Turn Remote Operations Risk into Amazing Results

Category: Process Improvement Project

Turn Remote Operations Risk into Amazing Results

March 17, 2020 | 12:47 pm

Is your office in remote mode? So many teams are now working from home as we collectively battle the COVID-19 pandemic. Remote work can reduce personal and community health risk. Yet it can be unhealthy for your organization. Remote work can be slower and less accurate, impacting your organization and your community. A key question in this transition is: With this big change of unknown duration, how will your team continue to serve your community in a seamless way?

Key Risks

Teams that move to remote work find key risks.
o Paper piles of work are no longer visible, resulting in stalled or forgotten work.
o In-person double checks and communication may not happen, resulting in errors and embarrassment.
o Quickly made process adjustments to fit remote operations create the risk of errors and missed steps.
o Back-and-forth online communications may slow work down, consuming already tight capacity.

The Solution

Remote work is an opportunity to redesign your processes to regain capacity, maintain quality, keep up speed, and preserve your reputation. Some organizations are using proven process transformation tools to achieve these goals. For example, as a result of our process transformation work, one foundation recaptured time while delivering error-free results for three years. This group became an effective cross-organization team, performing better and accomplishing more in a consistently high-quality manner.

Is this what you are looking for?

If your team is going remote, connect with process improvement coach Lee Kuntz about a live, online checkup for your key processes. We use our proven process transformation coaching, training, and tools to help you mitigate risk and deliver upon your organization’s commitments. Checking up on small processes can be done in a couple hours.

Contact Lee to discuss how your team can create a seamless transition to remote processes while maintaining and growing great results.

Philanthropic Organizations Flex Process Improvement Muscles to Achieve Substantial Results

March 24, 2020 | 1:52 pm

Private and community foundations across the nation are flexing their process improvement muscles. They are achieving impressive results, including:
• Recapturing hundreds—even thousands—of work hours
• Delivering better or faster grants
• Maximizing a big technology investment
• Breaking down crippling silos across the organization
• Creating a culture of improvement

For example, one foundation used process improvement training and coaching to transform a grants process from 75 to 39 steps. They immediately started recapturing time, which enabled them to reinvest it in serving their community. They expect to recoup over one thousand hours from their investment.

Is this an anomaly? Actually, many philanthropic organizations report these impressive results. In fact, every nonprofit foundation we worked with significantly streamlined its processes. As shown in the graph below, these leaders reduced their number of steps by 52 percent. With each wasteful step removed, these foundations better positioned themselves to accomplish their central mission of increased impact.

Process Transformation Results

The Secret: Building Process Improvement Muscles

Leaders and staff can learn how to achieve measurable results through our Think Differently Process Transformation Workshop™. Designed specifically for community and private foundations, this workshop equips you and your colleagues by taking you through an intensive day of learning and practice. Attendees bring and solve a process pain point in the workshop. Attendees routinely say they take home improvement ideas they can implement immediately, particularly by addressing “pain points” that slow down their work processes. They often comment how process improvement opportunities will help them save time, deliver better service to donors and grantees, and create bigger impact in their community.

“Lee’s custom process for foundations is transformational. I was able to implement her process immediately and see results.”
Community Foundation Executive Director

“We all get complacent in doing things the same way. The Process Improvement training provided the opportunity to examine our processes for alternative ways that save time without compromising accuracy.”
Foundation Vice President and CFO

In 2020, philanthropic organizations will have two opportunities to learn these skills: Online May 18 and 19, and September 10 in Novato, California. Learn more at: Think Differently Process Transformation Workshop. Or contact Lee Kuntz to get detailed registration information.

Over a thousand hours of work time are just waiting to be recaptured by your team so you can reinvest them in your community. Take the first step to learn more!

Transform Philanthropic and Nonprofit Processes, Recapture Time

March 24, 2020 | 2:10 pm

Financial leaders from philanthropic and other nonprofit organizations will hear the ideas that are transforming their industry at the NFG North Conference 2020, on October 8, 2020.

Philanthropic and nonprofit organizations work hard for their communities. Yet they have very limited resources. Maximizing those resources is key to their success. Lee Kuntz’s two session at the NFG North Conference 2020 provide ideas and concrete practices in the maximization techniques that are working in the industry.

Conference attendees will learn how to solve these pain points.
• Overwhelming workloads and employees working late
• New program ideas with no funding or capacity to do them
• Taking heat for errors
• Unused technology tools

Organizations will hear how nonprofits, including foundations, have cured this pain and are now heroes of their teams, audit committees, and boards. One nonprofit recaptured over 60% of their working time, now delivering faster and better results to their community, partners, and board.

Consider this: What would your nonprofit do with 1,000 hours of work time back?

