Sample Engagements – Additional Details
Sample Engagements – Additional Details
The descriptions below expand on many of the engagements on the summary page.
The engagements below were all conducted in the “flip chart” phase of ActionMap. The ActionMap Toolkit software reduces session time compared to using flip charts, because the software speeds up the capture and organization of the information provided by session participants.
1 – Streamlined City Planning Approvals
Situation: A Bay Area “edge” city had adopted policies to encourage rapid development. The cycle time for planning approvals through the Planning and Development department had increased significantly, leading to developer complaints. Over two thirds of the Planning department staff’s time was spent doing research in an outdated filing system and in making presentations to the city’s numerous planning review commissions. The planning approval process impacted the Public Works, Transportation, and Police and Fire departments. The Planning Department also needed to coordinate, obtain approvals, and file reports with nearly a dozen local, state, and federal agencies.
Core Problem: The core problem in this situation was that community business and housing development was being slowed by the planning approval process at a time when the entire region was experiencing major growth. The planning approvals process was complex and involved many stakeholder groups. None of the stakeholders had a clear picture of the entire process or how resources were being allocated to work on it. This combined to make a high-stress situation with no simple way forward.
Solution: We conducted a one-day workshop with representatives from the different stakeholder groups for mapping and evaluation of the overall planning approval process. We followed that with a half day of interviews and a half day of work to compile detailed action plans from group session draft notes.
Outcome: The outcome was strong shared understanding among the stakeholders about both the mechanics of the planning approval process and each other’s interests with respect to the process. This included identification of and group commitment to key actions that would accelerate the process.
2 – Closing a Major Budget Gap
Situation: A Bay Area city was facing a serious revenue shortfall, due to state budget allocations and recession-based sales tax decreases. Previous measures to increase revenues were recently defeated in a political battle with local citizens’ groups.
The city formed a Citizen’s Task Force to find acceptable revenue strategies and create the core of a consensus for approving them. The Task Force included many of the most politically active unelected local leaders, including those who defeated the past attempts to increase revenues.
51 people were selected, and assigned to 3 sub-committees, each with a major area of responsibility. The Task Force was charged to produce twice the amount of combined increase revenues or decreased costs as were defeated earlier, and given a 12-week timetable to produce a detailed recommendation for the city council.
Core Problem: The core problem in this situation was that the City was under great pressure to close the budget gap and had failed in a previous attempt. The City needed consensus on how to do this in a hurry, and the detailed overall knowledge of overall City operations that was needed to produce that consensus was held by no-one.
Solution: ActionMap provided support functions for the 12 week Task Force activity, including a) design of the 12 week meeting plan, along with agendas and procedures for communication and decision support and b) training and support for the Task Force member to use ActionMap methods to map and evaluate the different functional areas of City operations.
Outcome: The outcome was that the Task Force work was completed on schedule. The City Council accepted the Task Force recommendations, providing a path forward to close the budget gap.
3 – Improved Inter-departmental Coordination
Situation: The payroll and personnel department in a local agency exchanged information in several areas required high quality and timely operation. Information errors were regularly passed between the two departments. Work was frequently rushed or repeated order to meet deadlines. The departments’ managers were on poor speaking terms. Their hidden agenda was competition for scarce additional headcount. This was complicated by disagreement over the location of a key business function. The clerical person in charge of this key function required information from both departments, was greatly over worked, and suffering from significant job stress.
Core Problem: The core problem in this situation was that the staffs of these departments had limited detailed understanding about each other’s job, and so they did not now how their actions affected the other department. In addition, the activities of the key business function were not understood in detail by the department managers, so they did not have a basis for discussing how that function should be managed.
Solution: We conducted a one-day workshop focused on departmental cross education. This helped the departments see where they needed to interact effectively and where they could operate independently.
Outcome: The outcomes were increased inter-departmental problem solving, leading to reduced errors and stress, in addition to resolution of the staff assignment for the key business function.
4 – Staff Assignments for a New Department
Situation: A “new business onboarding” function for a regional utility was formed. This function focused on planning the installation of gas and electric lines for new housing tracts, shopping centers and industrial parks. The new business function combined people from marketing, engineering, and construction. Administrative support for the new function was provided by a central administrator. The central administrator and the marketing and engineering professionals had different ideas about where the administrative staff members should be seated, and about task priorities for those staff. All groups needed to create documentation for their new activities.
Core Problem: The core problem in this situation was that the parties did not have a clear understanding of the actual workflow that the administrative staff needed to support. Without that understanding they had to rely on knowledge of past workflows, which were not applicable, and informal negotiating tactics, which were colored by existing relationships and agendas.
