Are you going to be conducting, facilitating, or participating in a Process Walk? Join us for this 1-hour Introductory Webinar to learn and understand what will happen during a Process Walk as well as set expectations, establish ground rules, and understand the what and how of Process Walks.
- The Definition of a Process Walk
- The Purpose of Conducting a Process Walk
- Process Walk Ground Rules
- How to Conduct a Process Walk
Hey, everyone. Welcome to GoLeanSixSigma.com’s webinar. Thanks for spending some of your quality time with us. We’re really excited that you’re here with us today. And Lean and Six Sigma are the go-to improvement methods used by lots of organizations all over the world to minimize cost, maximize profits, and develop better teams all while creating happier customers.
So hopefully, one of those applies to you. And every month, we are crafting webinars just for our global audience and our learner community and our goal is to really simplify the concepts and tools of Lean and Six Sigma so you can understand them and apply them more easily.
Our Expert: Tracy
So today’s webinar is Process Walk Orientation for Participants. I’m Tracy O’Rourke. I’m the Managing Partner at GoLeanSixSigma.com and I will be your presenter today. We normally have Elisabeth Swan joining us today but unfortunately, she is serving customers. So that’s a good thing. And I’m on my own for today. So I hope you don’t mind although I really enjoy having her with me.
So here’s a little bit about me. I’ve been in the industry over 20 years. I started at GE Appliances when Jack Welch was there. I was a Black Belt and I helped basically GE customers apply process improvement to their organizations. So if anyone had an interest in learning about Six Sigma back in the ‘90s, I would fly to their organization, tell them a little bit about Six Sigma, and then if they were interested in applying it, I would help them apply it.
So I was their free consultant, paid for by GE Appliances. And it was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed it. And that’s when I decided that I wanted to do this for the rest of my life. Well, I didn’t really say it was the rest of my life at that time but now, I really enjoy it. I love what I do and I’m really glad that it’s so interesting still 20 years later.
So I’m also an instructor at UCSD and San Diego State University here in San Diego and I teach the Lean Enterprise Program at San Diego State and I teach the Lean Six Sigma Green Belt courses at UCSD. So that’s a little bit about me. And I live again like I said here in San Diego with my two boys, 14 and 9 and my husband.
How to Interact
So a few housekeeping things before we get started. So first of all during this webinar, all attendees will be in listen-only mode. And at the end of the presentation, we’ll have question and answer session so please feel free to ask questions at any time by entering the question in the question area of the webinar. We’ll also ask you to participate in some polls. And if we don’t answer your questions during the webinar, we’ll be sure to post all of the answers as well as the recording of the webinar and most importantly, the slides because most people do want the slides from the webinar. So those will all be posted on the GoLeanSixSigma.com website.
So first, we’re going to ask you to interact. This will be your first activity. And what we would like to know is, where are you from? So, go ahead and type in the question window where are you from. I’d love to see where everybody is joining us today and how late people are staying up.
So we have people from Montreal, Quebec. I’ve been there, Jeremy. I love it there. It’s beautiful. North America. John, that is really broad. But OK, I’ll take it. Utah. Elizabethtown, Kentucky. Serbia. LA. Gurnee, Illinois. Indianapolis. Vancouver.
The land of pleasant living is what Bob has said. Well, I’m really glad you feel that way, Bob. I wonder where that is. I’m sure there are lots of places that are pleasant. And we’re happy that you’re here.
Gulfport. Toronto. Portland. Long Beach. San Antonio, Texas. Indiana. Alaska. Illinois.
It’s 2:00 PM here. Thank you, Melody. And I actually have a San Diego on the line as well. Lots of different people. Thank you very much for joining us today. I really appreciate it. So why don’t we go ahead and get started?
Who Is GoLeanSixSigma.com?
So just a little bit about GoLeanSixSigma.com, hopefully, this is not your first experience with GoLeanSixSigma.com because I’m really excited about what we’re trying to do. We’re really trying to make it easy for everyone everywhere to build their problem-solving muscles. We provide practical, easy to understand, enjoyable resources for Lean and Six Sigma for learning an application. We really believe that simplifying complex concepts are important and that complexity just confuses people. So we believe that effective training is practical, accessible, and fun.
So, we hope that you maybe go through the Yellow Belt training. It takes place at the Bahama Bistro. You get to go to Bahamas for Yellow Belt training and Green Belt. So, I hope you enjoy if you haven’t already.
We’ve Helped People From…
Here are some of the people that we have helped. And you can see that there are lots of diverse organizations here that come to GoLeanSixSigma.com, brick and mortar, online, local, small companies to large, global companies, and there are lots of diverse industries here such as healthcare, financial services, manufacturing, and state government.
And why? Because organizations never run out of problems to solve and people really need, organizations actually need people that are good at problem solving. So hopefully, that’s why you’re here too.
Because organizations never run out of problems to solve and people really need, organizations actually need people that are good at problem solving.
So we’re going to discuss something very important today. This is actually one of my most favorite things because I really see the power in process walks. And today’s agenda really process walk orientation for participants and we’re really hoping that if you’re going to be participating in a process walk, this is something that you would be able to view and have a better understanding of what process walks are, what they can do for you, what the purpose is, how the process walk will be conducted or should be conducted, and then some ground rules. And also, we’ll talk a little bit about some of the interview sheets, which is an important part of doing the walk.
