal with difficult people.  Non-listening Nelson has a bad habit of cutting off other team members when they are talking. 

These interruptions are both irritating and distracting, but he doesn't seem to notice.  There is no apparent malice.  He simply seems to want to get his ideas heard.  The leader needs to intervene. 

Following are three examples:

·         When Nelson cuts off Susan, the leader interrupts him and says, "Wait a minute, Susan wasn't finished.  We need to make sure we understand her point of view."

·         The leader interrupts Nelson's interruption and asks him to paraphrase what Susan was in the process of saying.  Then, ask Susan if that was her point.  If not, have Susan repeat her viewpoint and have Nelson take another shot at paraphrasing what she said.

·         The leader can say, "I think it is important to get everyone's view.  Let's go in rotation.”

Hopefully, with this kind of leader guidance, Nelson will see that everybody's opinions are important and will result in improving his listening habits and skills.   Source: QCI  

Shared Expectations

Back when I was with AT&T, I woke up one morning, came into work and had the great fortune of stumbling across a “secret” methodology. Secret because it was not well known to the general public. A great fortune because this methodology not only made significant impact in driving change quickly, but had been successfully used inside portions of AT&T that won the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.

Its name: Shared Expectations. While traditionally used to build partnering agreements between customers and suppliers, my colleagues and I found it to be one of the power tools of operational excellence in driving fast improvement in organizations.  Shared Expectations is a multi-faceted tool for helping drive change and one well worth adding to your toolkit.  Read a short overview of the Shared Expectations process here.

Link of the Month

“Be Prepared” is not just the motto of the Boy Scouts – it’s for those of us who travel extensively for our jobs.  Here are two sites of use the next time you plan a flight. 

Not all seats on a plane are created equal.  SeatGuru.com provides excellent information on which seats are the best and which to avoid on different planes.

The FAA website offers an interactive map of all major US airports with real time status on delays.  Before you rush off to O’Hare it might be nice to know if they are under a 3 hour delay!  Visit: www.faa.gov and select Airport Status and Delays from the sidebar.

First Things First

Suppose you have a number of potential improvement opportunities sitting in front of you and you don’t know where to start.  How do you prioritize these?  One simple way is to use a tool consultants have been using for years:  The impact & effort matrix.

First, create a matrix like you see here.  One axis looks at the effort required to make the improvement.  The other looks at the impact that improvement has on the business.  

Assign a letter (A – Z) to each of your improvements.  Then rate each improvement on a 1-5 scale for both effort and impact.  Plot the letter on the grid at the appropriate point. 

Once all improvements are plotted you can compare them to each other.


The upper left hand quadrant shows your quick wins – big impact for little effort – start with these.

The upper right hand quadrant has some big impact items, but they come at the cost of a big effort too.  These warrant serious consideration.

Avoid the lower right hand quadrant – low impact/high effort improvements – not the best use of your time. 

Happy Prioritizing!


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