Imagine you’re catching a flight, for business or leisure, it doesn’t matter
which. You have somewhere you need to be. You bought the tickets a few
weeks before, and you’re ready to go.
You drive to the airport and park the car. You catch the bus to the terminal.
You check in your bags, and head for security. After putting your shoes back
on and strapping your watch to your wrist, you grab a coffee and a pastry,
read the morning paper, then browse the duty free.
Your flight is called. You queue for boarding, then take your seat. You listen to
the safety briefing. Then the aircraft is backed away from the stand. It takes its
place in the line. Then it taxis to the end of the runway ready for take-off.
How much value have you received so far from the price of your ticket? To
answer that question properly, we need to appreciate the purpose of your
purchase. If that seems like an inane question, in some ways it is. The
purpose is to get you where you need to be, of course! So, let me ask another
question. In the past couple of hours, how much closer are you to fulfilling that
purpose? A couple of hundred yards?
Going the distance
In truth, you only start to realise the value of your ticket when the plane
thunders down the runway, the wheels lift from the ground, and you head
towards your destination. You appreciate that several of the activities you’ve
undertaken to get to this point are necessary. You need to check in your
luggage. You understand the need for stringent security checks. But these are
not the purpose of your purchase. These are necessary, but non-value add,
activities. You also know that a percentage of your ticket price will go towards
funding these activities, but they are not reason you bought the ticket.
This analogy of value applies in any, and all, service and manufacturing
business. We know, when we buy a product or service, that we are also
paying for HR functions, legal compliance checks, a staff canteen and so on.
This is implicit in our understanding of how businesses function. However, we
don’t expect to see that broken down as line items on our invoice. This is the
necessary, but non-value add, activity that we are prepared to accept.
Such a long journey
What we aren’t prepared to accept is non-value add activity that serves no
purpose. Errors and re-work; duplication of effort; delays and handoffs.
Occasionally, these surface as an overt impact on a customer; double
booking on a flight; being bounced from one department to another. But all too
often, these are hidden wastes, buried in inefficient processes, unnecessary
back-office activity, and so on. As a customer, you may have a vague feeling of dissatisfaction; that things could be done better, but you can’t quite put your
finger on it. It feels a little like a taxi taking you the long way to your hotel in an
unfamiliar city. What you do know is that, next time, you’ll shop around and
see if you can find someone better.
Unleash your inner customer
We are all customers, and some of us run businesses. If you are responsible
for delivering a service, you’ll want to retain and grow your customer base. So
you need to be ruthless in eliminating non-value add activity in your
operations. Ask yourself, honestly, what your customers want to buy from you.
Because delivering on that is your sole purpose. And then ask yourself if all
your people and processes are aligned to deliver on that purpose. Look for
the key indicators of failure: avoidable contacts from customers, wide levels of
performance variation, and so on.
And then, rather than just reacting in a knee-jerk fashion (which often causes
more problems than it solves), take the time to understand the systemic
causes of failure. This may involve a long hard look in the mirror, but don’t be
afraid; embrace the challenge. Also, don’t balk at calling in an expert who
makes it their purpose to eliminate waste and failure from businesses. Make
sure it’s someone with a depth of experience, who will take the time to listen
to your people and discover your company’s issues, rather than a ‘one size
fits all’ lightweight.
And don’t forget, an initial conversation with any expert worth their salt that
gets your concerns on the table should be completely free. At Sandpiper
Consulting, we go one step further and offer you a day’s free consultation in
business optimisation, product and service development or programme
management and rescue. Get in touch at email@example.com
to discuss further or book your free consultation on our services page www.sandpiperconsulting.co.uk/services