In conversations with clients, potential and actual, other consultants and various people who are interested, they always want to know how to get started. Some advocate a top down approach and some start small and spread, some like to hit everywhere at once with a organisational training programme and some talk a lot and never really get going. These are all valid (except the last perhaps!!). And different approaches suit different organisations in different situations.
One way to get going is to pick a small area and do a little project.
Some start with 5S (where you sort, straighten, shine, standardise and sustain) basically throw out the rubbish and clutter, tidy up, clean everything, reorganise what is left to suit the task, make sure everyone knows how the work station works and ensure that it stays tidy. 5S is good, but you can do better. It provides a visual indication that something has been done and in hospitals, factories it can be quite dramatic. But in service work places it can be difficult to know exactly what to do.
Some make a cell. Not to keep the boss in, but a “mortgage application cell” or “trade input cell”. They bring together all the people that need to do a particular, currently disparate task and put them all together in the same place. This can be effective. But sometimes you are simple compressing a bad process.
I would start with demand. How does work arrive? How often? How much? How much does it vary? Is it value demand or failure demand? This analysis can be a smallish project (compared to the work that it reveals) but it is cruicial to find out how work comes to you before you try to redesign how it is done. For example what if you found out that 60% of your work was dealing with complaints. And that 90% of those complaints could be removed easily? That would be a very good start. Now imagine if you had not done that and instead tried to improve the complaints handling process. Waste of time.
So start small if you can’t start big (I will write about that soon), but start at the beginning. Understand the work coming in. Understand demand.