Solution: We conducted two days of process mapping to create shared understanding of the overall workflow. We then provided twelve hours of training and support for the department staff members to create detailed process documentation.
Outcome: The work sessions and detailed documentation produced clear shared understanding of the requirements of the work. That formed the basis for strong detailed agreement on physical work locations and priorities for the administrative support staff.
5 – Information System Design with End User Team
Situation: Later, the utility in the above engagement needed to develop an information system for their new business function. In addition to the marketing, engineering, and construction departments, there were three other support groups that would use the new system. Agreement was needed in a short time on many system design elements.
Core Problem: The core problem in this situation was that the organization needed the information system quickly in order to reduce the increased workload required by the new business function. Their standard approach would have been to submit a request to the central IT department, where it would have gone into a backlog, followed by a cycle of requirements- gathering interviews. Our client wanted to move more quickly than that.
Solution: We conducted five days of group workshops for process mapping and screen and report design for the new system, with all major groups represented.
Outcome: The outcome was firm cross-departmental agreement on the overall system workflow and high-level screen and reports layouts.
6 – Telephone System Rollout / Client Buy-In
Situation: A large regional organization had an extensive internal telephone network, including desk sets, switches and transmission lines. A new billing system for the internal network was about to be released, with plans for major enhancements to this new system being finalized. The systems manager wished to ensure that the new system installation would go smoothly.
Core Problem: The core problem in this situation was sheer complexity, resulting from a combination of scale and detail. The project involved several technical specialties. In addition to internal telephone operations, external services needed to be accounted for. The budgets for many departments were affected, so timely and accurate reporting was critical. A physical inventory of all telephone equipment needed to be taken across hundreds of locations, and there was no procedure for doing so./p>
Solution: We conducted two days of process mapping, evaluation and action planning with a combined business and technical team. We followed that with a one-day group session focused on analyzing how the telephone switch technology could be used to provide detailed billing information.
Outcome: The outcome was agreement among the stakeholder groups on a high-level plan for system implementation, along with detailed understanding of the technology-to-business interface.
7 – Field / Headquarters Team Building
Situation: The materials management function of a large organization was distributed across corporate headquarters and two levels of field locations. The combined function was responsible for over a billion dollars a year of materials purchasing. To provide better customer service, over a hundred million dollars a year of purchases were being made outside the standard purchasing/inventory process. Staff members had many ideas for improved cost control.
Core Problem: The core problem in this situation was that the field staff did not have a clear sense of the value being added by headquarters staff. In addition, the organization was undergoing a major restructuring, and field personnel were insecure about their positions. Because of this organization was slowed in implementing better internal communication and external cost control procedures.
Solution: We conducted a one-day workshop for cross-education and team building among headquarters and field staff, using process mapping and evaluation.
Outcome: The outcome was increased shared understanding and appreciation of each group’s activities, along with identification of specific actions to increase coordination.
8 – Identifying Strategic Metrics
Situation: A division of an international manufacturing company was experiencing severe competitive pressures. In the annual planning cycle, the senior management team of this division was tasked to produce a strategic business plan according to a detailed standard format. We were asked to facilitate a meeting with the divisional VP and department heads to complete the planning format, at the start of the meeting, the vice president changed the agenda, instead calling for the identification of specific performance metrics that could be used to address short-term business needs.
Core Problem: The core problem in this situation was that the division needed to act with greater urgency and with more radical change than the standard planning format would provide. In addition, while the department heads were familiar with the concept of key metrics at a detailed operations level, they had not applied that idea to the entire division.
Solution: The standard annual planning format was dropped, and the ActionMap method was used. The group focused on mapping and evaluating the overall manufacturing operation of the division.
Outcome: The outcome was that three new strategic metrics were identified, along with action items for bringing those metrics to bear on the current business problem.
9 – Departmental Outsourcing and Automation
Situation: As part of its service offerings, an internal consulting department began providing a small product distribution function. Over time, the distribution function grew into a separate business activity, requiring two full time staff, who primarily performed administrative tasks.
The department decided to outsource the business activity, with the requirement that the outsourcing service should provide an information system to allow improved product ordering capability from within the original organization. The consulting department needed to develop a specification for the business activity to be performed, and for the associated information system requirements.
Core Problem: The core problem in this situation was that the team did not have a overall understanding of what the new service offering would look like. Without this understanding they would not be able to define requirements for the process or information system.
Solution: One and a half days of process mapping and evaluation. Mapping was done for an ideal future process, and the evaluations focused on problems and opportunities with the move to outsourcing.
