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Safelite AutoGlass and Customer Delight

This is my last reflection from the OpsInsight Forum in Boston.

One of the breakout sessions during the OpsInsight Forum was a Think Tank Discussion group.  I participated in the Creating a Customer-Focused Culture discussion led by Tom Feeney, CEO of Safelite AutoGlass.

Tom started off by asking the group if there was a difference between ‘customer satisfaction’ and ‘customer delight’.  The group unanimously agreed there was.   To the group, customer delight meant going above and beyond what was expected.

Tom explained to the group that Safelite’s #1 goal is customer delight.  Then he shared two customer letters that were sent in to convey his point.

One letter was from a teacher that had her glass repaired in the parking lot of her school while she was teaching.  The repairman came in to her classroom when he was finished to let the teacher know.  The teacher was in the middle of trying to determine which student stole a pastry from another kid in the class.  As the teacher explained that lying and stealing were bad she asked the repairman what would happen if he stole from his job.  The repairman explained that he would get fired.  Nobody ever confessed to taking the pastry so one kid went without.  Two hours later the repairman showed back up to the school and delivered another pastry he had bought with the kid who did not get one.  The teacher asked why he did it and he replied that he has children of his own and if that happened to them he would be heart broken about it.

Now someone might say that is outside of his scope of work and is an exception and they may be right.  But think about customer satisfaction.  That is meeting the customer’s needs.  No more.  No less.  Showing up on time.  Doing the work as it was suppose to be done.  Doing the work right the first time.  Aren’t these things we expect.  This isn’t something that goes to customer delight.  These aren’t things that standout and really capture the attention of a customer.  Are they?

Bringing a pastry back for a student will cause the experience to be talked about in a positive light and stick with people.  It caused customer delight.

I asked Tom how he fosters customer delight over efficiency.  Tom said through recognition.  So, I followed by asking how Safelite recognized the repairman from the example above.  The answer made my jaw drop.  Tom said he presented the employee with a check for $10,000 in front of the company.  You read that right.  No there are not too many zeroes.

Talk about a statement. Tom and Safelite are serious about creating a culture that values and strives for customer delight.

I’m not saying every company should be that extreme in recognition but I would challenge each company to evaluate how they recognize employees striving to reach the company’s vision/mission like above.  Is your company serious about reinforcing the culture it wants to see?

Leading Successful Transformation

This is part of my reflections from the OpsInsight Forum in Boston.

Over the two day period at the OpsInsight Forum, there were a few presenters that touched on leading transformation efforts across organizations.  Mike Evans, Kotter International, had the unfortunate draw of presenting last on the second day.  I lot of people had left to catch flights because the last day was a Friday.  It’s too bad many people missed Mike speak.  He really hit home on some great points about leading a successful transformation.

The quote from Mike that stuck with me is, “Great leaders paint such a great picture of the future people will release from ‘have to’ and move to ‘want to’.”

I thought this sounded a lot like leading as though you have no authority which is a popular phrase at Toyota.  It means engage the people, don’t command and control them.  The quote from Mike sounds like it is hitting on that philosophy.

Typically, during a transformation they leadership spends about 75% of their time managing the business and only 25% of their time leading the change.  Kotter International says this is why some many transformations are not successful.  The leadership should be spending 75% of their time on leading the transformation and 25% of their time on managing.  This flip is important because if the organization is going to go through a transformation, it must be important and if it is that important then the focus should be there.

Mike outlined Kotter’s 8 Steps for Leading Change.

  1. Acting with Urgency
  2. Developing the Guiding Coalition
  3. Developing a Change Vision
  4. Communicating the Vision Buy-in
  5. Empowering Broad-based Action
  6. Generating Short-term Wins
  7. Don’t Let Up
  8. Make Change Stick

These steps sound very similar, if not the same, to what the lean community talks about when trying to create a lean transformation.  In the lean community we talk a lot about creating a burning platform which gets to “Acting with Urgency”.  When leading a lean transformation the lean community talks about envisioning an ideal state, then communicating it over and over so everyone buys-in and then get people engaged in creating that changes.  Sounds like steps 3, 4, and 5.  The short-term wins (step 6) is how we get the transformation started to show it will work and that we should continue with the transformation.

Mike’s presentation was about any transformation, but it was great to see how it aligned with what the lean community talks about during a lean transformation.

The Math Behind the Innovation Process

This is part of my reflections from the OpsInsight Forum in Boston.

One of my favorite presentations was done be Dr. John Evans, Vice President of Business Innovation, from Lockheed Martin.  The presentation wasn’t only about innovation but how to look at the innovation process and the math behind it.

Dr. Evans displayed the graph below.

