Measures – The Window to the Process World

Measures – The Window to the Process World


The benefit of measures is that they allow us to see, analyse and act appropriately, they help us in our work so that we can manage and improve what we do. Yet deciding on the right process or results measures can be a minefield and we often end up measuring too much, too little or simply the wrong thing and this can lead us to forget the purpose and benefit of measures.

If you can’t measure your work processes, how will you know that performance is unacceptable or whether the changes you make are an improvement? Let’s look at the benefits of measures, the types of measures that will help us improve and how to select the right ones.

The benefit of good measures

  • They tell you the current process performance
  • They are linked to customer requirements
  • They help you learn about the process
  • They show you the impact of changes to your process
  • They signal potential problems

“If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it”
Peter Drucker

We use measures in our daily lives outside of the workplace, for example, time and distance apps help us plan our journeys, we use them without even thinking about it.  In our work, we need measures for the same reason – we need to know what is going on with our work so that we can plan accordingly.

Measures for improvement and quality

There are two measurement categories that help us understand our work processes and plan; results measures and process measures.

RESULTS MEASURES  The data on the overall process performance which tracks how well you are meeting customer requirements.

These measures are useful to help you prioritise, i.e. which processes need to be improved, and are reasonably easy to identify, but they won’t give you any clues about where in the process the problems arise. For example, a result measure could be time e.g. how long does it take to complete a customer order? Or could be quality e.g. is the order produced to the customer specification? As with these examples, there is often more than 1 result measure that is useful to track and report.

PROCESS MEASURES – A step in the process, or an upstream point, which influences the results measure, because a change in a process measure will cause the resultS measure to vary.

These can be difficult to identify, but once you’ve got them, they indicate where action is needed to improve the performance, for example, task 1 and task 4 in a process have the most mistakes/take the most time/cause the biggest queues/cost the most in manpower etc. Once you have your process and process steps, you need to decide the right measure for you.

How do you decide what is important and avoid measuring everything or the wrong thing?


These 3 attributes help us understand the priorities for the process and therefore what we need to measure.

Typically, we are interested in 3 process attributes: Effectiveness, Efficiency, and Adaptability.

At first glance, it might feel you are interested in all of 3 but it’s important to keep foremost in your mind your customer – reflect on the priorities for measuring performance in the context of what is valued by them.


The identification and the use of measures gives you essential visibility into the behaviour of your processes but it can be difficult where there is limited data collection or unclear customer requirements. However, there are techniques and methods that can be drawn on to help.

Selecting key measures

You can't manage what you cant measureLink the Voice of the Customer to the Voice of the Process

In order to meet customer requirements, we must be able to identify and measure the processes which are designed to meet them.

The process for selecting key measures is:

Use interviews and surveys to capture the customer’s own words regarding their requirements

Convert their words to simple expressions limited to a single thought

Categorise the re-worded data and assign major headings

List result measures used to check whether customer requirements are being met

Define the relationships between the customer requirements and the result measures using a matrix

Identify any customer requirements which needs additional result measures

Identify which requirements are most important to your customer and which result measures are most in need of improvement

These 7 steps will yield the best results when you actively engage with your customers to define the correct measures.

Once the vital few results and process measures have been agreed, continuous review of these measures should become a part of what you do; how you learn, maintain quality and improve your processes.

Need help defining your measures?

If you are struggling with defining what measures to use or understanding the full benefit of measures, let us know, we can help!


About Susannah Clarke

Susannah Clarke is Managing Partner at Process Management International (PMI), Head of Skills & Capabilities Practice and a specialist in the field of Executive and Performance Coaching. Susannah has worked extensively in the learning and development sector, starting her career with NatWest Markets in the City before spending 17-years with GSK as a consultant.

In 2011 Susannah joined Oracle University as Partner Director for EMEA and in 2013 joined PMI as Managing Partner. As co-author of ‘Implementing ISO9001:2015” she brings together more than 35 years’ experience leading, managing and consulting across different organisations. Susannah has written several blogs and published many articles in leading process and Quality focused publications.

The Prizes and Perils of Designing Processes for your Customers

The Prizes and Perils of Designing Processes for your Customers


The Prizes and Perils of Designing Processes for your Customers…Sometimes it takes a personal experience to remind yourself of how important it is to understand the customer journey and experience when designing or improving processes, as Rich Seddon experienced recently.

Putting your customers at the core of your process design is a key enabler to generating positive customer sentiment and failing to do so can be damaging. During the summer I had surgery on my spine for a damaged disc in my neck.  Working in process improvement I often find it impossible to leave the day job behind and so found myself observing process efficiency and effectiveness at every stage of my treatment.  Afterwards I reflected on what I’d experienced from a customer and process design point of view.

A story of 3 phases

In the first phase, the customer was king AND the process operated with obvious efficiency.  In the second phase, chaos broke out as processes failed and in the third phase well intentioned process “improvement” had led to the purpose of the process being forgotten and as a consequence the customer, or patient in this case, being left behind.

Phase One: It all started so well

Usually with private healthcare in the UK, if you need treatment or diagnosis you have to make an appointment with your NHS GP, with the strains on GP’s resources this is no mean feat in itself.  Once you manage to see your GP you have to request they write a letter of referral. Yes, a letter, remember those?  Once you receive the letter the onus is on you to contact the insurer to request an appointment with the appropriate specialist. At this stage, hopefully, someone else contacts you to make the appointment.  A rather cumbersome and wasteful process.

