Satisfying clients is a difficult thing to achieve, doing it with maximum profitability is even harder. In our last blog “Creating Value as a professional service firm” we discussed what are the key criteria you should use to define value. In this blog, we are going to focus on the next step of the process, which is understanding how to reduce waste in your firm as you pursue value creation.
Now, as much as having a perspective on how to create value is critical to success for any business, there is also another element that must be addressed, which is waste. The reason it’s important is we can’t turn a blind eye to the fact that business changes. Customer expectations will change, competitive situations will come up, new regulations get passed, all contributing to a constant battle against waste. Even worse is the need to change all those “out of box” systems you must adapt to those changes, which often is so hard it ends up creating way more waste than is needed…
So, what is waste? How can your organization be best prepared to minimize its impact? Finally, can you continue to create value while reducing waste?
In the Lean Six Sigma community, there is an acronym for this, which is “DOWNTIME”. The end game is that as your pursuing the goal of delivering value to clients, downtime represents anything that can make that value creation less reliable, costlier, or less competitive in the marketplace. These wastes are critical to identify and eliminate as they create challenges in delivering a consistent, sustainable level of value for clients and eventually will limit your ability to grow.
For more detail on the acronym, we have the pieces and examples below that you can use as a guide to lay out what risks you might face in delivering value.
- Anything within the process that must be re-done. For example, any paperwork, any edits or re-work due to compliance, or even having to ask the client for information that they already provided would be considered defects.
- Making more than what you need, delivering it sooner than it’s needed. Too much or too soon is wasteful. Although this can be seen more clearly in manufacturing, there are many examples of this in service where you may do activities for “B” and “C” clients or prospects rather than working on “A” level targets.
- Waiting in line, a waiting room, waiting for approvals, any situation where the form or function of the thing you’re working on isn’t changing. For business, it’s clearly seen as your waiting for support, editing, supervision or anything else as you try to deliver value to the client.
- People underemployed or over-employed. This is experienced where you have a leader of a team who is taking care of tasks that would be better managed by the administrative team, or having administrative staff be in a position where they are making strategic decisions that they should not be responsible for.
- Moving things around physically from one place to another, doesn’t change the form or function. Certainly, the use and extra costs of mail, fax, and other methods of the past to finish working processes is a great example of transportation and the waste it brings.
- Maybe having a little is ok, but excessive inventory is a waste. It takes money to store it, there is a risk it gets damaged, there is a risk that the type of product or service isn’t needed. Inventory in service situations would be planning activities too far into the future where there is less and less confidence on if the current plans will be needed. The inventory itself is all the resources you make, the plans you develop, which over the next 6 or 9 months may be completely useless. In this example, the inventory is all the plans.
- Grabbing, reaching, walking, sitting, standing, searching, looking… the “ing” words that happen when you’re looking for the things that you need to create value. For service organizations, this is often found in the hunting and searching for the various materials or resources you may need at each phase of the client experience. You may make a call or send a text message to the office knowledge center asking where things are as you work a client situation.
- If a customer isn’t willing to pay for it, then it’s a waste. A classic example of this waste is the over-processing of communications, rather than just getting it out. Going through a lot of extra training to improve behaviors, or even having an overly rigid supervisory approval process for things to get them perfect
As a professional services firm, it’s critical to have some perspective on these types of wastes because it will have an impact on your ability to ensure value creation. Your ability to get the value delivered to your clients in the way they want, in a way they will delightedly pay for, and get it done correctly on the first try.
Even more importantly as things change, being able to show your clients that you have an approach that is dynamic and capable to keep up with change and evolving needs. This is a great model to ensure long-term stability of your organization as clients always remember the stories of bad service, but always share their experiences when a traditionally negative service experience is handled by someone positively exceeds their expectations. This focus on waste and being transparent with clients about the approach is what puts you back in a position where they trust your approach and thus will be both loyal and advocates of your firm.
At Trutelic, Inc. our mission is to help our clients make certain they're able to sustainably stay focused on delivering value, with the least amount of waste possible. We achieve this outcome for clients by helping them first clearly define the value and then subsequently develop the digital platform that focuses their time on value creating activities with the minimization of DOWNTIME.