So those are the things that we’re going to be covering in this webinar. And hopefully the idea is that you’ll learn more about what you can expect as you participate in a process walk.
All Work Is a Process
So first of all, what’s a process? It’s not a dumb question. It is an important question. And the way we define a process is it’s basically a series of steps or actions that create a product or deliver a service.
All work is a process, from tying your shoes to baking a cake to getting to the airplane gate or getting your lunch burrito. These are all works of the process. And we all work in processes. You may be processing an application. You might be fulfilling a lunch order. You might be building a product or delivering a service. But at some point in your day-to-day work, you’re probably participating in one or more processes in your organization.
So what if the process isn’t working very well? Have you ever had that happened? Have you ever had a time where maybe you were stuck in process as a customer? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been stuck at the TSA line or at the airport waiting to get to what I really want to get to. And I didn’t really mean to just TSA. Sorry about that. But it’s frustrating. I’m sure some of you have been there.
Or maybe you’ve been a defect in someone’s process, and that might be on the phone with a financial organization or other where you’re actually stuck in an automated call answering loop that seems infinite. And so, those are very frustrating for us as customers. And there are lots or opportunity out there still for processes gone awry. Things that could be improved and often customers can have that experiences with that.
So sometimes though, it’s also painful for the people that work in the process. And so, that’s where it’s really important to have process improvement because if it’s not working very well, what can you do to make it better?
Why Process Improvement
So what is process improvement? I really like to say, process improvement is any time that you work on the process versus working in the process. And working in the process is different than working on improving the process.
So why is this important? Well, many people are hired because they’re very good at their jobs and their work. But sometimes we definitely need to step out of the work and the process that we work in to look at it, observe it, observe why something is not working, and try to improve it.
And this is an entirely different set of skills. It’s different than the subject matter expertise that people are hired for typically. These are skills that are important to build, the skills of process observation, problem-solving, and root cause analysis. And this is really what GoLeanSixSigma.com helps people learn.
But it’s really important to build those skills as well. And we really need to spend time working on the processes as well. Sometimes these processes are very painful. And how we do actually spend the time working on it together to make it better?
Making Time for Process Improvement
So if you’re actually scheduled to participate in a process walk, the good news is someone has made time for you to work on the process and you’re not working in the process typically at the same time. And it’s really important, this is a really important part, sometimes we just don’t make time for process improvement. I hear that a lot actually.
I hear a lot of people wherever we go say, “Oh, we don’t really have time to work on the process. I don’t have time to – I’m too busy with the work I have to do.” And that’s unfortunate because there are sometimes can be things that need to be addressed in a process and if we don’t allow people to work on the process, they get just get more and more frustrated.
And ultimately, we’re wasting people’s time and valuable resources of the organization because people are the biggest asset of an organization. And we’re really wasting their most valuable asset because their employees are basically doing wasteful steps in poorly designed processes particularly.
What if we still had square wheels today? That would be – so obviously, process improvement has been happening a long time even the cavemen did process improvement. And so, I like this example because we all should make time for process improvement. We don’t just want to say, “Oh, we’re too busy doing the work.”
And there’s a side benefit to this as well. The side benefit is that you’re strengthening the problem-solving muscles of everyone that’s participating in the process walk. You have employees who haven’t flexed these muscles in a long time or sometimes have never flexed these problem-solving muscles in this way from a process perspective.
And so ultimately, this could be sometimes one of the reasons why organizations implement process improvement. They want people to build their problem-solving muscles because ultimately, that is definitely an asset for an organization to have an entire organization of problem-solvers, people that can look at processes, identify root causes and implement solutions to do it. So ultimately, it’s good for the organization, it’s good for the individual as long as we make the time to do it.
What Is a Process Walk?
So, let’s talk a little bit about what a process walk is first of all. So a process walk is actually physically walking the process that the thing goes through. So it’s sometimes called a Gemba walk. Gemba in Japanese means go to where the work occurs.
And so, what you physically are doing is you’re actually pretending you are the thing. You’re pretending you’re the thing and you’re going to see what happens to the thing in this process, who does it go to? How many people touch it? What do they do to this thing? And so ultimately, that is what the walk is doing.
And ideally, the people that do the process are the people that participate in the walk. So it’s two-fold. Not only are you walking the process to see what happens to it but at some point, you’re going to sit down and explain what you do to the thing when it gets to your step in the process. So I think people get that confused sometimes. Sometimes they think, “Oh, we’re just going to interview all the people in the process.” But they forget to invite them.
So ultimately, the people that walk the process are the ones that are participating in the process. They actually work in the process. And the idea here is that you’re really trying to build profound knowledge of the current state of the process. What is happening today? What is the process today? And in order to do that, you got to talk to the subject matter experts. We call them SMEs, those that actually do the process.
The big proponent of Lean is – the principle of Lean is, involve the people that do the work. And this is a great example of when those people would be involved.
And ideally again, you’re trying to build profound knowledge of the current state. A lot of people think that they’re walking a process to brainstorm solutions. That’s a little premature. You might have some ideas. Write them down. But that’s not the purpose per se of the process walk.
The purpose of the process walk is to really understand the current state of the process. Then later after the walk, once you guys talk about it as a team, you’ll identify solutions and implement them later.