My healthcare insurer has recently introduced an online GP service and in doing so has managed to achieve that rarest of things; a more efficient internal process as well excellent customer service.

The booking process was flawless. Using an App on my iPad I was able to make an appointment for a video consultation with a private GP within 24 hours and at no extra cost. The consultation took place at my desk and what’s more, the GP was able to refer me straightaway. I was informed that within 2 hours I would be contacted to book an appointment with a surgeon for further investigation.

To say I was sceptical about this process is an understatement, but sure enough just under 2 hours later my phone rang and a suitable appointment was arranged at a private hospital.  I was delighted with how well this process had been both designed and executed. I extolled the virtues of the experience and the insurer to anyone who would listen, in short, I became an unpaid advocate: every CEO’s dream.

Phase Two: The handover

I was now largely in the hands of the hospital rather than the insurer, and the contrast could not be more stark.  The initial diagnosis and consultations all proceeded without any issue. My surgery was booked and the pre-op clinic confirmed.

Kano Model-01Then it all started going wrong.  My expectations had been set so high thanks to the wonderful experience in phase one that I had progressed very rapidly along the Kano Model of customer satisfaction. I now expected to be delighted at every stage!

The pre-op clinic experience was dire. Patients were organised using a dysfunctional paper-based process, clinical staff were stressed and there were not enough seats for the number of patients waiting.  The paper system wasn’t executed in the order in which patients arrived resulting in arguments amongst the patients and the staff.  To make matters worse, I had to tell the nurse what I was there for as my paperwork didn’t state it, and then my details were recorded on the wrong patient’s notes.

I was left concerned and my positive sentiments had evaporated.  I was now a ‘former’ advocate, angry with the insurer as the ultimate service provider even though it was the hospital that had failed.

Phase 3: The surgery and after

Disappointed and alarmed by the pre-op clinic experience, I didn’t know what to expect from the in-patient experience.  Initially I was pleasantly surprised.  The check-in process was seamless and it was immediately obvious that a process improvement team had been at work in this area.  A porter appeared in less than a minute to escort me to my room, he explained the facilities clearly and to a well-honed brief.  He was immediately followed by a nurse and then a physiotherapist in rapid succession.

Within 25 minutes I was fully labelled, all forms were complete and I was equipped with the ubiquitous hospital gown and a pair of fetching compression stockings.  Fast, efficient and little waiting or waste.
Having woken up in the recovery area after the operation I was then transferred.  As I was being moved I could see signs hanging from the ceiling that read ‘Intensive Care’.  I queried why I was being moved to this area, was there a problem? “Just standard practice” came the response.

At no point had anyone mentioned intensive care. I’m not medically trained so it surprised me.  My expectations hadn’t been managed during this process, I was simply being processed.  The customer of the process had been forgotten with the design being geared around efficiency of the transaction itself.

Matters got worse as I repeatedly asked if my operation had been a success.

All I was told was “your consultant will talk you through it”.  However, I was the last on the operating list, the consultant had gone home for the night.  So there I was, the customer of a process that on the surface was efficient, unexpectedly in intensive care with no insight into the success of my operation – unhappy does not do justice to how I was feeling.  It was not until 24 hours after I had gone to surgery that my consultant appeared and informed me that all was well. Too late, I’d transitioned, I was now a critic.

Some Conclusions

So, what lessons are there here for those involved in process design and improvement?

  1. Effective, customer focussed process improvement can create a valuable asset in the customer as an advocate of your product or services, as I experienced in Phase 1.
  2. Customer expectations are rapidly accelerated; customers can delight in experiencing excellence but they very soon expect it at every stage, as demonstrated in phase 2 of my story.
  3. Process Improvement can be efficient but it also needs to be effective; customer needs, wants and expectations must be at the heart of process design or they will be dissatisfied, no matter how efficient your service or product is delivered, as I saw in phase 3 of my experience.
  4. Process Improvement teams beware; unless the customer experience is understood and standardised your work can be damaging – it is conceivably worse to go from experiencing excellence to the polar opposite as a customer than simply be satisfied throughout.

So what now?

With my neck fully recovered would I recommend my insurer’s service provision?  This is a tricky one. I recognise that the steps that they were responsible for were fantastic, however my overall experience and therefore my sentiment was negative.  I found the process as a whole so traumatic that no matter how good they were up front, the experience provided by one of their selected hospitals was of such a poor standard that I hold them responsible.  This may be unfair, but I was the customer and customers are rarely fair!

This is a salutary lesson for those of us who work in process improvement and very much supports the theory that customers need to be central to all process redesigns.  Furthermore, this experience emphasises that suppliers of services need to work together to ensure the collective experience is consistent, standardised and then incrementally improved as a whole and not in isolation.  Do this, and you stand a much better chance of retaining and growing your customer advocates!


Rich Seddon

Rich Seddon is Managing Partner at Process Management International (PMI) and a specialist in strategy design, operational efficiency, management of change and customer focussed process design. He works around the world with clients in all stages of programme maturity.

Connect with Rich on LinkedIn.