The graph shows a high uncertainty of success means a larger hurdle rate to clear for the innovation to be profitable.  Companies should work towards removing uncertainty as much as possible to lower the hurdle rate for the innovation to be successful.  This does not mean that all uncertainty can be removed.  Companies need to be acutely aware of the uncertainty in new innovation in order to give the idea the best chance for success.

Dr. Evans discussed the typical stage gate process for innovation.

(click on image to enlarge)

What the graphic shows is a classic Marchov Chain.

As an idea moves through the stage gates it has an 80% chance of passing.  The costs are split evenly between the stages.  This means there is only a 51% chance the idea will pass all the stages and $10 million will have been sunk into the idea.

Dr. Evan’s point was the innovation process should be very light on cost on the front end but very hard to pass Stage Gate 1.  This allows companies to save resources on ideas they believe will actually deliver.  What innovation process tasks can be moved to the front so the cost is under $1 million (compared to the $3.3 million above) but only have 20% chance of passing the stage gate.

The best is front load the process with high risks, but low costs.  As the idea moves through the process, the gates are easier to pass.  This helps to prevent adding a lot of cost to ideas that don’t make it to the market place.  The idea has a higher chance of success in the market place and removes more uncertainty from the equation, moving the idea more to the left in the first graph.

The innovation stage gate process and how a company evaluates ideas adds value more than the idea itself.  The innovation stage gate process is critical to removing market place uncertainty from an idea.

I probably did not due Dr. Evans justice in his thoughts but I tried.  It was very interesting and provide a lot to think about.

Building Operational Excellence

This is part of my reflections from the OpsInsight Forum in Boston.

Robert Miller presented about the principles and dimensions The Shingo Prize for Operational Excellence uses to assess companies for the award.  Robert explained the important factors for any company that wants to achieve operational excellence.

Companies need to:

  1. Define Excellence
  2. Define Continuous Improvement
  3. Understand Transformation
  4. Tell the Truth

The first two are about setting expectations so people know what is expected of them.  The third is about understanding what your people will be going through.  The last is the most important.  An organization needs to be honest with itself and where it stands.  They can’t sugar coat their situation and they can’t hide it from their employees.

Companies need to bake operational excellence into their culture.  In order to do this, it starts with principles that help define systems that help to build tools to support.  I have recreated the graphic that Robert showed that helps explain why companies fail in building operational excellence into the culture.

Have you seen this to be true?  With lean transformations, I have seen this quite a bit.  Companies start by implementing tools and then later figure out the tools aren’t working because they don’t have the systems in place to support the tools.  Then even later the company realizes they don’t have the same underlying principles that a company implementing lean successfully does.  By this time it may be too late.  The lean implementation may have been thrown out the window.

If the lean implementation does last long enough to realize the principles are needed to lay the foundation then the company has wasted a lot of valuable time.  It is good they got there.  The company could have had larger or better sustaining gains if they built the same direction as they thought about it.

When a company can think and build from left to right, the greater chance of success of embedding operational excellence into their culture.

Asking the Right Question to Create Innovation

This is part of my reflections from the OpsInsight Forum in Boston.

One of the breakout sessions that I attended at the OpsInsight Forum focused on innovation.  David Silverstein from BMGI led a great discussion on how to ask a different question in order to stir new innovation.

(Side note: He had innovation in his presentation…be didn’t use any slides.  It was a per discussion.  Almost like you ran into him in the hall.  Very well done.)

Here is the simple question that David presented to stir the creative juices: “What are wee hiring the product/service to do?”

David then gave a couple of examples to drive home his point.

Example #1:

In the 1880s, candle makers wanted to be more innovative.  If they wanted to improve, what were they working on?  Making candles that don’t drip?  Scented?  Candles that burned longer?  Burned cleaner?  Easier production processes?

Now ask the question, “What are we hiring the candle to do?”

Answer: Create light.

Asking that question, allowed others to invent the light bulb.  Unfortunately, the candle makers were not part of that innovation and their business was significantly effected.  Had the candle makers asked that question, maybe they would have invented the light bulb.

Example #2

Today if you go to a lawn mower producer and ask about what innovations they have you will get different responses.  Some of them might be: Developing a cleaner fuel engine, self-guided mowers, or mowers that run like the Roomba vacuum.

What if the lawn mower producers ask the question, “What are we hiring the lawn mower to do?”

Answer: Cut the grass because it keeps growing and we want our lawns to look nice.

So what if the grass didn’t grow?  There would be no need use a lawn mower and our lawns would still look great.  Well, scientist have already designed no mow grass.  (Links to articles here and here.)

The candle makers and lawn mower producers are focused on the product and not what the product is hired to do.  In one case, candle makers became a rare breed.  For lawn mower producers it is a matter of time.