The Transformational Workshops

NFG North Conference 2020 features two morning sessions given by Lee Kuntz that will equip financial leaders with the ideas that are making a difference.

Accounting and finance departments routinely get tasked with accounts payable responsibilities. And they work hard to get payments out timely and accurately. Yet are these leaders doing all we can to work efficiently and effectively? Or are there delays, duplicate payments, rounds of rework, or late payments?

The first workshop, Transform Accounts Payable, is a deep dive into how to transform the accounts payable process into a sleek, painless operation while recapturing hundreds even thousands of hours of time. Given much of the organization touches bill payment, each organization leader can get time back.

All financial leaders have done process improvement. Yet it’s advanced process improvement skills that are making the difference for nonprofits. The second workshop, Transformational Process Improvement, shows attendees how process transform skills are making the difference for nonprofits. Then these leaders will be part of making those results happen in a rapid improvement game.

NFG North financial leaders can register for the entire day of learning at: NFG North Members Register Here
Not a NFG member yet and want to attend? Contact Lee Kuntz to request one of her tickets to this event.

About Lee Kuntz

Lee Kuntz, process improvement speaker, trainer, coach, and strategist, has helped numerous philanthropic and other nonprofits to successfully create capacity and deliver better and faster results to their community. Lee believes employees are the right people to improve how work is done. When they have skills-and-will in transformational process improvement, they can achieve impressive results.

Clients Lee has trained and coached have recaptured thousands of hours of work time from their back office and have reinvested the time saved into the community. These organizations go beyond balancing to sustaining and thriving. Lee has an MBA from the Carlson School of Management, is a Certified Lean Six Sigma Black Belt, and is a Human Centered Design practitioner.

New System Install Success

Discover Your Team’s Process Improvement Opportunity

January 13, 2020 | 7:26 am

Every day teams can manage their processes to deliver winning results. By both improving and controlling critical processes, these teams can both make a big impact and get home at night.

Most of us have improved processes. We have tweaked the steps of work, fixed breaks, and automated. The next step—process management—is a powerful approach that can be the difference between failure and success.

Now you can measure your team’s process management muscles through an eight-question survey. This survey helps you see beyond tweaking, to fix pain points and transform outcomes. Through the survey’s results, you can discover your team’s process management strengths and opportunities.

Select the survey answer that best reflects how your team handles your critical processes. Eight-Question Survey Link

Do you want to learn more about how these important concepts can create results for your team? Then complete the survey, add your email address, and submit your answers, thereby emailing yourself your answers.

Our process coach and trainer Lee Kuntz will also receive a copy. Your contact information will not be used for any other purpose. Lee will then connect with you to hear and answer any questions about how each of these key process capabilities can help your team achieve the results you need.

Process Improvement to Transformation

From Tweak to Transformation

November 15, 2019 | 11:26 am

Have you improved your work process, tweaking how work is done or fixing broken steps? Most agree process improvement is good. Yet many staff members are too busy fighting fires to think about how to do their work. They get stuck in the rut of doing things as they’ve always been done. The answer to this miserable dilemma? Moving from the small tweaks associated with traditional process improvement to radical process transformation.

What is Process Improvement?

A starting point in thinking about process improvement is understanding what the term even means. In a recent online search, I found ten different definitions for ‘process improvement.’ Many people see process improvement as adding, deleting, or modifying work steps to change how work is done.

The problem with this commonly held definition is that the focus is on tweaks to change to work steps rather than improving outcomes. For example, suppose I want to move from balancing between sources with an adding machine to using an Excel spreadsheet. This improvement seems like a positive change. When I pitch this to my boss, I focus on how the process will change. My boss asks how much time the change will take to implement. That use of resources gives her pause, as she knows our big workload. Most likely, she will say we don’t have time to make changes right now. We need to stay the course and take on the next emergency. We can do the improvement later, when things get better.

Since I did not identify the positive impact of my proposed enhancement, my boss didn’t see its value compared to the other big priorities crashing through her door. Too often, defining process improvement as tweaking how work is done causes this important tool to be ignored.

The Impact of This Conundrum

Process improvement can truly produce more favorable outcomes than had been realized before. Without it, employees can become locked in a vicious cycle in which underlying process flaws are not corrected. As in the example below of an improperly prepared check, both customers and staff can become frustrated by processes that don’t work as they should.

If the cycle consists of complaint-pull-fix without also investing time in fixing the issue for all customers, similar problems are likely to occur in the future. That means staff will work longer and longer hours responding to emergencies, getting further and further away from the good work they want to do. Eventually staff may burn out and leave, placing a greater burden on remaining employees to do the work.