The importance of stakeholder engagement in process design

The importance of stakeholder engagement in process design

Stakeholder Engagement

The importance of stakeholder engagement in process designor knowing what they want and giving it to them!

The collection and interpretation of representative stakeholder requirements is a key enabler of success when redesigning processes.  It is of course perfectly (and all too frequently) possible to redesign a process without taking into account stakeholder requirements but to do so presents a risk that is, with a little effort and structure, avoidable.

In my experience, the process redesign projects that fail because of “stakeholder issues” fall roughly into one of two camps;

  1. Those that are blinded by stakeholder requirements (“one of the stakeholders said this so that’s what we must do”) and
  2. Those that treat stakeholders and their requirements as a kind of inconvenient truth (“they exist but we don’t really like them/want to listen to them”!)  Neither of these positions is desirable and both can be mitigated.

What are you trying to accomplish?

Effective process design requires an understanding of the needs of all stakeholders but before you can engage with them to understand their needs they need identifying, and before you can identify them, you need to be clear on what it is you’re trying to accomplish in the first place.

I’ve lost count of the number of occasions I’ve helped clients pull back from near disaster because they didn’t take the time to answer the question: What are we trying to accomplish by undertaking this redesign activity?  The reason this is so important is that it colours every aspect of the project going forward, including the way in which you engage with your stakeholders and without answering this question you can’t possibly hope to know if your project has been a success.

Identifying your stakeholders

Once you have established your objectives, it time to identify your stakeholders.  It’s worth taking some time to do this as they may include parties beyond the immediately obvious ones.  At PMI we use the SIPOC method (Suppliers, Inputs, Processes, Outputs, Customers) to do this.  Using such a structure can help you to identify stakeholders throughout the process whilst remaining focussed.

Designing your stakeholder requirements capture method does not have to be particularly sophisticated but it does need to be structured and consistent to produce meaningful results.  Typical methods include interviews and questionnaires etc.  It is important to resist the temptation to be biased as you write these and try as far as possible to keep the same structure for each stakeholder.

Don’t get derailed!

Once you’ve captured your stakeholder requirements you are faced with the most challenging element; interpreting the results and choosing what to act on.  At this stage achieving balance is everything; don’t let the stakeholder who shouted the loudest derail you.  Remind yourself of what you’re trying to accomplish and select only those items of feedback that are going to help you to do this.  Remember too that the best-designed processes are both effective and efficient.

I’ve seen clients debilitate themselves with the best of intentions by putting the customer needs above all other stakeholders and failing to consider both efficiency and effectiveness of the resulting process.  At the other end of the scale, I was recently told by a client who was redesigning a process that having interviewed his stakeholder he’d identified that the board wanted 20% savings and the customer wanted better reliability.  He’d deduced that the two were not achievable and as he worked for the board, the board won!  Balance is key.

Continue to communicate

Finally, there is the important job of letting stakeholders know what you’ve done with their feedback and why.  Sometimes this is not practical or possible but when it is, you should.  Letting people know what the outcomes were is key to engaging them in the operation of the newly designed process.

You don’t have to please all stakeholders all of the time, but you do need to have data-based justification for your decisions.  Stakeholders have the power to make your new process sink or swim so whilst they might not always necessarily like what they hear, they will value you reaching out to them, and let’s face it, they’ll find out in the end anyway!

Things to consider for effective stakeholder engagement:

So, what lessons are there here for those involved in process design and improvement?

  1. Be clear on what it is you’re trying to accomplish.
  2. Understand how you’ll know when you’ve accomplished it (what measure will tell you?)
  3. Identify your stakeholders in context; use stakeholder mapping ideally SIPOC.
  4. Design your capture method – keep it consistent and unbiased.
  5. Incorporate the feedback into the design – maintain balance, remind yourself of your objectives.
  6. Inform your stakeholder of the outcomes and be prepared to adapt your process if it doesn’t achieve your objectives.
Rich Seddon

Rich Seddon

Rich Seddon is Managing Partner at Process Management International (PMI) and a specialist in strategy design, operational efficiency, management of change and customer focussed process design. He works around the world with clients in all stages of programme maturity.


Tools and Models useful for Change

Tools and models useful for change

A selection of tools and models useful for change, which are used regularly in our courses and programmes that incorporate change methodology and approaches.

The 3 Question Model

Also known as ‘The Model for Improvement’, the 3 Question Model, developed by Nolan and Provost, asks 3 simple questions.  It is designed to make PDSA (Plan, Do, Study, Act) a simple and highly effective model for change and improvement.  When we talk about change in our organisations, we also need to think about why the change is taking place and what we are trying to achieve as a result of making that change.

Interestingly, when we introduce this question to management teams it often becomes clear that people have assumed that they know the answer to these questions, but actually have contradictory goals.


Question One – What are we trying to accomplish?
This focuses on really defining the nature of the change (or improvement)

Question Two – How will we know that change is an improvement?
This is where we need to consider how that change we make is going to be measured.

Question Three – What changes can we make that will result in improvement?
The application of the Plan Do Study Act and learning mindset.

Kotter & Schlesinger's 6 Approaches to Change Resistance

We use this model regularly in our courses, including Managing & Influencing Stakeholders.  It’s a good way to start a discussion with delegates on, for example, what could be the impact of using manipulation and coercion when the rest of the employee population or members of a team were in denial about the need for change?