So we have a poll for you first of all. And that poll is, have you participated in a process walk before? And here are some of the responses. And I’m going to go ahead and launch the poll and then just go ahead and answer it.
So we have:
A. Yes, and it was a good experience.
B. Yes, but it could have gone better.
C. Yes, but it was not a good experience.
D. No, not yet.
So I’m really anxious to see this. When I facilitate process walks, obviously, I’m pretty mindful of how the walk is prepared. But I have heard of not such great experiences with the process walk. And ultimately, that’s unfortunate because it really should be fun. It should actually be enjoyable, insightful, and you should feel like you’re collaborating with your team. OK?
So I’m going to go ahead and close the poll. And basically what it says is, we have a time, 36% said it was a good experience. Yes, they’ve done one and it was a good experience. 36% said, “Yes, it could have gone better.”
I’m really happy to hear that only 5% of you said that it was not a good experience. I apologize. I’m sorry about that. It should be a good experience actually. And so, I always try to figure out what happened, what went wrong with that experience because it should be good.
And then 23% of you said, “No, not yet.”
So thank you for sharing. And that is very interesting. So hopefully, participating or listening to this orientation will help with moving forward with some of those things.
Some Processes Are Invisible
So let’s talk a little bit about why, why process walks are important, and what’s being accomplished? So one of the very first reasons why a process walk is important is because number one, some processes are invisible. So some of you are maybe in what I would call non-manufacturing process or service processes or transactional process. So it’s very difficult actually to see what the process is because you can’t see it. It’s invisible. It’s in people’s computers.
So do you – when you look at this picture, do you see a process? It’s very different than a manufacturing process. If you walk on to a plant floor, you actually see the process right in front of you. You see the products being made. You see where the scrap is piling up or where there might be a defect or where a machine is stopped and it’s broken and it’s being fixed. Those are all very visible.
In nonmanufacturing, you can’t see the process. How do you when something is not working? Well, the bad part is, usually, one of these people in these cubicles blows a gasket because their process is painful. They’re the bottleneck or they’re very frustrated. And so – and we all look at this person and say, “What’s wrong with them?” Why can’t they do their job?
So it’s unfortunate because it could be that the process is designed to bottleneck right where that person sits. And that person gets blamed for being the bottleneck. How many of you have been a bottleneck before in somebody’s process? It is no fun. So, that’s one of the reasons why we do the walk because that’s one way to make the process visible and you can see the process, see what’s happening, see who touches this, see where the hand-offs are, see what people are putting in the information.
So, that’s one of the reasons why we do the walk because that’s one way to make the process visible and you can see the process, see what’s happening, see who touches this, see where the hand-offs are, see what people are putting in the information.
Process Design Becomes…
And if you can’t see the process, you can’t – you have to imagine what could happen. Sometimes what ends up happening is the process gets designed like this over time. Your process becomes very convoluted, very complex. There’s an excessive processing happening. This is very unfortunate.
And so, when you look at this picture, what does that make you think of? Does it make you think of a process that you work in or maybe you inherited a process that feels like this? Or maybe people yell at you all the time because the process is designed this way but you’re just working the process.
I’m a big believer that people that work in the process are the biggest victims of poor process design. But unfortunately, we blame them.
And so really, is it somebody’s fault that this process is designed the way it is? No, not really. I mean most of the people that work in this process are victims. Sometimes people can’t even – they don’t even have the power to change it because they’ve been told that they’re not allowed to which is even worse. They can’t even fix their terrible predicament.
Edward Deming said that 90% of the problem is the way the process is designed and only 10% are the time it’s the people in the process. And unfortunately, we tend to blame people 90% of the time and look at the process 10% of the time. And that’s really unfortunate.
So let me ask you a question. If you put a good person in a bad process, which will win? Will it be the process or the person? Well unfortunately, typically it is the process that wins. And so, we can’t really blame the people because if they have to go through this process to get it done, they’re going to fall down. It’s going to be painful.
Processes Are Like Junk Drawers
I like to use the analogy of a junk drawer too for processes. And what I mean by that is processes are like junk drawers. If you don’t clean them out every once in a while, you get stuck with a bunch of stuff you don’t need. And so, processes need to be cleaned out every once in a while too. And it’s really easy to just add stuff in processes surprisingly but it’s much harder to move stuff out or eliminate stuff out of the process. And get rid of the things that we no longer need.
It’s funny, how many of you have seen processes that are automated but then you discovered that the paper process still exists? It’s still happening. Because for whatever reason, people just keep it whether it’s a CYA or just nobody told them they were supposed to turn it off too. So a lot of times, you might see things like that. So think of process improvement as spring cleaning your processes.
And so ultimately, that’s what we’re really doing. And the nice thing is, with the process walk, that’s the start of it. You get to see the process the way it is today.
Every Process Has Four Versions
So another reason why process walks are really important and what it can do for you is process walks or improving processes can be pretty challenging because every process has four versions: what you think it is, what it really is, what it should be, and what it could be.
And the issue and you probably heard or seen this happen too is people try to fix processes and they don’t actually know how the process is running right now. They’ll go and make changes to a process without really understanding what the process is – what’s happening in the process today.
And so ultimately, people are often operating under this green, the top left, what you think it is and they are then fixing the process. But before you can change a process, everybody needs to be in the top right. What is really happening in the process today? What’s really happening?