I have experienced this vicious cycle in my own life. Early in my career, I accepted a job in an area that claimed to promote great work-life balance. My superiors promised there would be overtime only at year-end. Once I was there, I found that by overtime, they meant seven days a week for six weeks! I barely saw my young children for a month and a half. When I commented about the excessive overtime, the staff said it was always that way, and to just “suck it up” because it would not change. I questioned the culture and the paradigm, and I wondered if things would ever get better. That unpleasant situation has inspired me for the rest of my career.

The Answer: Process Transformation

To correct agonizing situations such as the one I survived, I rename, rephrase, and reposition process improvement in my training by sharing the story of process transformation.

Process transformation is the use of proven process improvement tools to maximize what the organization has now to achieve an improved outcome.
Process transformation solves pain points organizations experience so they can work toward efficient, effective, and high-quality outcomes for their customers. Organizations have achieved the following outcomes from this approach.

  • Recaptured over 4,000 work hours.
  • Created new shared-service function.
  • Fully used existing technology.
  • Eliminated errors for 3 years.
  • Delivered to customers in half the time.
  • Created ongoing improvement.

 

Process Transformation Key Points

There are three important points in this definition of process transformation.

1. Proven tools. A recent survey by change management specialist Prosci indicated that the majority of process improvement projects fail, primarily due to lack of proven tools, experience, and support. The good news is that there are tools and training that offset this risk. The key is to leverage the tools and training that work with your industry and situation. For example, quality management tools require rigorous training on statistical analysis and are great for manufacturing organizations. However, statistical analysis principles have little use in a service organization. A better tool for a philanthropic or charitable organization would be one that helps employees identify wasted steps.

2. Maximize what the organization has now. Employers manage more than work steps or process to achieve the outcomes they need. They leverage business policies, roles and responsibilities, technology, work steps, and other elements to create desired outcomes. Some of these components are helpful and efficient, while others end up undercutting objectives. For example, the policy of a foundation I am coaching might require that grants be paid within two weeks after being approved. If the competition can pay a grant within three days, I ask my client to identify and maximize everything they have now to achieve faster turnaround.

3. Improved outcomes. To ensure that the desired results are achieved, process transformation identifies the needed outcomes before the improvement work begins. To illustrate, a team may decide they need to recapture and reinvest half the time they are now spending to issue grants. This may amount to one hour per grant, for a total of 500 to 1,500 work hours. Once leaders understand the payback from their investment in process transformation, they support the investment. Learn more about this concept in my companion blog post: Achieve Process Improvement Results: Start at the End.

The Evidence

Process transformation requires an investment of both time and resources to be successful. When leaders and staff members learn about tools that will help them work smarter rather than harder, they find that their investment pays off. The graph below shows immediate results achieved when process transformation tools were used in four recent projects:

Return on Investment

We have been coaching and training teams in process improvement and transformation for more than two decades. A recent study of our clients indicated that their returns overwhelmingly offset their investment. Typically, we have found that the first year’s results more than cover the costs of the training and staff time investment, with future years’ savings being “gravy.” Imagine sharing with your organization’s leadership or board that your team can take on more without additional staff because the team has recaptured and repositioned 1,000 to 2,000 work hours.

Now back to my story. After being told to “suck it up,” I was determined I would never again work that much overtime. Therefore, I sought and gained leadership approval to conduct a process transformation project. I committed to leadership that I would shorten the year-end work time for everyone. To do so, I partnered with my team using proven improvement/transformation tools to maximize everything we already had. As a result, we cut the steps to complete our year-end reporting in half. In the next year-end cycle, the team worked only one weekend rather than the six weekends we had with the old process.

Summary

If your team works overwhelming hours, reacts to constant emergencies, or is not maximizing expensive software, process transformation may be the answer to your problems. With an initial investment, your team can solve its pain points, recapture time, and deliver better and faster outcomes to your customers.
Learn more by leveraging our free website assessment tools to diagnose your pain point, or contact Lee Kuntz to talk about your needs. Organizations have found hundreds—even thousands—of work hours to reinvest in serving their customers. You can, too

Not Just Plug and Play: Look Within When Implementing New Software

October 4, 2019 | 10:03 am

Adding new software is a major investment for philanthropic organizations. While improved tools can help automate business processes and create more efficient workflows, adding a new software solution can take years of research and hundreds of thousands of dollars for implementation and system integration.

It’s a big job, and new software alone is no guarantee that an organization will improve outcomes enough to cover the cost of installation. Read more and take part in a 10 question survey on best practices here.
10-Question Survey

Nonprofits Build Internal Capacity

September 27, 2019 | 1:22 pm

An investment in a nonprofit back office can reap benefits in the community.