The Hamburger Model

Building on research by Jack Gibb into why projects fail, PMI developed this change model.  It is often referred to by our delegates and within PMI as the ‘Hamburger Model’.

Of all the projects studied, only 5% of the reasons for failure were due to not knowing what to do (task) or how to do it (task process).

In fact, 95% of the reasons for project failure were due to a lack of sufficient management of how people felt and thought about the change: the socio-emotional and political realities surrounding the project (SEP).  SEP in the model refers to both the external stakeholders (who were affected by the change) and the team engaged in the change.  This highlights the critical need for effective team and stakeholder management in change projects.  This model is discussed in more detail in our Lean Six Sigma Green Belt.

Interrelationship Diagraph

The purpose of the Interrelationship Diagraph (or Relations Diagram) is to identify and develop a consensus about logical and sequential connections – i.e. cause and effect relationships, between components of a problem, issue or system.

The input into the diagram can come from an affinity diagram.  See our blog: How the affinity diagram can enable creativity.

The Kano Model

The Kano Model helps teams explore customer requirements and classify them into three categories.

Benefits – All processes should be aligned to their customers, direct or indirect, in the system or beyond.  A logical approach to understanding and improving processes will help to uncover customer needs and wants but may still fail to generate delight.

Expected – These are basic requirements the customer may not specifically request but will be dissatisfied if they are not met.  They include the technical specifications which may only be defined by ‘experts’.

Wanted – There are the requirements customers are most likely to describe verbally in the interviews or discussions.  They reflect the customer’s current set of problems or recent frustrations.  Be sure to uncover why the customer wants a certain feature or specification.  The more specific their request, the more important this becomes.

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What is a Green Belt project?

What is a Green Belt project?

Focus on: Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Projects

In the 80’s and 90’s I worked in the Financial Services and IT sectors and it was common to hear leaders say “don’t come to me with problems… come to me with solutions!” It was never accompanied by the offer of a means or method to find the solution, as if simply saying it was enough, a miracle would happen and we would be able to produce the perfect solution!

Eventually, this phrase became a management/leadership cliché.

If you are familiar with this leadership style, it doesn’t have to be an issue, this is exactly what an improvement project, using Green Belt methodology, is designed to accomplish.

The PMI Improvement Cycle

The means and method of a Green Belt project will lead you through the Improvement Cycle from the beginning, where you don’t really any have idea what the answer will be, to developing the solution.

  1.   take a problem,
  2.   learn about it,
  3.   analyse it,
  4.   develop theories,
  5.   test and study the results of your theories,
  6.   and when you think you’ve got something, recommend solution/s that the organisation can implement to improve the process performance.
“Is it a Green Belt project or an Implementation project?”

We regularly get questions from potential customers asking our opinion on what makes a (good) Green Belt project in preparation for them working on their improvement projects and developing their own capability through our Green Belt programme.

In many cases, customers are confused because they have been given a project to ‘do’ and they are not sure if it qualifies as a Green Belt project; they often do not know the difference between a Green Belt project and an implementation project, and how would they? If they work in an environment where they are traditionally given projects to ‘manage’ i.e. implement, then the temptation is to assume their Improvement project is the same.

A project that is focused on working on a problem where the solution is not known, identifying the root causes of the problem and then developing and testing solutions to address them before implementation, is alien to them.

When clients have this same dilemma, I use the PMI Improvement Cycle to illustrate the thinking/decision-making process they need to go through. Looking at the Improvement Cycle, you need to decide if the project you are thinking about is suitable for an improvement project.

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

    • Are you currently at the stage where you know there is a problem, but you don’t yet know all the root causes?
    • Do you have some ideas on which process/es are causing the problem but you need to investigate further?
    • Do you have enough data to be confident about the current performance of the process/es, or do you need to gather data so that you can be sure on what is actually happening?

If any of these sound familiar, represent where you are and what you are being asked to do, then you will benefit from starting at ‘select priorities’ on our Improvement Cycle. This stage helps you to diagnose which process/es are causing the results you and your organisation are not happy with.

This means you will be leading a Green Belt improvement project.

If the work has already been done to understand the problem and identify solutions, and therefore your job is to implement the defined solution, you are starting at the ‘implement’ part of PMI’s Improvement Cycle, which is the project management element of implementing a known solution.

Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule, but here are some tips to help steer you in the right direction.

Things to consider

    1.   The project should be ‘do-able’ over the period of about 3 months.
    2.   It should be neither too big nor trivial.
    3.   It should address an issue, which is important to your organisation.
    4.   You will need a ‘Sponsor’ to provide guidance and to assist in removing barriers and getting resources.
    5.   Customer concerns are usually priorities.
    6.   It must be something which you, with your Sponsor’s support, can obtain the authority to change.
    7.   It should require a small, carefully selected team (3-7 people) to investigate, work on and implement solutions – not merely recommend solutions.
    8.   It should not be a ‘fix the world’ problem which people have struggled over for years and got nowhere.  

