Designing your business processes like Jack Welch

“We don’t need the questioners and checkers, the nitpickers who bog down the process…. Today, each staff person has to ask, “How do I add value? How do I make people on the line more effective and competitive?”
– Jack Welch

I like to consider a company’s business processes like a flowing river. The aim is to get as many actions (customer orders, fault rectifications, etc) down the river as efficiently as possible. However, many carriers, particularly large carriers, have processes with too many side eddies away from the main stream, creating vortexes of delay that impact customer satisfaction and the bottom line.

Reading about Jack Welch, GE’s famous CEO, I found many analogies between how he streamlined one of the world’s largest companies and how a carrier’s processes could also be pared back. A few of Jack’s principles are as follows:

  • Fix, sell or close – Welch looked at the vast array of businesses that formed GE and produced a strategy that saw each business evaluated for fixing, divesting or dismantling if it currently wasn’t a leader in its industry. For an OSS, we can analyse the process flow in the same way. Keep aspects that are optimal, fix aspects that aren’t, divest aspects that aren’t part of the main flow (ie if there are rare or complex sub-flows, handle them separately, keeping them away from the main flows) and dismantle the sub-flows that are not essential or unviable
  • Delayering and downsizing – Welch looked at his organisation and reduced the checkers and managers of managers, effectively stripping out large amounts of bureaucracy in the process. The many eddies that exist in a company’s process flows often result from an inordinate amount of reviews and approvals. If the process can be de-layered, a much simpler and faster flow is likely to result
  •  Work-out – was a Welch initiative to promote open communication, removal of bureaucracy and increased innovation. By encouraging every member of a carrier’s staff to actively identify improvements, ideas for process flow efficiency and innovation comes from the coal-face, not just the OSS architects
  • Boundarylessness – was an initiative that sought innovation and the sharing of ideas across businesses and business units. The OSS introduces the ability to collect, share and cross-reference data across so many parts of the business. It takes innovative thinking to identify the information in one area that will help another. For example, a map from the Inventory team that shows cable routes can be overlaid with locations of prospects identified by the sales / marketing team to identify the prospects that are in closest proximity to existing assets and are fastest / easiest to turn an order into revenue
  • Stretch: Achieving the Impossible – Welch instituted the idea of setting seemingly unachievable targets (sales, outputs, schedules, etc). There are many examples of where unachievable targets can force innovation in process flows. An example that springs to mind was a lean tier-2 carrier that had an SLA of turning on customer services within 25 days of an order, but when subsumed into a tier-1 carrier after a buy-out, the turn-on period became approximately 75 days. By setting a stretch target of 25 days, the tier-1 carrier would be tasked with streamlining their bloated process flow
  • – Welch was visionary to the impact that the Internet was going to have on business and initiated a program of business model re-design to leverage e-commerce opportunities. Implementing a new OSS and the associated new process flows also provides the opportunity to look afresh at the processes as well as the underlying business and service models. As Welch stated, “Change means opportunity.” In this case, the opportunity is to streamline the business, change the business model and/or develop a whole new set of services that open blue-ocean markets for a carrier
  • Six-Sigma – Welch implemented the Six-Sigma quality improvement program at GE, albeit with some subtle prodding. The Six-Sigma approach is relevant to streamlining a flabby process flow. To quote Basem El-Haik and David M. Roy from their book “Service Design for Six Sigma: A Road Map for Excellence,” “Today’s service design solutions of current development practices in many industries are generally suffering from deficiencies or vulnerabilities such as modest quality levels, ignorance of customer wants and desires, and too much complexity. These are caused by a lack of a systematic design methodology to address these issues… Complexity in design creates operational bureaucracies that can be attributed to the lack of adherence to sound design processes.”

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