And it’s very surprising. Most often, people have been working in the process for years and they still learn something new because they didn’t know somebody did it a certain way or this new change happened. It down streamed in the process.
So the goal of the process walk is to move everybody from green to the pink, from what you think it is to what it really is. So those are ultimately – that’s the process – one of the biggest goals of a process walk.
So some people will ask me, “What’s this what it should be and what’s this what it could be?” What it should be is procedure, the written down procedure that sometimes people don’t follow. And I would also recommend not bringing it on the process walk because we don’t want to know what it should be. We want to know what’s really happening. And if you bring the procedure with you and you ask people, “Do you do this this way?” What do you think they’re going to say? Yup.
Again, this is not a gotcha moment. That is not the goal of a process walk. We’re not trying to catch people doing something wrong. We just want to understand what’s happening. And it’s really important to make sure that that is the context of the process walk. We are not here to go, “Aha! I saw you did it wrong.” That’s not the goal.
And then what it could be is future state. You might actually get to walk it and realized it’s the top right. Wow! Look at all those steps. And then later as you guys work together, you might design a future state. And wouldn’t it be cool if it were only three boxes? That would be awesome.
So having four versions can make it challenging to really see a process and that’s why the process walk is so important.
Vertical vs. Horizontal View
And then the last thing that the process walk will do that I’ll mention today is process walks are really eye-opening, and I hear that comment all the time from people that do process walks because we manage people vertically. We have people in departments that report to their boss and we manage people by function. We manage people vertically is what I say.
And unfortunately, that can create what we call silos. So we may not have a great communication with other departments and so we manage people vertically but the thing is, these processes are horizontal. They work across departments across functions. And sadly, we don’t get a lot of visibility to that horizontal flow very often.
So when you do a process walk and you are walking across functions or departments, it could be really eye-opening. As a matter of fact, I’ve had people say to me, “I’m so excited to do this process walk. I’ve worked in this process for 20 years, I still don’t know what department 3 does.” And again, they are interested in learning and understanding.
And when you walk across departments, what ends up happening is you start to see the redundancies. You start to see what people are doing. And you know what else? You also see what the pain people are going through.
And so, it really – the process walk does a great job of seeing the horizontal process flow but it also helps people see what people are going through. And that gets people on the same page. It’s kind of a team builder even I would say because the empathy does increase. People sometimes are mad at certain departments and then they see what they go through and they’re like, “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry that it’s your process. That’s horrible.”
So it can really help people see what people are going through in the process and it really does raise a little bit of empathy about gosh, how do we make this better in general for everyone? So that could be a really nice benefit of the process walk. And again like I said, some people never had the chance to walk the process from start to finish.
Build a Shared Understanding
So I think one of biggest benefits of the process walk is to build a shared understanding of the current state of the process. Kind of like when you go see a movie together. You actually get to experience the movie together. And I like using this analogy for a process walk because I think the important point about a process walk is you want to see the whole process together. You don’t want to break it up.
And 80% of the time, people will go, “Why don’t we just break up and then you sell this part of the process and I’ll go see this part of the process and then we’ll reconvene after.” That sounds really efficient but it’s not as effective.
It’s sort of like saying, “OK, you see the first half of the movie and I’ll see the second half of the movie and then we’ll reconvene after.” It just doesn’t work. They need to go together. You need to see the whole process together. Don’t break up the process into pieces. And that’s where the ahas come from. So you’re actually limiting people’s ability to see the whole thing if you do that. So make sure you walk it together.
I just have a really quick story about this. So I think sometimes when there’s conflict between departments, they don’t want to invite the other department, “No, I don’t want to invite them.” And so, what are you going to do? Go around them? That doesn’t work. You got to invite them. You have – you really want this to be a shared experience.
The reason why there’s conflict is because there’s a possibility that you just don’t understand what’s happening in the process. Neither department has empathy or understanding of what’s happening.
So I actually did a process walk in an insurance company, and it was the Credit Department. They are really having issues with this process of getting new customer setup. And they did not want to invite the people just ahead of them, which was the Inside Sales Group. They said, “No, we don’t want to invite them.” They really didn’t want to interact with them. As little as possible was the sense that I got.
And so I said, “No, this person, you need a representative from this group. If you really want to do a process walk the right way, they need to participate.” So literally, it was touch and go. Two days before this event was supposed to happen and they reached out and guess what? They didn’t want to come either. I go, “Great.”
Well, it ended up being a good experience for both sides. The Credit Department actually discovered how painful their 21-page form was for Inside Sales people to complete and they ended up reducing it to 4 pages. And the Inside Sales person discovered when certain pieces of information was missing, how much pain it cost the Credit Department and the customer. And so, they saw what they were doing to each other basically and they felt bad about it.
And it was funny. At one point in this event, this Inside Sales person said, “I can’t believe you guys haven’t killed me yet.” And this person in the Credit group said, “Well, we’ve been trying. Trust me.”
So it was a good learning. And guess what? The relationship was starting to mend I believe as part of the process walk because it was focused on the process and not the people. It wasn’t about hating other people. It was really around seeing what people have to go through as part of the process. So, I would encourage you to do the walk and to do it together.
Benefits of a Process Walk
So there are lots of benefits to a process walk as you can already see. Not only is it making the process visible as what I’ve shared and also confirms and busts assumptions, but you also gain an understanding of the whole process. And you really get to see what you didn’t know before.
