Forgotten milestone of a magnificent journey

I am a fan of certifications, acquiring knowledge, taking demanding exams, obtaining a certificate and then applying the knowledge. On this trip things were different, but thanks to a kind colleague I walked back for a moment, took the certificate and was very happy about it, because it gives me the rare opportunity to look back.

It’s about a journey we took as a team, and lean management was one of the orientations. We changed a lot because we wanted it that way and many good ideas emerged from outside. In 2016 we organised a training Lean Sense&Respond in Germany, because some of us found it very exciting. This is a set of methods created by Fujitsu for Service Management. But my team consists of consultants, which is probably the reason why it was so exciting.

In the coming months and years we attempted to adapt the methods for us, made mistakes, learned, stood up again, improved and failed better. And whenever you doubted yourself, there was always someone in the team who had the energy to go one more try and took you with them.

In retrospect, I can only say that adopting these methods was like a catalyst for developing a culture in a team. As an obvious example, all “concerns” (obstacles in daily work) were initially assigned to me, a normal consequence in a hierarchical system. Until we all realised that it would not work that way because it was too many points for one person. Today, team members find such obstacles and remove a lot of them by themselves, sometimes even problems from the category involving hierarchy. So basically problems that could be easily assigned to me. “We analysed the problem, worked out three solutions and made an appointment with the business unit involved. Can you please attend.”.  Yes, I am happy to attend, thanks for preparation.

Since these problem fixing actions and solutions are usually clearly structured and offer alternatives, we are much less likely to encounter a negative response than before. A team of consultants is working on many projects at the same time, so there are quite a lot of obstacles in our work, which are cleared away with a fantastic speed. Everybody in the team is motivated to tackle, so you can surely imagine what a positive influence this has on our work. Looking back, it seems to me quite stupid to pass all these obstacles through one person “the boss” as a bottleneck. So I can concentrate on the problems that lie in the hierarchy or are new territory. In other words, putting my back into the right direction.

Certain decisions that seem absolutely logical or even necessary from today’s perspective were not so clear to me at that time. The most outstanding example here, arising from the question of why we have so few female applicants (and thus team members), we were able to hire four great female consultants in a row and I am sure there will be even more in the future. Today we all know that this decision constitutes an absolute enrichment of our competence. I even believe that the biggest doubters of this undertaking have now grown into biggest fans.

Decisions in general, I just find it amusing when in a movie the heroes always do everything better than their team. Imagine chief engineer “Scotty” who fixes, improves and solves everything on the starship Enterprise as a sort of one-man-show. Even though he has technicians who stand beside their aggregates every day and are much more proficient with them. Scotty should encourage his young technicians now and then as a coach. Okay, it’s only fiction. Apart from supporting individuals, we also have the challenge of rapidly developing technology. To make predictions for the future here is wonderfully balanced in a team, more brains more guts. Sticking to decisions is a matter for the management, finding decisions in complex contexts it is better placed in expert teams.

On the topic of efficiency, which is one of the main topics of Lean, I can only report amazing things. We help and support and improve each other, we are often the swiftest and have increased overall performance many times fold. At least if you take internal and external customers as a benchmark. Here, too, a great cooperation with our service management neighbours has been established. When I read headlines today “Companies want to go back to the offices to gain back control over their employees”, I wonder as if we were living in a very different world. I don’t control, I offer my help and try to keep up with how everyone is doing. Here I would also like to thank the team, because we all look after each other. Personal crises, whether small or big, are part of our lives, we are there and stand in for each other, so that we can at least give each other some comfort here. One last sentence in order to control, if something is important to me, I work along like everyone else.

I’m just realising I’ve had a wonderful journey, I could tell you a couple more paragraphs about it. Maybe I will write on the challenges in the future. The work for all of us is not getting less, just different. Getting efficient is great, being efficient can be a burden. In any case, I thank him for the suggestion to take the “Bronze Certificate” after all. Even though we are probably already “silver” consultants somehow. We will take care of that too and I promise that this time it will not take four years. Here it is:

P.S.: If you want to know where the journey is heading. In autumn 2019 and January 2020 we did an Agile training as a team 🙂 Although I stick to the initial words, even Agile is just a way to inspire culture.