Written by Susannah Clarke
Managing Partner
Process Management International

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5 Uncommon attributes of effective strategic leaders

5 Uncommon attributes of effective strategic leaders

In this blog, PMI’s Head of Skills & Capability Practice Susannah Clarke, asserts that common wisdom on leadership attributes often overlooks the most important element essential for consistent success, a process approach.

“Leaders are responsible for creating an adaptable, flexible organisation that consistently achieves its strategic goals”.

Easy to say, but how does that manifest itself into something tangible? What is it that leaders need to do and how do they need to behave with their people?

Go to Google, LinkedIn, Harvard Business Review, or any of the resources you use for knowledge and information, you will find a plethora of articles on the role of a leader, how to be a good leader, the key habits of great leaders, behaviours of good leaders and so on.

I recently read Google’s “10 traits that will make you a successful leader”, according to Google’s internal research; when you read any of these you probably reflect that what they promote as behaviours or attributes are desirable and often practical, even though you may think it is rare to observe all of these in leaders you are familiar with.

But whenever I read these articles I am always left noting the absence of one key leadership attribute which we consider essential, the processes.

Over several decades working with senior leadership teams PMI consistently notices five common attributes which enable leaders to consistently achieve the goals of their organisation using a process approach rather than a results-driven approach:

1. Leaders develop and deploy an effective strategy

It is important that the leaders both at the top level and the functional or business unit level, own a strategy that leverages competitive advantage and is sustainable.

2. Leaders operate effective leadership processes

We expect process operators to work to a defined process. It is no different for top managers, they must have their own leadership processes that they operate and through these ensure that they engage all employees, so that employees understand the strategy and the part they play in delivering it.

3. Leaders understand their customers’ needs and how the organisation delivers them.

Effective leaders ensure their organisation delivers for its customers today by paying attention to:

Value streams – the core activities, processes, in their organisation which deliver products and services their customers desire and are willing to pay for

Customers – they understand their market, their customers’ wants and expectations, and are working to delight them so that they can retain them in the future

A process approach to management – so that the current business delivers what the customers need:

Consistently: everyone operates the same standard i.e. it doesn’t depend on which area/location the work is done, there is a consistent way of the work being performed as a process.
Effectively: the product or service meets the customer needs, is delivered to the right quality so that the customer is satisfied, if not delighted, with what they get.
: the way the work is done is efficient for the organisation, is not subject to waste, delays or high costs, so that the work is sustainable and will result in a healthy and profitable product or service.

A system approach to leadership – the work isn’t done in isolation or a silo, they see how the value streams interrelate across the functions to enable work to flow smoothly through their system supplying the needs of their external and internal customers.

4. They ask questions of inquiry

They do this because they are genuinely interested in how the work is performing and how the managers and operators of the work feel about the work, what works well, what opportunities for improvement they can see. This is key to them understanding whether their strategy is understood, how it is being implemented and whether it is generating the results.

These questions of inquiry aren’t limited to the Board Room or the monthly report, they are regularly asked in the workplace in the daily course of where the work is being done because they visit the workplace as a regular part of their leadership process.

They are interested to understand if they need to adjust their aim, the strategic goals, based on the information the people and processes share with them.

5. They value contributions from others

Effective Leaders value the contribution of all employees and enable them to be as effective, efficient and adaptable as possible. They guide and govern all that they do by allocating specific roles and accountabilities, at every level in the business, from CEO to the Shop Floor; everyone knows their role and what is demanded of them so that their outputs are efficient, effective and agile. They ensure that the processes are owned and managed, just like any other asset. They seek external contributions from customers, competitors and macroeconomic factors.


Leaders who work this way will enable their organisation to maintain and improve every day to ensure sustainability. Leading by process generates value which enhances your Customers capability to do what they have to do better; only through this are you going to be able and agile, are you going to be able to thrive and survive.

If you want to be an effective strategic leader and make those uncommon attributes, common, start by building your capacity.

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Why Trust and Respect Enable Success

Why Trust and Respect Enable Success

Business improvement and trust

Anyone who has ever been involved in improvement will recognise the need for trust. It is an essential ingredient to generate productive employees and engaged stakeholders. A productive employee is someone that feels safe, safe enough to experiment and challenge, which is exactly what is required in all working environments, it’s also imperative for the improvement professional focused on step change improvement and innovation. An engaged stakeholder will provide valuable support to enable results through change, improvement, and transformation.

When working with people to change their thinking and/or the work they do, from where they are now (current position) to where they need to be in the future (desired outcomes), it is the bottom part of the Gibb model, how those people feel about it, which has the most influence over the success of the quality initiative, change or improvement.

Trust has a close partner in the form of respect, they are two sides of the same coin. When these go hand in hand, respect shifts from being a behaviour to becoming a deeper feeling.

The greatest respect comes when people:

    • Value you for who you are
    • Trust what you say and how you behave
    • Trust how you will treat them and others
    • Believe you are honest and,
    • Feel confident in what to expect in terms of your attitude and beliefs.

What does respect involve?

Respect is like a baton passed off to someone who then passes it back. Thought of in these terms means that to gain respect, the feelings, needs, wants, ideas, fears, thoughts and preferences of others must be considered first. It’s about modeling the desired behaviours.

In the workplace, there are leaders who use power and/or fear to command respect. But does that work?

Can respect be commanded? Is that a sustainable long-term strategy?