So there are lots of benefits to a process walk as you can already see. Not only is it making the process visible as what I’ve shared and also confirms and busts assumptions, but you also gain an understanding of the whole process.
Often, we hear, “I didn’t realize we did it that way. Or I didn’t realize we do the same thing. Or when did we start doing it that way?” Even seasoned people would say stuff like that. So those are some of the things that – are some of the benefits of the process walk.
Process Walk Ground Rules
So, one of the things that is going to happen is if you’ve never participated in a process walk, there are some of you that haven’t done it, it’s really important to enforce what I call the ground rules of process walks. And the facilitator should really be helping do this. And these are really important and you really do need a skilled facilitator, someone that’s not afraid to make sure that people are following the ground rules.
I have actually had to ask people not to participate anymore because they were not following the rules. They were being disrespectful. They were very interrogative. They were leading the witness, if you will, asking questions and asking them in a way that wasn’t very respectful.
And so, that wasn’t good for the group. It wasn’t good for the context and the environment of the process walk. And I had to ask them not to participate. That doesn’t happen very often. In the years that I’ve been doing this, I’ve actually had to ask two people to leave, which is not very many people. Most people will abide by these ground rules.
So, I’m just going to review them really quickly. I always say and many people that do process walks will say, “Focus on the process, not the people.” It’s not about you. It’s not about what you’re doing wrong. It’s not about, are you working hard enough. It’s really around the steps that you have to go through and everybody else in the process because we really do believe that people that work in the process are the biggest victims of poor process design. That’s what we’re after.
And so, people should feel safe. They should actually feel not like the fingers are coming out pointing at them. That it’s a blame-free environment where they can really tell – say, “Well, let me tell you what’s really wrong with this process.” Because that’s really the goal, and most people would not do that in the environment today because they don’t feel safe or it’s a high-blame organization or environment.
So the goal around the process walk is focus on the process, not the people. Maintain a blame-free environment. And a little further down it says, “Finger-pointing has no place.” And that is correct.
I also like to remind people that are doing the walk, you’re a student of this process. You’re here to learn, to listen, to observe, and really understand the current state of the process. And again, sometimes people just jump to solution. They want to solve, solve, solve, which tells me that you’re not listening. You’re not listening to what the process is today if you’re already in solution and you think you already know how to make it better.
So, be a student. Have the framework and the mindset of a student learning about the process. Be respectful of all parties involved.
So again, I mentioned this already, is when people are speaking, let them finish. Don’t interrupt them. Save your questions for the end. Let them finish explaining their process to you. So ask questions the way a student would ask questions.
Be empathetic. So as I said – it says right here in the ground rules, process workers are the biggest victims of poor process design. I actually haven’t seen that as an issue when the process is very painful, I think people naturally become very empathetic for each other. So that’s good.
So stay engaged. Seek to learn. Ask questions. Sometimes in my experience as a facilitator, sometimes people feel like, “Oh, this isn’t that important to me. I’m going to check out.” You’re missing opportunities to learn. And if you’re not engaged, you’re going to miss redundancies. You’re going to miss steps in the process or opportunities.
Another ground rule, rank has no privilege. So again, there are no decisions happening right now. There are no solutions to be implements as part of the process walk. So actually rank doesn’t have that much credence over this process because we’re just here to understand what’s happening. We’re here to understand what’s going on.
I will say this though. Sometimes we are interviewing someone in the process and the supervisor talks over the person who is being interviewed. And so, I do have to remind people to let the person talk and explain their process. And again, if the supervisor is not doing the work, sometimes they know – they have an idea of what they think the process is and the process workers actually doing it. So they know how it’s actually happening. So that’s just something to point out as we see that a lot in process walks. People explain a process of how they think it is but that’s really not how it is.
And lastly, very important, do not correct the interviewees during the walk. So that goes for anybody walking the process as well as their manager. Sometimes a supervisor is in there and they correct the interviewee.
Why do you think that is a ground rule? So I’m not saying don’t correct them ever. I’m just saying don’t do it now. Don’t do it during the process walk because if you correct them, first of all, it’s embarrassing, number one, in front of a group of people. And number two, how open do you think they’re going to be about their process if they’re getting corrected all the time?
So we really need to see how this process is going and correcting them isn’t – that doesn’t provide the framework to do that. And I’m just going to share another really quick story about when this happens.
So, I was in a hospital. We were walking a process. We were interviewing an administrative assistant to a doctor, and she was walking us through this process. Now remember, I know nothing about this process we’re walking. My job was to make sure people are following the ground rules for the process walk.
And again, they knew this was one of the ground rules, don’t correct interviewees. So she is talking. She is explaining her process. It seemed fine to me. But at one moment that we were interviewing this person, four people looked at me with this really big eyes like, “Uh-oh, something happened.” And I’m thinking, “What happened?” They weren’t saying anything. They were just looking at me. And I said, “Write it down.” I did this motion with my hand like, “Write it down. Write it down.”
So after we’ve interviewed her, we went back to the room to debrief and they said, “Well, we actually just saw this administrative assistant make a clinical decision. She actually made a decision that she really actually isn’t allowed to make and it was really the doctor that should be making it.”
And so come to find out, she did not know. She was fairly new. She worked for a doctor who wasn’t around very much and she was trying to help him and she didn’t realize that what she was doing was a clinical decision.
