Team members at Solid Blend Technlogies had a unified vision, but gaps in the company’s operations were starting to show.
Solid Blend Technologies is a Dayton-based service water management company established in 1999.
A company that’s growing often sees new, unforeseen challenges—and that was no different for Solid Blend Technologies, says Ken Elrich, President of Solid Blend Technologies and his wife, Lois Elrich, Vice President of the company,
At the same time, it was becoming difficult to pinpoint why employees across disciplines and functions weren’t having the same seamless hand-offs that they once were.
Salespeople would bring in a new client, for example, but then there would be a breakdown in service after the deal closed.
“At times, we were missing scheduling the service—or we were not invoicing at the right time, and would send out an invoice prior to the service,” says Ken. What followed was confusion and, at times, finger-pointing. “We weren't communicating clearly between each role and there seemed to be no processes in place.”
Apply Deming Principles to Make the Work Visible
With the intention of creating a clearer view of how work was getting done, Ken and Lois scheduled a meeting to focus on mapping a systems view of the company.
Put simply, a systems view, as first described by Dr. W. Edwards Deming, is a way of visually showing an organization, and its processes, so that everyone can see, share, and understand how work gets done.
The meeting was scheduled for the day after Ken and Lois were set to return from their vacation.
Leaders at Solid Blend Technologies already had a preliminary understanding of the systems view framework, and the purpose of their next session together was to begin mapping systems and creating the processes together.
“As it turned out, our flight coming home was canceled, forcing us to miss the first working session with our complete leadership team,” says Ken.
At first, Ken and Lois were a bit concerned and disappointed that they would miss the meeting. After all, they had been looking forward to a session that would help create a visible platform for their leaders to work with and improve upon.
“We were concerned there would be quite a bit of valuable information missed with us not being there. It turned out, it wasn't the case at all,” says Ken.
An Opportunity for the Team
In many ways, not having the company owners present for this particular meeting was a unique opportunity for leaders to un-pack and apply what they had been learning. “They looked at mapping out the sales process specifically, and they were able to really dive into the whole thing during that meeting,” explains Ken.
Employees had the freedom to go through the process without having concern or worry about what the owners thought as they shared knowledge. “The meeting was very productive, and they were very comfortable doing it even though the company owners were not there,” explains Lois.
When seeking to find focus and results by making work visible, here are two powerful lessons to consider as you jumpstart the process:
1. Start with why
A critical step for Ken and Lois was making sure employees first appreciated “why” they were tasked with mapping their systems and processes. It helps to explain why you’re asking team members to re-think their way of thinking about their work.
And in the process, it doesn’t hurt to explain the benefits of doing so.
“Once they understand that, and they understand the process of the systems view, then they're excited about it. Now they are sharing their minds and thoughts and processes onto the whiteboard,” explains Ken.
2. Make the investment
“We’ve learned you have to put time into this process,” explains Ken. “Everyone's busy day-to-day. We saw how important mapping the systems was, and creating the processes together, but we just didn't have the time.”
That’s why Ken and Lois decided it was best to bring in a resource who could take the lead on the process. “If you don't have the resources right now, get the resources to get it done.”
A New Focus On Problem Prevention
“The result is that we’ve filled those gaps we had. The transition and hand-off from sales to operations, and from operations to the financial group is now clarified. We've completed those hand-offs now successfully,” adds Ken.
“We don’t have the finger pointing or the belief that someone dropped the ball anymore. Now, it's, ‘Let's look at the process.’ It's not an individual's failure. It's typically the process has failed or it's an opportunity for teaching a person to use the process.”
Shift from “Me” to “We” Thinking and Action
In partnership with Aileron, the W. Edwards Deming Institute® introduces a new 8-hour immersion program, Introduction to Deming Management Method. Learn how to shift organizational resources from an emphasis on solving problems to preventing problems.
Ultimately, leaders can come away with more capacity to manage their resources, time, money, knowledge, equipment, and people. Learn more about Introduction to Deming Management Method below.
A version of this post originally appeared on Forbes.