In Part 1 of this series, I described the pros and cons of the Brute Force Model as one approach to deploying continuous improvement, with a particular focus on the dreaded “ROI Lag”. Part 2 addressed the Incremental Model, which avoids many of the risks and challenges of the Brute Force Model, but is also highly unlikely to deliver a sustainable competitive advantage. Here in Part 3 I’d like to propose a different-in-kind CI deployment model, one that bridges the tension that exists between the Brute Force Model, designed to drive rapid improvement but not without significant investment and organizational disruption, and the Incremental Model, which contains the investment but also places a ceiling on overall business impact. We refer to this new approach as the Rapid, Scalable Model for deployment
Option 3: The Rapid, Scalable Model
To introduce this new deployment model, I’d like to draw upon an analogy that I often use to explain why Phase 5 Group’s solutions are so unique. Hopefully you’re familiar with tax preparation software like TuboTax or online legal services web sites like LegalZoom (if not, a quick web search will turn up results). My guess is that, if you’re reading this blog article you’ve at least heard of these solutions, if not used them from time to time. So what’s the value of these services to the customer? In other words, what’s make them so popular? To answer those questions, one needs to look at the alternative options prior to their arrival. Let’s take tax preparation as the representative example. Prior to the development of tax preparation software, any person required to file their tax returns was left with one of two options:
- Hire a tax accountant or tax preparation service (e.g., H&R Block, Jackson Hewitt, etc.) – the benefit of this approach is that someone else, hopefully (but not always) an expert on tax law, takes on the responsibility of preparing your tax returns. You’re only responsible for providing this person with the right information to complete the job. You’re also probably hoping that this expert will find ways to increase your refund that you wouldn’t have found for yourself. The downside of this approach is that (a) you can’t be sure that the person you hire is doing a good job (and the consequence of their failure could be dramatic) and (b) these services are quite expensive, so a good chunk of your refund check ends up in their pockets.
- Do it yourself – this option may not have been too daunting your first year out of school, but as your life gets more complex (dependents, mortgage, college savings, charitable donations, etc.), so do your tax requirements (and seemingly the tax code as well). This approach is certainly low cost but comes at the expense of your personal time and energy and with the risk that you’ll mess it up.
Long story made short, neither of the two approaches are ideal for many people. And that’s why tax preparation software has become so popular. It embeds the expertise that a tax accountant would normally provide into the software while providing an interface that a non-expert can use to own the tax preparation process. The result is a dramatically lower investment requirement compared to hiring a tax professional with more repeatable results (i.e., if you input the same data into the software multiple times, the result will be the same…if you hand the same data to two different tax accountants, you may get different returns).
What’s interesting about the above approaches is that share parallels with the first two deployment models covered in this series. The Brute Force Model is quite similar to approach 1 in that you’re willing to invest money up front with the help of an external partner (i.e., consultancy and tax accountant respectively) in order to solve a problem and maximize your value capture. Likewise, the potential risks and challenges in approach 1 and the Brute Force Model are similar; namely ROI lag and execution risk.
Along the same lines, the Incremental Model is similar to approach 2 above in the sense that you’re constraining your initial investment, but the downside is that you face an uphill battle to maximize your value capture and you may end up frustrated with the process.
Fortunately, there is a different way to think about managing a multi-site deployment that can provide similar returns to the Brute Force Model with a lower initial investment and a higher likelihood of sustainability. And the reason why this new model is possible is because Phase 5 Group as essentially “productized” through EON the major elements of a typical CI deployment in the same way that TurboTax, LegalZoom, and others have created product-based solutions in their respective industries. The result is a deployment chart that looks like the one below in which the investment in CI is lower than the Brute Force Model without sacrificing on the rate of return.
Now to be clear, we recognize that the complexity associated with managing a broad-based CI deployment is significantly greater than filing one’s tax returns or setting up an LLC. There will always be a need for skilled and committed people who bring their expertise to bear to lead, train, coach, and engage the workforce. But there is a role for software tools that work alongside those people to make them more effective while at the same time enabling broad-based ownership for continuous improvement. I could go on forever about how EON is specifically designed to support a rapid, scalable CI deployment, but for the sake of brevity, I will focus on just a few examples:
- Strategy Deployment – a lot of time (and money) is spent early in the CI journey simply attempting to get alignment up, down, and across the organization on the major strategic objectives of the business. Many organizations (at the behest of their journey partners in some cases) get focused on the process of establishing their layered strategy and ignore the larger issues of transparency of ownership and visibility. Despite opinions to the contrary, defining strategic objectives should be neither complex nor time consuming (when it is, it contributes to the ROI lag). EON’s strategy deployment tool makes it easy to define, assign, and manage strategic objectives and link discrete improvement projects to those objectives
- Improvement Project Management – the amount of time and energy wasted in configuring not-fit-for-purpose tools like Excel or Microsoft Project to support site-level project execution continues to astound me. The result is an administrative hassle and a real lack of visibility into the business impact of CI. EON’s project tracker simultaneously enables rigorous project execution and “big picture” project pipeline management
- Capability Building/Best Practices Implementation – Nowadays the industry standard practices that will drive out waste and optimize performance are well known. What’s missing (until now) is a platform to configure these practices into an execution model that the sites can use to manage the improvement journey with minimal assistance. Microsoft SharePoint is not the answer. It’s great for document storage and version management but does not meet the need when it comes to site level maturity assessments and action planning. EON’s heat map tool is specifically designed to drive the implementation of standard business processes and work practices across a large organization.
- Performance Analytics – one of the biggest cost drivers in the Brute Force deployment model comes in the form of a multi-person, multi-week “bottom up” performance assessment to find the highest leverage opportunities. Our Gap to Perfect Analytic tool has effectively “productized” major aspects of that consulting engagement to reduce the initial cost and make this process repeatable over time (which is key to sustainability).
- Tracking of Results – this is another area where a lot of time is wasted in compiling data in order to “tell the story” of CI to business leadership. EON’s leading indicators scorecard effectively eliminates that time by making the status of CI at every level of the organization visible with just a couple of clicks of the mouse.
Learn More about EON
At Phase 5 Group, we’ve partnered with leading companies to drive a structured and disciplined approach to their CI journey to ensure business impact and sustainability. The experience gained over a period of years is what led us to develop EON, the world’s first comprehensive continuous improvement management platform. Please contact us to learn more.