So again, she was corrected but not at that moment because we really need to see the whole process. And is it really her fault? Maybe not. It could be that the doctor never told her. There are lots of reasons why that might be happening.
So anyway, we design the future state and she was brought in. And later, she was told that this was actually part of the doctor’s role. And she goes, “Oh, OK. That makes sense.” So it was fine. And so, that is an example of not correcting interviewees during the walk because we really want to understand the current state.
OK. So I have another poll for you. And this poll is, now that we’ve just reviewed the ground rules, which of these do you think are most frequently tested? I’m going to go ahead and launch it. And you tell me, which of these, focusing on the process, meaning frequently tested meaning they don’t follow it. So they’re not following it. Which of these ground rules do you think are most often broken? I guess is a better way to say it.
That people don’t focus on the process. They focus on people.
That rank comes in and tells everybody what’s going to happen and here’s how it’s going to down.
That interviewees are corrected during the walk.
Or, that people aren’t a student of the process.
Which one do you think it is? Interesting. I can’t wait to see what’s happening here. I’m just going to wait a little longer. OK. Very interesting.
So, I’m going to close the poll and share the results. OK. So, 39%, people say focus on the process not the people. And then that is followed by be a student of the process. Then do not correct the interviewees during the walk, 23%. And rank has no privilege, 14%.
So I have to say, you are correct. So 39%, that actually does happen a lot. As a matter of fact, when I show up sometimes for a process walk, sometimes people make it a point to come early to talk with me and often, people will say, “But what if it is the person, Tracy? What do we do if it really is the person?” Because we so believe that it’s their fault that we can’t actually get away from that. We go, “It is the person though.”
OK. So yes, it’s true. Sometimes it is the person. Sometimes they need more training. Sometimes they’re new. Sometimes they’re difficult, whatever it is. But many times, it is the way the process is designed. And if it really is a process issue, that is not a for process improvement anyway. That is for management and HR.
So, the idea around process improvement is if we really want to try to improve the process, we need to focus on the process. So you guys are absolutely right. Thank you. We do have – and so, this is the one you got to look for the most is the blame game. People really believing it’s about the process and not people. And so, this is why a lot of this orientation is around that is, don’t blame people. Give people the benefit of the doubt. It’s not about the people. It’s about the process. So good job there.
I’m going to hide the results and we’ll continue. So, a couple of other things that I’m just going to briefly cover that will be covered during the process walk.
So, one of the other things that we have people look for are the 8 wastes. So these are the 8 wastes. Hopefully, you’ve seen the 8 wastes already. I’m not going to spend a lot of time during this webinar explaining it. But often, we will have people look for ways in the process. Are there defects occurring? Is there a waiting occurring? Are we producing more than what is needed?
So sometimes having a poster handy of the 8 wastes is helpful. If you want to learn more about the 8 wastes, you are welcome to sign up for our free Yellow Belt training online and it goes through the 8 wastes in much detail. But it could be really helpful to see wastes together as a group where waste is happening in the process.
Process Walk Interview Sheet
So often during the orientation, we also will review what we call the process walk interview sheets. So everyone – so I give this out to everybody that’s participating in the walk and I’d give them out in advance. So I want absolute transparency for everyone about what we’re going to be doing. It’s not a secret. Remember, it’s not a gotcha moment. It’s not to catch people doing something wrong. It is really to understand the process.
So you’ll notice – so this is a form. I’ll explain this first. It’s a form. You basically would fill out a form for each step in the process. So if you have eight steps in the process, you would actually as an interviewee or a process walker, you would have eight of these interview sheets filled out.
Now, some people sometimes will interview more than one person for the same steps. So let’s say you interview ten people eight steps, you’d still have eight sheets. So it’s really designed to be one sheet per step in the process. And every individual gets to actually can take the notes.
But you’ll notice that a lot of these questions on here, they’re not about how hard do you work. They’re not about how often do you screw up. These are all process-related and a lot of it is to identify and see how long things are taking for a process perspective. It should not be to say, “Oh, well, how long does it take you to do this? Roughly, how long does it take to complete one of these?” It’s not necessarily geared towards a specific person.
So there is going to be some variation in people’s responses. I hand it down in advance. I hand it down in advance so that people can really understand what we’re going to be talking to.
So this is a blank sheet. It’s free on our website. So you can download it and print them and give them out. So again, if you have eight steps in the process and eight people are walking it, every person on the walk should get eight sheets. So that’s what? Sixty-four sheets that you’re going to be doing, that you’re going to be handing out.
And this just shows an example of what it would look like completed. Obviously, this would not be typed but they would be handwritten in. Often, we hand out clipboards so people have something to write on.
And so again, you write who you’re interviewing, what the step number is and the name of the step and then fill out the questions. Again, you don’t have to ask every single question. Often, I will ask about certain questions especially for nonmanufacturing around lead time and process time and wait time and I’ll explain that in just a moment, but you can see that you’ve got data here.
How many people work on this step? And again, because sometimes what we find out is sometimes people get pulled away from a job and they’re supposed to have three people working on this half time and you really find out that only one person is allocated and they’re trying to do the work of three others or two others. And so, is it their fault? No!
So again, identifying where there’s a shared resource or how much time people are spending on this in terms of their availability is important. Again, not directed towards them really, just management of the process and the work in that step.
