One of the projects I’m working on today involves optimizing internal check-in/scheduling/approval processes for a network of stores. With store management and operations management we have found opportunities within those processes to reduce touches and management intervention, automate steps, dramatically reduce risks, and enhance the working environment all while saving a lot of time and headache.
However, these processes also depend on outside intervention that supply some of the inputs – staffing agencies, electronic data interface, soliciting phone calls and data input, etc.
Optimization of the internal processes has been accounted for with the process participants available and providing input, but future success of the process is dependent upon outside customers providing information on what they need and when they need it as well as suppliers providing us (the process participants) what we need when we need it.
And that brings us to Principle #11 of The Toyota Way:
Respect your extended network of partners and suppliers by challenging them and helping them improve.
Let’s use placing an order at a fancy restaurant like Chili’s or Applebee’s as an example.
With the server being the process performer, he/she takes your food order and communicates it to the kitchen. The kitchen prepares the meal and the server brings the prepared meal to you.
The accuracy of that order is dependent on pieces outside of the server’s direct control. The end customer – you – provided a meal request, presumably based on a menu of choices, and possibly provided some specifications to that meal request (extra barbecue sauce, no onions, exactly 19 pickles, whatever). The menu should provide some specific information about the meal you’ve chosen, but if there are additional details you need to ask or place a request for those details, otherwise the server won’t know what you want.
And that’s on the customer end. What about the kitchen? What if your meal request (cedar plank salmon) can’t be completed because of missing components (all out of salmon…or cedar planks)? The order YOU placed can’t be made because the kitchen is out of an ingredient despite that meal being on the menu! As is common practice, the server will be made aware of stocked-out ingredients in advance as a countermeasure so this can be communicated to customers like you. But what if the kitchen hasn’t done this in advance? Wouldn’t the server and the restaurant look foolish for initially saying they can provide such a meal but the server returning to your table to say they can’t?
How often have you ordered a part from a catalog and you get an email notification indicating they’re actually all out of that part and you’ll have to wait?
What about seeing a discount on your favorite cereal at the local grocery store, trekking down to the store, and receiving a rain check because they’ve run out of the cereal?
How about a customer submitting a request for a project to you, you completing the project to the best of your knowledge, presenting the work to the customer who proceeds to tell you they had something else in mind other than what you provided?
You must go beyond your internal processes and identify the inputs and outputs to further optimize your processes. This will further satisfy your customers and also reduce stress on your suppliers.