Sometimes it’s easy to forget in the heat of the moment, or when one is looking for a new behaviour strategy to make a change, how that behaviour will be interpreted and what impact it will have. Witnessing poor behaviour in others, particularly from a colleague or leader, makes others feel uncomfortable because trust gets eroded and respect is lost.

People who witness this style of behaviour naturally reflect, they stop trusting the colleague or leader concerned and as their trust diminishes, so does their respect.

When an improvement professional is trusted and respected, they earn the voluntary cooperation of others, people want to work with them and be involved with what they are doing. The actions of the improvement professional, their words and behaviours will enable them to build or lose the trust of others, and this is a critical component to their success.

To be successful in the workplace, trust is required in several relationships:

    • Peer to peer
    • Direct report to Manager
    • Worker to Senior Leader
    • Customer to Employee
    • Supplier to Customer

Some people may only have to think about one or two of these levels in their daily work, but others may have to build respectful relationships at every level.

Why else is respect important?

A theory suggests that the notion of respect dates to a time when mankind lived in tribes. As the tribes roamed, hunted and looked after its members, those who weren’t respected could be left behind in the wilderness, excluded from a share of the food, left out because they were considered to have no worth or value to the tribe.

It’s no different today. Every improvement professional, indeed any professional, needs to build trust and respect because when a working culture is founded on trust, loyalty is engendered.

Upstream the benefits of this approach mean that:

    • Businesses are more likely to retain their customers
    • Suppliers will give of their best
    • Talent retention is improved
    • Morale will improve
    • People will be more motivated to do their best

Trust and respect are the glue that holds relationships together. Where they exist, so does integrity, and where integrity exists for the skilled and dedicated improvement professional, success also resides.


This article was first published in Quality World, the membership magazine for the CQI.

Written by Susannah Clarke
Managing Partner
Process Management International

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Why Self Help Books Are Not For Me

Why Self Help Books Are Not For Me

Managing Partner, Susannah Clarke, explains why systems thinking is far more useful than any self-help book and how true epiphanies come when people think outside themselves and beyond their own experience.


If you visit your local library, bookshop or Amazon catalogue, the list of self-help books is overwhelming. You can self-help your way to being a good parent, a good friend, a good leader, more self-confident, less anxious, even how to stop reading self-help books!!

You get the picture.

Sometimes I wonder if this culture of self-help is causing us to limit our perimeter and preventing us from seeing the real gems that exist when we learn from others.  If we do seek help, how wide do we look? What can we learn from outside our immediate sphere of influence or comfort zone?

TED talk

I was inspired to consider all of this by a recent TED talk from Barbara Natterson-Horowitz on ‘What veterinarians know and doctors don’t’. Barbara is Professor of Medicine in Cardiology at UCLA and she is pioneering to break down the barriers between the medical profession, who focus on a single area. i.e. humans, and learn from veterinarians who of course train to work across many species.

It turns out that Vets have been working successfully on solutions for conditions in animals which also exist in humans, and yet until recently, it hasn’t been common to share this knowledge with Doctors.


At a recent conference, I heard that when a UK bus company were looking to reduce their costs, they identified fuel consumption as their big ticket item for improvement.

They also appreciated that in order to create radical change they needed to look beyond their own experience, which prompted them to look outside their industry to see what they could learn from others.

The result?

Having visited a Formula 1 team, they are installing the regenerative braking technology developed for F1 cars. The time that these heavy buses spend in traffic, stopping and starting, makes for lots of opportunities to gather and then deploy energy. Their buses may not reach the speeds of an F1 car, but the braking technology will deliver a whopping 20% in fuel efficiency.

I’m a coach.  I truly believe in the power of what’s inside my clients, how they can harness their own energy to achieve great things. Many of their epiphanies come when they think outside themselves, when they think about greenfield opportunities, consider other environments, different territories – when they make connections between something external and something they already know.

Dr. Deming was quite clear on this subject. He said; “A system cannot understand itself – transformation requires a view from outside.”

We see this requirement for a wider vision in Dr. Deming’s System of Profound Knowledge, particularly:

Deming's System of Profound Knowledge
Deming’s System of Profound Knowledge

Systems Thinking: understanding organisations as systems, with processes that are interdependent and the influence on them from external factors.

Deming was referring to the fact that without coordination and leadership of the system as a whole (by its top managers), the system cannot optimise. To transform the entire organisation, leaders need to step out of the system to observe the full picture before creating their theories. Often it can take an external coach or a brand new team member to offer an alternative lens with which to view the system.

On a personal note, I have a lot to thank David Attenborough for. I was wrestling with the emotions of my eldest daughter leaving home to go to university when I happened to be watching a David Attenborough programme about teenage lions learning to hunt, feed and wrestle with each other in preparation for leaving the pride and fending for themselves.

The cubs of course had instincts, but they also observed their mothers hunting, copying their techniques. Also, the female lions observed them and addressed mistakes such as pawing the nose of a cub whose up-pointing tail blew their cover. Eventually, the cubs were ready for independence, having PDSA’d their way through adolescence. Even though they left the pride, they continued to adapt their behaviour and techniques to the new environments and new lions that they came into contact with – the art of learning having been instilled.

I learnt that leaving home is a natural and evolutionary process.