You’ll notice below that these Post-its gets filled out sometimes too. These are ahas that people have about the process. You might say, “Oh wow! I didn’t know she works through lunch or she – it takes seven hours to complete this. I didn’t realize there was a batch that happens overnight that they can’t do anything.”
So these are just things you discover, highlights of things that you identify during the walk. And we put them there.
Lead Time Example
So, I always talk about the definitions of lead time because again, this is something that we’re collecting. This is information that does help us build a map later, a value stream map in particular. But the three things that I like to explain is the difference between work time, wait time, and lead time.
So we typically will get this information for every step in the process and it’s really interesting because again, like one of the ways we know exists a lot in nonmanufacturing processes is waiting. The thing is waiting. It’s just waiting a long time.
So I like to use the example of getting a kitchen remodel to explain the definitions. And I don’t know, this might be painful for you. I don’t know if any of you have had a kitchen remodel out there. But work time is the time that the person who is remodeling your kitchen is there and billing you for that time. So it’s the actual work time. They’re there in the kitchen. They’re putting in the cabinets or installing the countertops or whatever it is.
The wait time is the time during the job that nothing is being worked on. You’re waiting for the cabinets. You’re waiting for your faucet. You’re waiting for the countertops. You’re waiting for, I don’t know, whatever it is. You’re waiting. Because they might say three months but you know that he’s not going to be living with you guys for three months.
So the lead time is how long your life was completely disrupted before the job was finished. So that’s what we call the total elapsed time. That is lead time. Lead time is work time plus wait time.
So what we’re doing is we want to capture these for every step of the process. Work time is also known as touch time. And that’s I think in this next page with the definitions. So process time is also known as touch time, also known as work time. So there are lots of names for it.
But I like to say when you pick this item up, this application, you’re actually touching it and processing. You’re doing something to it. How long does it take to put this application into the system? They might say 15 minutes. But it might be 3 days waiting until they have time to do that. And they might be waiting on someone else. They might be waiting on a signature. They might be waiting for approval. There are lots of reasons why it’s waiting. It’s not the person’s fault necessarily.
So again, that’s also important to make people know is wait time doesn’t mean you’re not doing your job. It just means the thing is waiting. That’s how the process is designed right now. And so, that’s important for us to know.
So, we’re typically capturing process time, again, known as test time or work time. Wait time and lead time for every step in the process, and that could be really eye-opening.
I will give you an example. So I did some work with LA County, the Register Recorder County Clerk. And if you needed to get a birth certificate by mail, we actually map this process. They have a very large county. They get lots of applications by mail, thousands of applications by mail for birth certificates or marriage certificates or what have you.
And when we map this process, we discovered that the customer was really at this time waiting eight weeks, roughly eight weeks to get their certificate back in the mail. And of that eight weeks, six hours was work time or process time. So that was – that just shocked them.
So basically what that said is that it took eight weeks to do six hours of work. And of course, again, we’re not trying to make it look bad. I think people even said, “Well, but we’re working. We’re working the whole time.” No, no. I get it. That’s right. There’s just the process is designed to have a lot of wait time in it.
So this was actually a quick fix. It didn’t take them very long to redesign the process to eliminate the wait time. And they were able to deliver these birth certificates within the same week, three weeks later. So that was huge. Getting that aha from the process walk and seeing how long the thing was waiting and then they redesign the workflow to make sure that they eliminated the waiting was huge. And customers felt it right away too. So that’s what we mean by process time, wait time, and lead time.
And then we have a number of items in the inbox. So this also tells us if things are getting backed up. And then also collecting what percent of the time are you receiving information complete and accurate to do the job? Because what we find sometimes is sometimes people are not getting things complete and they have to spend a lot of time getting all that information and then waiting for that information to come back to them correctly. So that can be an issue too.
And again, we’re not saying it’s anybody’s fault. It’s what’s happening in the process today. And that’s good to know because then we can collectively work together on what has to be complete and accurate and at what time.
I’ll share a really quick story about that, is the example I shared earlier which was the Credit and Inside Sales example, they were sending a 21-page form to an Inside Sales person to figure out. And basically, their percent complete and accurate was really low. But what they ended up doing was instead of just saying, “No, you have to fill this 21-page document out,” they basically said, “Well, do we really need everything on this document? I mean is this really absolutely necessary?” And that’s when they decided that they were going to streamline the form.
And so, they got it down to four pages and guess what? Percent complete and accurate went up too. So it doesn’t necessarily always mean that you’re going to force people to still use whatever it is. Sometimes there are lots of ways to try to improve percent complete and accurate.
During Process Walks
And so, just a couple last reminders about process walks to think through and be mindful of do not divide and conquer – stay together. Think of that movie. You’re looking for a shared experience. Everybody should see the process at the same time and see the whole process.
Also, people are going to have a lot of variability in the lead times and the cycle times that they want to give you, and I would say, record what happens 80% of the time. 80% of the time, how long does this step take from when you receive it to when you hand it off to the next person in line is the lead time.
And then focus on building profound knowledge and hold off brainstorming solutions because again, that means you’re already trying to solve something while you’re learning about it. And so just write those down but don’t necessarily vocalize them just yet.
