It’s not a big secret that I’m a big believer in lean enterprise principles. Today I’d like to express some thoughts regarding the relationship between lean and customer experience.
Value stream analysis is about starting with what the customer values and work your way backward into your business processes to ensure they only produces what is required to fulfill the customer’s expectations. I think it’s a great way to both eliminate waste by suppressing tasks that bring little or no value to the customer while at the same time increasing customer satisfaction by ensuring value added tasks are executed consistently. I believe this gives customer experience improvement initiatives a more methodological approach to drive in the behaviors in the workforce by giving boundaries to delimit the extent to which customer experience initiatives should go.
I know what you’re thinking: “I don’t want to just meet customers’ expectations, I want to exceed them!” I don’t think value stream analysis is limited to only meet expectations, I think it’s a great way to consistently integrate what you learn about your customers in your business process. The more efficient you become at doing those incremental change to your business processes based on customer feedback the more successful I believe the company will be.
One effect I suspect could happen if you’re not careful while improving customer experience by starting arbitrarily in a “middle” business process, is the risk to unbalance depending business processes by creating overproduction, unnecessary delays, inappropriate input/output, etc. People mean well but sometimes impact assessment is neglected when deploying a new revision to a business process for the simple reason that people can become very passionate when it comes to pleasing customers! By starting with the customer and working your way backward, you’re chewing and digesting the business processes and the changes required as you go along while giving time to the business to appropriately adapt to the changes. It also gives you the opportunity to understand where the value the customer expects is coming from as you go up (or down or left or right depending on how you see this ;-)) the process chain. As everything lean, seeing and understanding what’s going on is a big part of the game! Sometimes the most trivial things are misunderstood and so many assumptions and decisions are based on this… Genchi genbutsu; that works with both your customers and your employees!
Food for thoughts!