I have since cancelled my copy of ‘The Self Help Guide to Managing an Empty Nest’, thanks David!

About Susannah

Susannah Clarke

Susannah Clarke leads three main areas of PMI; Open Learning (classroom, virtual and online); Performance coaching; Partnerships/resellers.

She is passionate about the development of leaders and partnering with them to help them sharpen their performance edge and realise their full potential.

Creating flow at the Car Wash

Creating flow at the Car Wash

Bubbles at the car wash-01

Managing Partner, Susannah Clarke recently visited a new local car wash and witnessed first-hand how an otherwise excellent service was being compromised by a lack of ‘flow’.


I do love it when I stumble across the application of our tools and methods in my everyday life. There’s something about seeing people recognise the need for change through continuous improvement techniques and the simple and smart solutions they employ. On this occasion, it was all about creating flow.

Flow is one of the principles of Lean and it really is what it says on the tin: eliminating waste to ensure your product or service “flows” to the customer without any interruption, detour or waiting. To take it a step further, “flow is where demand from the customer is pulled through a process with minimum waste”.

Most of us are familiar with seeing examples of Flow at our local supermarket where they pay great attention to the process for re-stocking shelves or the management of the queuing systems at the checkout. But I recently came across a great example of process re-engineering to create ‘Flow’ at my local car wash.

The car wash opened on a closed showroom forecourt. I thought I would give it a try and at first, the car wash team seem to have established a capable process.

Process at the car wash-02

From a customer satisfaction perspective, I was very happy with the service: I can arrive anytime between 9.00 – 19.00, any day of the week; my car is returned very clean and smells nice; it is good value for money.

Everything was going really well, I had been 4 or 5 times but I noticed that each time it was getting busier. Clearly they had a formula that was working for other customers, not just me.

Success is compromised

However on my next visit, I found myself in a queue, waiting for ‘receive vehicle’, which extended off the forecourt and onto the main road. This was causing havoc and concern. Traffic was trying to negotiate past our queue; some customers had driven onto the pavement to get out of the way of the through traffic; other customers were pulling out of the queue, perhaps deciding to return at a less busy time.

It was an accident waiting to happen and I found myself thinking that all my previous delight factors were rapidly disappearing because of the risk of my car being crashed into by an irate motorist trying to get past.

In addition to the car chaos, the operators were also in trouble. Operators from the upstream process stopped to come out onto the road to try and help, waving people forward into gaps on the forecourt.

This had a couple of effects: their process stopped therefore cars were not moving on to the next step therefore making the queue worse; the order of cars was confused so the receive vehicle operator didn’t know who was next.

So there I was, witnessing a successful start-up business, with a great service, floundering as a result of its increased success and unable to cope with the peaks of customer demand.

A change is made

A couple of weekends later, I was driving past when I noticed a change. There was no queue on the main road and customers were being directed to access the forecourt from a different entrance. In addition, yellow arrows had been painted on the tarmac to guide the direction of travel. This change was giving much greater capacity for queueing cars. It meant that it was now possible for them to manage a pull system.

The ‘receive vehicle’ operator was in the new location to manage the flow. When the ‘apply pre-wash’ operator was ready they signalled and all the cars are moved along. This method of work continued until the car was finished and either returned to the customer or parked on the forecourt at the front, which was now available because there weren’t any queueing cars. None of the operators had to leave their station to manage the new customers because there was plenty of space for demand at peak times.

I asked the ‘receive payment’ operator how the new system was working for them and he said that in addition to chaos that the old system had caused, they were actually in danger of being closed down for causing a hazard, therefore they had to change. He said that having made the change, not only had they solved the problems, but they found they could wash more cars per hour and that if they had known that in the first place, they would always have designed it this way, it was just common sense! Ahhh how often do we wish for that elusive ‘un’ common sense?

Tackling the waste known as “Mura” from the Japanese for unevenness, emanated from the Toyota Production System (TPS) and if you read Toyota’s brochure on TPS, this is what they say about the benefits for business:

A smooth, continuous and optimised workflow, with carefully planned and measured work-cycle times and on-demand movement of goods, reduces the cost of wasted time, materials and capacity. Team members can concentrate on their tasks without interruption, which leads to better quality, timely delivery, and peace-of-mind for customers.

A perfect description of my car wash!

Ten things to think about when looking at flow:

  1. Data is key – a sound understanding of how much ‘work content’ each process has is vital
  2. Be aware of variation. All too often averages are used without regard for spread
  3. Gather information to determine the timing of each process and between each process
  4. Seek to identify all of the barriers which prevent flow
  5. Look beyond the processes which do the work and consider the enabling processes
  6. Visualise all the barriers to flow as stop signs in your process
  7. Where you can’t flow, look to create ‘pull’, but avoid ‘push’ whenever you can
  8. Understand what process(s) currently determine how and when work is done
  9. Don’t give up before you start! Many organisations say flow isn’t possible because their work is ‘too unique’, or they ‘don’t resemble car production line’. With the right guidance and creativity, nearly all processes can use the principles of flow to achieve greater performance
  10. Create theories for improvement, try them out and study if your theory is true, adopt, adapt or abandon them.

About Susannah

Susannah Clarke

Susannah Clarke leads three main areas of PMI; Open Learning (classroom, virtual and online), Performance coaching, Partnerships/resellers.