Today We Covered
So that brings us to the end of our webinar today. And ultimately, what we covered was what a process walk is, the purpose for doing it, how they’re conducted, the ground rules, and the interview sheets. So I really hope that you found this to be helpful. Hopefully, that you have a better idea of what to expect when you’re doing a process walk.
So, we’re going to open it up for questions. And so if you have a question, go ahead and type it in the question window and we’re going to see if you have any questions. And while we’re waiting for you to type in any questions, I’m going to cover a few more things and then we’ll get back to this.
So if you haven’t gotten any training yet, you can get started with some free training. So we have our Yellow Belt. It’s free at GoLeanSixSigma.com. It’s about eight hours. And it’s a great introduction to Lean and Six Sigma concepts. We also have Green Belt, Black Belt, and the Lean training for those organizations that are doing Lean only.
We also have our next upcoming webinar. It’s going to be May 25th and it’s Thursday and Elisabeth is going to be leading that. And the title of the webinar is How Leaders Successfully Support Lean Sigma Projects.
So, what I find just to tell you a little bit about this webinar, what I find is leaders typically want to be successful as they want to be supportive of Lean Six Sigma but they’re not quite sure how to be supportive. And so, Elisabeth is going to share some of the things leaders can do to be supportive of Lean Six Sigma projects.
We also have a new podcast out. It’s our Just-In-Time Café. And we interviewed Jay McNally from the Seattle Children’s Hospital about their Lean tours. They actually have a lot of tours that they take people through so you can see how Seattle Children’s Hospital is implementing Lean in their organization. It’s very exciting.
So let’s start off with some questions. So let me go back to this. And this is where I really miss Elisabeth because she would have me go through some of these questions. So Carlo, I don’t know if you have any questions for me. I do see a few one here on the question to answer, not too many. So it looks like it’s manageable.
So during a process walk, would it be OK to have a blue card paper to hold it up if someone starts to stray from the ground rules?
You could. It’s great visual management and it could be helpful. Sometimes what I do is I immediately after the interview, I will say something to them or I might reword what someone says. As an example, a big question people always ask is why do you do it that way? It sounds harmless, right? It actually triggers people to be defensive.
So I’d actually reword it in the moment. I say, “So what we really mean is why is the process designed that way?” It’s a very simple thing but it’s really important to make sure that you don’t use the word you and your finger to point at the person. And so, why is the process designed that way is a better question.
All right. I’m going to through and see if you have any other questions here. Do you share the ground rules with the actual interviewees as well or just those doing the walk?
Absolutely, because I want them to know that this is how the process walk will be conducted. They should feel safe. So as a matter of fact, when I do an orientation for a process walk, I will bring the interviewees, the walkers, and the stakeholders all together for one hour if I’m doing an orientation live. I’ll bring them all together. It’s usually like the kickoff.
And so, that we have the champion and then I walk through all the ground rules and then obviously, stakeholders aren’t always walking the process walk with us so they’ll leave but at least they know what the ground rules are too.
But absolutely, it’s pure transparency when it comes to a process walk. Be transparent about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it and that will help make people feel safe.
Let’s see. A few more. How many people typically attend a process walk? Is there an ideal number and what’s too many?
Great question, Scott. So, when you’re walking the process, a lot of people think, “Well, it’s a non-manufacturing process. We’re just going to walk to a bunch of cubicles. Do we really need to do that?” Yes, you do.
And I will say this though. Having more than ten people do that can sometimes be a little dis – not disturbing but crowded, let’s just say. So I say once it starts to creep up to more than ten including myself, I start to really question who they are and what they do in the process because if we’re going to interview three people and they want to all do the walk at the same time, sometimes I’ll have only two people or one person go because it’s more manageable.
So I’d say more than ten starts to get a little unwieldy. I will say though, sometimes people get really excited about going on the process walk and I have 20 people show up once and I had to turn them away unfortunately because that makes people feel like they’re in a fishbowl too. So you have to be careful of that.
OK. Another question. Do you notify the stuff that will be observed during the process walk beforehand or is it better to just show up to ensure you see what really happens. OK. So I would say that the approach of just showing up to see what really happens feels like it’s a gotcha. And I absolutely feel like they need to know what’s happening beforehand because that doesn’t feel safe.
So yes, they need to know. They need to know who is going to be interviewed and when they’re going to be interviewed. And you know what? I know what you’re getting at. You’re like, “Well then, they’re going to lie?” Well, not always. I mean if they feel like they’re going to get blamed, yeah, I’d lie too. But if they feel safe, you’d be surprised at how people respond to that because they know that they’re not going to get in trouble or in a gotcha moment.
I usually do it in define. So before we do the map, I will do a walk. So I’ll do a high-level map to help organize the walk. But then, we’ll do the walk and then one of the things that we do almost immediately after the process walk is to map out the process. And we sometimes will do a value stream map or something like that.
So hopefully that will help. I love process walks because I see the power in them and it does take a little while to learn and how to do them well and in a way that people enjoy it. It’s fun and it’s a good learning and it’s a team builder. So hopefully, this will pique your interest. We’ve got lots of training online if you want to learn more about them in our Yellow Belt, Green Belt, and Black Belt training.
We are out of time folks. I hope you enjoyed our webinar. If you have any more questions, please contact us at GoLeanSixSigma.com. Don’t forget to download our free tools and templates. If we haven’t answered your question, we’ll be sure to answer them on our website.
Thanks for joining us and have a wonderful day.
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