Tag Archives: work flow

Work Moves Sideways – Outputs and Inputs

“Sales is complaining again,” Marlene announced. “They say all the leads that marketing gives them suck. They say they don’t even want the leads from marketing. If that’s the case, then why do we need the marketing department. Sales says that marketing is just a waste of their time.”

“Interesting,” I replied. “Then, what is the purpose for marketing? If you were in sales, what would you say is the purpose for marketing?”

“That’s simple,” Marlene said. “Leads. Marketing creates the circumstances where we identify people who have the kind of problems that we solve.”

“And, isn’t that what our marketing department does?”

“Yes, and no. The marketing department uses a variety of campaigns, trade shows, press releases, giveaways and social media to create inquiries. They are very proud at the number of leads they deliver to the sales team.”

“Then why the complaints?” I asked.

“The sales team has a very specific customer profile they identify as the ideal customer. Most people who don’t fit the profile, don’t buy. Last week, at a trade show, marketing gave away an iPad in a drawing in exchange for a business card. They got sixty business cards and turned them in as leads. When sales followed up, they found sixty people who didn’t fit our ideal customer profile. Waste of their time.”

“So, the sales team is looking for a very specific input, that meets several criteria for your ideal customer. But, the output of your marketing department is a list of people who want a free iPad? Your outputs and inputs don’t match.”

“Exactly,” Marlene nodded.

“So, if that’s the problem, how are you going to fix it?”

I Don’t Know What That Means

“So, what is the goal?” I asked. “What is the expected output?”

Marianna smiled, looked down at the paper in front of her. “Strategically improve current workflow resulting in improved success on projects in support of long-term company goals.”

I nodded. “Sounds great. But, I don’t know what that means.”

Marianna looked puzzled. “Well, that is what I expect from the manager in this role,” she replied.

“I know that’s what you expect, but I am still confused.” I stopped. “It is noble to improve workflow, but I don’t know what you expect to see. How are you going to evaluate effectiveness? What do you expect this person to do?”

“Well, we have work-cells that pass work along the line. Sometimes there are delays where things stack up. Sometimes, there are quality problems that are discovered at the end of the line, where we have to scrap a whole day’s production because of a small adjustment up the line. Sometimes, we run out of raw materials, so production stops. Sometimes, our work flow gets interrupted by a priority order that gets inserted at the last minute.”

“Okay, now we are getting somewhere. You want the person in this role to chart out the workflow, identify problems related to workflow delays, interim quality inspections, raw material min-max levels and expedited orders. The accountability (work output) will be a one-page work flow chart showing work-cell to work-cell production hand-offs, identifying where delays occur, when interim quality inspections are performed, quantities of raw material inventory related to production, and contingency processes for expedited work orders.”

Marianna nodded her head in agreement.

“Then, why didn’t you say so in the first place?” I smiled.

Documenting Work Flow Issues

“I don’t understand why we are going to meet with the team about the new floor layout,” Shannon pushed back. “I mean, it’s a bunch of good guys, but they don’t understand the big picture of work flow and why we need to rearrange things.”

“And, you do?” I asked.

“Well, yes. I watch the unnecessary steps. I watch us move material around four or five times in the storage area before it finally moves to staging a couple of months later. I watch people searching for raw materials in unnumbered bins. I watch people pull unmarked boxes down to see what is inside.”

“Do you think you missed anything? That checklist inside your head, is that all the workflow issues we have? Are you sure you noticed everything?” I pressed.

“Well, not everything. There will always be something,” Shannon shrugged.

“So, let’s turn your single set of eyes and ears into twenty sets of eyes and ears and ask some simple questions of your team.”