She is passionate about the development of leaders and partnering with them to help them sharpen their performance edge and realise their full potential.

The Joy of Process

The Joy of Process

In The Joy of Process, Susannah Clarke, Managing Partner and co-author of ‘Implementing ISO 9001:2015’, looks at how the adoption of a process approach often results in opportunities for creativity and innovation.


When Jan Gillett, Paul Simpson and myself were working on our book, we started discussing the issue that it’s not uncommon for people to believe that once you’ve got a process, all the freedom and creativity has gone out of the work.  Some say that it’s not possible to innovate if you are constrained by a process.  Many associate it with tedious repetition of boring work and something that can only be applied to a manufacturing environment.

Learning from Morecambe and Wise!

If you agree with that or have come across anyone who does, take 2 minutes, to watch this brilliant example of how a process approach inspires innovation and creativity:  Morecambe & Wise Make Breakfast.

This excellent sketch perfectly demonstrates a process approach  and the three of us reflected on all the attributes that following this ‘breakfast making process’ (BMP!) illustrates.  As with all simple presentations, there are many messages and lessons to be learned. Let’s take a few of them:

  • Role assignment – it was clear from the process that Eric and Ern knew who was going to be doing what and when. There was a fair bit of coordination and some ‘handing over’ of responsibility – sound anything like you in your world of work?
  • Sub processes – there was a lot going on there and many activities operating in parallel. Take the simple example of making toast. Unless the first activity of BMP was ‘put the bread in the toaster’ then the whole process falls out in timing and Ern is literally clutching at thin air when the toast is due to pop.
  • Variation – now I don’t know how much you like grapefruit but your enjoyment of the breakfast output of the BMP will be dramatically affected by the size of the slice that Eric produced for you. Process timing and operator competence (sorry Eric) meant that there was far too much variability in grapefruit chopping and we would have to do something about that to ensure consistent customer delight.
  • Flow – there is no doubt that BMP had this by the bucket load. If I am ever doing anything more than my morning porridge, flow is almost completely absent and the head scratching and wasted journeys/opening and closing of cupboards adds little to the BMP and would not make my own BMP a watchable video.

You have to be very careful taking PDSA and 7 waste thinking into your home life. Simple videos like these are a chance to look again at topics like the process approach, systems thinking, PDSA and reapply that new insight into work situations.

Build in Innovation

Building innovation into your work is essential if you are looking to delight your customers. By definition the customer does not know what the delight factors are until they materialise so they can’t tell you!  Many successful organisations owe their competitive edge to their ability to innovate and, therefore, delight their customers.

However, if you want to innovate, you need to understand the current state of the work, before you can develop any theories on how to improve it.  AND customers will not be impressed by clever new features if you are letting them down on the basics.

So how do you go about defining current work as a process?

Process Flow-01At the most basic level, we need a definition of what is a process:

A set of interrelated activities which transform a set of inputs to one or more outputs”.

There is a knack to learning how to think about any activity, such as making breakfast, as a series of clearly defined process steps.  It is a good idea to have a good representation from operators of the process, suppliers to the process and customers of the process with you.

This will help you learn about the process such as:

  • What may vary depending on the process operator, or their location.
  • Any discrepancies which may exist between how the process is supposed to work and how it actually works
  • Legacy steps which may no longer be required but exist because “We’ve always done it that way”
  • Or suppliers to the process who may not understand what you need from them or why it is important.

Where do you start?


  • IProcess steps exampledentify the process and use verb/noun to describe it: Make Breakfast Process
  • Define the purpose of the process (why does this process exist?): to prepare a tasty cooked breakfast
  • Record the Process Owner (if known): Ernie Wise.

With this agreed, you can now progress to creating a linear flowchart of the process:

  1. Establish the first and last steps
  2. Describe each major activity using a verb (action) followed by a noun (object)
  3. Write each step on a Post-it note ®
  4. Arrange the steps in sequence
  5. Connect the steps with arrows
  6. Don’t get lost in the details of the process.

At this point you should have between 8 – 12 steps.

Linear flowcharts are the simplest form and are useful to provide a picture of the overall flow.  They can help you standardise the work, uncover duplication of effort, delays, omissions and unnecessary steps.  If you find that the flow of the process passes from one organisational unit to another you may want to consider using an integrated flowchart.

I will be thinking of Morecambe and Wise the next time I’m faced with a process bottleneck or analysing the unintended effect of the interaction of two processes I had thought operated independently.

Perhaps I’ll change my mantra in the future and go from ‘What would Deming do?’ to ‘What would Eric and Ern do?’

About Susannah

Susannah_Clarke_PMI_squareSusannah Clarke is Managing Partner at Process Management International (PMI) and a specialist in the field of Executive and Performance Coaching.  Susannah has worked extensively in the learning and development sector, starting her career with NatWest Markets in the City before spending 17-years with GSK as a consultant.

In 2011 Susannah joined Oracle University as Partner Director for EMEA and in 2013 joined PMI as Managing Partner.   As co-author of ‘Implementing ISO9001:2015” she brings together more than 35 years’ experience leading, managing and consulting across different organisations.  Susannah has written several blogs and published many articles in leading process and Quality focused publications.