Nonprofits work long hours to strengthen their community by decreasing homelessness, reducing racism, and improving the environment, to name just a few ways. Philanthropic organizations invest in these charities to help achieve those community-changing results. Yet how do these charitable organizations—the healers—cure their own pain and build their own capacity to do more?

In September, more than 80 social-sector financial staff gathered to learn how to transform their back offices to recapture and reinvest time back into community-building services. Attendees reported gaining many new ideas on ways to streamline what they were already doing.

Learn more at: Healers heal themselves – nonprofits build internal capacity
See the presentation document at: NFG Sept 2019 Presentation Transform AP Presentation!

Maximize Business Process and Outcomes During New Software Install Survey

September 3, 2019 | 11:58 am

Has your organization brought in new software with great promise and not achieved the desired results? Has the new software failed to improve the workflow? Has implementation of new software damaged credibility?

Now you can both learn and share your experience through our “Maximize Business Process and Outcomes During New Software Install Survey”. The goal of this ten-question survey is to gather philanthropic organization leaders’ views and experiences in redesigning processes when installing new software. The survey responses will be aggregated to identify best practices.

Survey link:  Maximize Outcomes During New System Install Survey

Thank you for investing in this survey, yourself and others in the philanthropic industry!

This Year, Plan to Transform Processes to Recapture Capacity

August 12, 2019 | 3:48 pm

Is your organization planning and budgeting for next year? Are you tired of fighting the same pain points year after year, such as overwhelming workloads, demands for better or faster results, or challenges to maximize costly technology? During this year’s budgeting and planning season, invest in process transformation to recapture capacity and solve pain points.

Create a Plan that Succeeds

This is planning and budgeting season for about 70% of the organizations I know. Many are creating concrete plans and budgets to solve their pain points in 2020. If they do not, organizations will experience the same old pain and frustration in 2020.

Organizations that help and serve others are recapturing hundreds—even thousands—of hours of capacity. They are serving their customers, community, board, funders, and donors in half the time. These leaders are retaining employees. Their secret? Investing to transform processes and results.

Most of us have done process improvement. We have tweaked processes and resolved breaks. Some organizations are taking their improvement work to a transformational level. They are cutting their work steps in half and delivering to their key partners in fraction the time. They are freeing up thousands of staff hours that can be used for other purposes

Outcomes of Investment

These organizations budget for an investment in process transformation training and coaching during in their annual plan. Here are the results they are achieving.
• Recapturing over 4,000 work hours.
• Sharing services across functions.
• Maximizing use of existing technology.
• Remaining error-free for 3 years.
• Delivering to customers in half the time.
• Transforming their organizations through ongoing improvement.

Recently we surveyed our clients’ process transformation results. Our customers achieved a return of 1.5 to 3 times their investment during the first year after implementation. This return came in the form of recaptured time and error-free results. Then these organizations continued to receive time back and positive feedback from customers over time.


Figure 1: Return on Transformational Process Improvement

In addition, achieving this enviable return on their investment, these leaders are committed to building a culture of ongoing improvement. They can easily fix and improve any process and result because they have learned the tools to see and solve transformation opportunities. Their employees are fully invested in the process transformation game because they have been involved as stakeholders since the inception of the training.

Invest in Building Process Improvement Muscle

Leaders are bringing the story of process transformation to their organizations’ annual planning discussions. Yet a common question is: What does the initial investment consist of?

The initial investment in transformational process improvement includes two components: dedicated staff time for learning and implementing new approaches and out-of-pocket costs for training and coaching. A typical employee will spend between 5 and 40 hours annually doing successful process transformation. The cost of the training and coaching depends upon the amount, level, and number of days needed. My firm offers a half day and a full day think differently process transformation workshop. Contact me to learn more about training options.

Plan to Solve Pain Points in the Coming Year

Organizations that train their employees in process transformation find that work gets done faster and with fewer errors. The time saved leads to better service to the organizations’ customers and community, and greater job satisfaction among employees. You can, too! Contact me, Lee Kuntz, to learn more about how your organization can plan to solve pain points and thrive.

Invest for Impact: Continuous Process Improvement Helps Maximize Resources

May 30, 2019 | 12:54 pm

Philanthropic organizations are investing for impact.

The work week should be over, but the office is buzzing, and the chief financial officer is making the rounds one more time. Foundation policy says grantee checks must be in the mail by end of day Friday, and there are still dozens of outstanding items. Everyone is staying late, because if those checks don’t get out, grantees can’t act on their programs. People can’t get help. And the foundation board is sure to hear about it.

If that scene sounds uncomfortably familiar, you’re not alone.  Learn more: Invest for Impact: Continuous Process Improvement

Contact Lee today to discuss your challenge.