Lean: The Service Champion principle

Nowadays, so much new technology and knowledge is arising that one cannot even keep up with the latest developments in all aspects of a specialist field. This is quite a shock, to be honest. Instead of burying our heads in the sand and watching others overtaking you, instead we start running. To ensure that this doesn’t become uncoordinated, knowledge acquisition and knowledge management must be arranged in your team. This works most effectively with a Service Champion concept, which I am happy to introduce to you. Continue reading “Lean: The Service Champion principle”

Lean Management for Consultants

At Fujitsu, a Lean Management methodology called Sense&Respond® is widely used for service delivery in many areas to achieve improvements in IT operations. Some time ago I was interested in this methodology, then it became fascinating and about 2.5 years ago the idea came up to use it in my area, i.e. for presales consultants.

We are a team of Presales consultants for End User Services, which means that we are many times on the road in different projects to advise customers, to explore the business value of Workplace, to develop solutions together, to submit offers or to solve problems.

Applying Lean Management encountered two typical answers. First, “Lean is old and obsolete, why don’t you do something agile?” or second, “Lean is for production, not for consulting.

If you agree with me, I might be able to stimulate you to read (and imitate) the following keywords:

  • In the key area “Blueprints” we have increased twice as much productivity
  • We have our training 100% under control, which is a real advantage in view of the current rapid developments in the Workplace area.
  • Overtime and travel times (approx. 30% of the time) are far lower than the market average, and
  • We actually know our value as advisers to the client, which means we know what to deal with and which is trash.

The problem was indeed all lean management methodologies and testimonials revolve around products or services. Usually an ongoing manufacturing process in which the entire team has a common task. For us, only the “consulting” approach is similar, the current “business value creation” products are very different. It was therefore quite a journey to apply Lean Methodologies to our consultants. I would like to tell you about this trip in the following article, but an important warning first.

A mindset like Lean unfolds its value, in such a way that team members themselves raise potential for improvement and one responds to it together, hence the name of the method Sense&Respond: Recognize something and react appropriately to it.

If you check out our methods, please take them as an example. It could be that they are useless for your area (but of course they can be sensational). Tools and methods are a construction kit that has to be adapted. Methods must not be a meaningless extra work, rather they must have a value.

Lean Management is a journey with errors and insights, I cannot switch it on by a switch or delegate it to a quality team. So you are warned.

My team is spread all over Germany, that actually worked quite well in the past, but the spatial distribution is not exactly conducive for the introduction of Lean Sense&Respond. For the first steps like defining the mission it took us a long time and the first problem Solving Sessons lasted forever. In fact, small sub-groups are responsible for speeding up the process, preparing and coordinating a measure for the most part. The preparing steps may seem like fulfilling a duty, but they create a sound shared understanding.

The most noticeable breakthrough for me was Quality Function Deployment (QFD). We asked our internal and external customers what they really wanted from us and why. So what do you want from a presales team, not what do you want from the services we help to sell. We already knew many of the points we found, but the QFD has put them in the right priority, also points have come out that serve for our further development. For example, customers prefer to have their costs reflected 1:1 on their cost center structures. The disadvantage, however, is that such a procedure changes the given price sheets. But this suggestion is absolutely vailde, because only so costs can be avoided really effectively. From the QFD we have created a set of orientation rules and consulting know-how, which allow us to estimate procedures well and also contain some No-Gos.

We have restructured our weekly virtual team meeting, this is now facilitated in turn and successes, such as concerns (Concerns) structured. Follow-up activities are derived from concerns that address the team or the organization. This can be a problem solving session, for example. The most important thing that has emerged is mutual responsibility.

When we started Sense&Respond I drowned in Concerns that were assigned to me. On the one hand because we are the first presales team at Fujitsu, i.e. our neighbours in the organisation didn’t know about it, on the other hand because we didn’t fully understand the mandate which Lean gives to each one of us and haven’t yet accepted the responsibility for it.

I have to admit that I was always uncertain during the whole journey to our own quality improvement toolbox. Many of the methods and procedures we invented turned out to be useless in version 1.0 after a few months. They started to smell like bureaucracy, were annoying or information graves. We have sharpened our methods for the third time in the last 2.5 years. Some of them were actually only polished up because they had forgotten over time that this method is valuable and others were completely rebuilt or thrown overboard. In general, one can say whenever we create a new methodology or approach: It typically takes a year or a redesign to get everyone’s fun going.

After months of experience with Sense&Respond, the main result is a team that works closely together to address shortcomings, improve quality and promote efficiency. Even if this has always been a very stressful time for an organisation and its clients. My team already was a great team, but now we have a deep understanding of our added values and shortcomings. We promote the added values, help each other with our imperfections, and that much more naturally than before.

I started this blog post as the beginning of a small series, because I am sure that lean methodologies will have a long future with us in the team and can also inspire other consulting teams. I will be happy to tell you more details here, but I will also be happy to talk to you at any time.