The other significant thought David talked about was connecting the dots to create something innovative.  He referenced the phrase, “Connect the dots.”  When you connect the dots you have thought of something in a new or innovative way.  The more dots you have in your head the easier it will be to connect dots.  Dots in our head is information and learning.  If we continue to keep learning, it will be easier for us to eventually connect the dots.

The best time to connect the dots is between 10pm and 6am.  During our sleep.  At that time, our brain is accessing everything we have learned, read, been taught over the years trying to connect dots.  The brainstorming session is just the extraction of those connections you have already made.  That is why so many times when we are relaxing or sleeping “something just hits us.”

It was a very interesting presentation/discussion around innovation.  A new question to drive innovation.

Companies Trying to Target Customer Focus and Alignment

This is part of my reflections from the OpsInsight Forum in Boston.

There were some great keynote speakers at the OpsInsight Forum.  The topics ranged from execution excellence to optimized S&OP process to transforming innovation.

What causes me to be optimistic about the potential success of lean progressing through companies is that almost all of them were talking about lean concepts, ideas, and thinking without knowing it.

In my opinion, the work does not have to be called out as being lean.  The most important part is the thinking and concepts becoming part of the company’s DNA.

The two concepts that were repeated over and over were focusing on the customer and the company being aligned to the work to deliver value.

Focusing on the customer.  This is the root of lean.  The very first seed that is planted.  The main focus is the customer or consumer that buys the product.  If what you are doing is not adding value for them we should ask, “Can we eliminate it?”  If not, then “Can we reduce it?”

In order to be the most effective in delivering value to the customer, everyone must be aligned.  Over half of the speakers brought up the issue of having everyone aligned to the business goals and clarity around the work that was needed to achieve those goals.  A few speakers specifically called out strategy deployment tool that could be used.  Others didn’t call out strategy deployment but talked about the catch ball process.  This is the process where Level 1 managers talk with Level 2 managers about how they can help achieve the goals and then Level 2 meets with Level 3 and so on and so forth.  The discussions go down and the back up the levels a few times to develop a comprehensive and achievable plan.

All of the speakers mentioned that lean was a way to support the work and help make it better.  These comments add data to my data set that lean still isn’t truly understood for what it is very widely still.  The good news is that people are trying to implement lean thinking and concepts.  They just don’t realize it.  That gives me optimism as I continue to implement lean thinking at the company I work for.

Look for areas where lean thinking is being implemented.  Don’t try to change the language.  Instead try to foster the thinking and help it grow.

Think Technology Last in Process Design

This is part of my reflections from the OpsInsight Forum in Boston.

At the conference there were a few software companies that presented keynote speeches (IBM, CCI, and AspenTech) and breakout sessions (AT&T, Vecco International, and Llamasoft).  During these sessions I heard a lot of the right things.  They would explain that technology is not a silver bullet that will solve a companies problems.  Technology enables a process.  It isn’t the process.  Organizations should put in technology only after it has established a process.  In fact, Shekar Natarajan, from Pepsi Bottling Group, was asked what Pepsi did differently to win a national award for technology implementation.  His reply was, “We considered technology last.”

It was said that a technology company should not sell a more advanced solution than what the client needs.  Sometimes the client may not truly understand their options and want more than they are ready for, but the technology company should’t sell them that advanced solution because it will cause more problems.

Right on, right?

While I agree with what is said, that is not what I am seeing in practice.  Why is this?  I can think of two root causes for this: metrics and ignorance.

I am assuming the sales team has metrics that drive them to sell such as revenue generated or number of new clients.  In my experience, sales teams are happy to sell the client whatever solution they want whether they need it or not.  I assume they are afraid of losing a sale if they tell a client they need something less or the smaller sale will make the numbers harder to reach their metrics.

What about a metric for the sales team that has to do with the ease of implementation?  Or customer satisfaction with the technology installed?

Second is ignorance.  Ignorance by the company buying the technology.  The company may think they know what they need based on their paradigms.  In reality they are just covering up a symptom and not digging to the root cause of their issues.

It could be ignorance of the technology company, also.  The people speaking at the conference are Vice Presidents and Directors.  Maybe they don’t know what is actually happening in the field.  Maybe they haven’t directly observed the behaviors and interactions at the client.

Whatever the case, what is said and what I have observed is not matching.  Technology can be a great enabler if we put it in the proper context.

OpsInsight Forum

Last week I attended the OpsInsight Forum in Boston.  Here is the link to the website.  It was a two day conference addressing trends, opportunities, and thought leaders in operations.  Topics ranged from lean to logistics to software options.

It was a very good conference.  It was small.  Only about 80 attendees.  I found that I liked the small group because it allowed for good conversation even during the keynote speakers.

I plan to post some more of my thoughts and reflections from the conference over the next week or so.  Obviously, all will be connected to lean, but on subjects like software implementation, innovation, as well as other topics.

Overall, it was a very positive experience.