Are There Aspects of Lean Process Excellence That Can Be Quickly Implemented in 90-120 days?

animationI have received this question before, so I’m guessing my previous response wasn’t enough.  

Here is a quicker, shorter, take. I’d really appreciate knowing if this is helpful and what other questions come to mind:  

There are two ways lean process excellence makes an impact in a short time.

The first way is to improve your value (i.e. customer response or traction). Lean process excellence doesn’t just reduce waste – it increases value to the customer and to your company. 

The second way it has an impact is to sustain and extend your value over time.

Let’s start with improving your value: In lean process excellence we discuss value streams.

What exactly is this value stream?

Duh! Actions on the part of your customers.

How do you get them to take actions? That is the first secret, and it does not come from production manufacturing methods or background

Of course, if you know your customers well it isn’t really a secret how to find, win, and keep them. If you don’t, it is necessary to research the “voice of your customer”  (this is the province of sales process design):

  • What specific stages do your customers go through, what problem are they trying to solve at each step, and how do you know this? (customer journey)
  • What are the observable characteristics that make your prospects more (or less) likely to buy from you (observable qualification criteria)
  • What is the best known means of helping your customers go through the stages of their journey with your company? (value creation and measures of flow) 

Concepts and mental models such as the customer journey, and observable qualification criteria enable a business to bring order to sales and marketing production, to  measure flow and value, and to reduce waste and increase customer response in sales and marketing.

If you already know much of what you need to know about how your customer buys, perhaps your company is simply not executing very well. In this case it is necessary for your employees and managers to improve execution around the work and the results (this is the province of sales management):

  • Achieving respectful agreement among the team around the objectives, the best methods of achieving them, and the most effective measures
  • Implementing in a way that knits the theory (the plan or process) and the practice (the reality) together

Lean process excellence brings powerful methods like the Deming Management Cycle (or Plan, Do, Check, Act) to this management problem. PDCA is a deceptively simple and internationally recognized and respected management practice.

Can pursuing these methods achieve useful and beneficial results in 90-120 days?   

Generally they can.

Michael Webb

Michael Webb founded Sales Performance Consultants to create a data-driven alternative to the slogans and shallow impact offered by typical sales training, sales consulting, and CRM companies. Michael helped organize and delivered the keynote speeches for the first conferences ever held on applying Six Sigma to marketing and sales. Connect with me on LinkedIn.

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Wernher Verbraeken - June 24, 2013 Reply

Hello Mr. Webb,
I have been reading your material for years. Yes it has taken me this long to send you a note. I really enjoy your writings. They are inspiring and thought provoking and encourage the reader to continue looking for more information. This leaves me at a place where I am looking for a starting point and further a plan or template to follow to develop a Buyers Journey of our own. Once developed I was thinking of building it into a quote log spreadsheet so that it is easy to see what the next step should be for a particular buyer. This will also allow the quote log to easily display which opportunities are closer to the end of the journey than other. It would also show trends in where we are weak in progressing the buyers journey (where buyers leave us for the competition). Only this way can we repair the weaknesses and improve. I would be interested in your thoughts on this quote log spreadsheet/buyers journey idea.


    admin - June 26, 2013 Reply

    Thanks for your kind comments, Wernher. I appreciate them.

    I have a couple of reactions to your thought about developing a Buyer’s Journey of your own:

    First, a minor point: You should use the term Buyer’s Journey if you are comfortable with it, however I prefer not to use this. The reason is most of my clients are in B2B selling environments with multiple people/departments affecting the decision making process. One of those departments is Purchasing, and Buyers or Purchasing Agents must be dealt with. However it is extremely important to make sure you have discovered the needs and perspectives of other departments and people. My concern is the term “Buyer’s Journey” could allow someone to overlook this. Please use what works for your business, however I hope you’ll permit me to continue to use the term “Customer Journey.”

    Second, one of the best ways to discover the Customer’s Journey is simply to ask them. This is a simple kind of “Voice of Customer” research. Generally, you can’t do it while you are in the heat of a transaction or if the customer expects to talk about their account problems with you in every meeting. So you have to find a time and place – or set up a time and place – that enables you to start a new kind of conversation with them. A non-threatening, open, honest sort of searching conversation where you genuinely try to focus on improving your understanding of them. It helps if you have done some homework, and so have at least some credible context to start with – something you discovered that you can ask them to confirm and expand on, for example. It also helps if you have thought through some of the kinds of things you would like to know, and have something specific in mind as you are researching. And that you keep it short and respectful of their time, of course. There is more to be said about this, but you get the idea.

    Third, what many people miss is that you learn a great deal by experimenting, rather than just talking. Give them options and choices to see what they do. Websites are good for this, of course, but you can do it with any kind of interaction. Come to think of it, you will be doing some of that with your idea of a “quote log spreadsheet.” That is a great way to start.

    The key is to look beneath the surface. So you have a log of quotes, which did you win? Lose? Why did those things happen? Where did they come from? What can you tell about them when they first contact you? Are there any signs indicating whether they are more or less likely to buy? What does this suggest about areas to inquire further?

    I’m sure your business is different from the ones I’ve been involved in, so let your own curiosity lead you to refine your log and make it more useful for your circumstances. And let me know what you discover!


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