Outcome: The outcome was that the session document was used as a detailed requirements statement in the outsourcing project.
10 – Mission Statement
Situation: A purchasing department with major financial control responsibilities decided to increase its services to internal customers. They scheduled a one-day planning session with us for this purpose. Shortly after the meeting got underway, the team learned that a major reorganization of the department and its associated purchasing department was being proposed by senior management. The team elected to change the focus of the meeting to produce a new mission statement along with reasons for maintaining the current organization structure.
Core Problem: The core problem in this situation was that the team did not have a detailed written description of the department’s function and values that they could communicate to senior management. They urgently needed that description and did not have a procedure for creating it.
Solution: The meeting shifted to high level activity mapping of the department and its main peer department, along with evaluations of these processes, focusing on measurements of value-producing actions and interactions. These were then summarized in a final draft mission statement that was produced during the session by the end of the day.
Outcome: The outcome was that the department was well-prepared to work with senior management on the re-organization proposal.
11 – Product Marketing Planning
Situation: A major product of a manufacturer was entering the final phase of its life-cycle. The product was still valuable and had large revenue targets. The product marketing and technical development departments for the product needed to prepare for this new phase. A few of the senior staff members were new in their positions. Coordination between the departments occurred only when specifically needed. There was no detailed 12-month operating plan. The product marketing manager was about to start an extended temporary assignment.
Core Problem: The core problem in this situation was that the product marketing team felt lack of confidence about meeting the revenue targets for the product. This was because they did not have a plan, procedures for creating a plan, or agreements for coordinating with development on implementing a plan.
Solution: We conducted a one-day work session with members of the product marketing and development departments. The work session produced a set of critical product marketing and development milestones. It also produced detailed actions for improved inter-departmental coordination in order to meet those milestones.
Outcome: The result was reduced risk for the product revenue targets and heightened morale for the staff members charged with meeting those targets.
12 – Reduced Receivables Cycle Time
Situation: A major publishing house learned that it had a much longer receivables cycle than its competitors. The publisher had divided its business into commercial and consumer lines. It used two different computer systems, both of which were antiquated. Six different departments had interests related to any change in the current operation. The departments had low understanding of each others’ activities.
Core Problem: The core problem in this situation was that the business needed to reduce its receivables cycle time, and there were many different stakeholder groups that needed to agree on how that would be done. None of the stakeholders had an overall understanding of the full receivables function.
Solution: We conducted one day of process mapping, evaluation and action planning with representatives from each of the departments involved in the change. This workshop focused on cross education, identifying major opportunities for improvement and gaining consensus on those opportunities.
Outcome: The outcome was strong consensus on the need for action, increased inter-departmental communication, and an agreed upon high level plan for accelerating receivables.
13 – Improved Order Fulfillment for a Food Products Producer
Situation: A major food products producer was planning for long term growth in a highly competitive market. However, they were hampered by their order fulfillment processes. Customer orders were being placed with a variety of detailed specifications that changed from one order to the next. Price negotiation, short notice delivery, stringent product quality, and customized packaging and delivery were part of normal operations. Order fulfillment activity from stock picking through shipping needed to be scheduled and planned in detail, with frequently changing priorities that forced schedule and planning revisions.
There were few documented procedures. Computer systems support was outdated. The departments involved were only familiar with their own segments of the operation. Key people with critical knowledge of the process were recognized as being severely overworked.
Core Problem: The core problem in this situation was that efforts to improve the order fulfillment function were stalled because the function had grown in complexity over time to the point that no-one understood the entire process. That was combined with the fact that there were many stakeholder groups that would be affected by any change.
Solution: Two separate days of process mapping and evaluation, to cross-educate, identify major improvement opportunities, and to develop agreement on and prioritize those opportunities.
Outcome: The outcome was a strong detailed consensus on major improvement opportunities, supported by better inter-departmental understanding and communication.
14 – Reorganizing Staff Assignments
Situation: The executive management staff of a six-hundred-person division wanted to improve administrative support. The executive staff consisted of managers, professionals, and administrative assistants. The executive staff workload included functional oversight of the operating departments, key roles in those operations, and running projects, conducting studies, and preparing and distributing information at the request of the division vice president.
Core Problem: The openly identified issues were stress among support staff members due to overwork, and unpredictable and uneven availability of administrative support assistance. Other issues were personality conflicts, competition for resources, supervisor/support reporting relationships, and the distribution of responsibilities among the managers, professionals, and support staff. Finally, the department was making the transition to a new vice president, and all staff members were uncertain about their roles.
Solution: The core problem in this situation was lack of broad and detailed understanding of the entire division workload. Because of this, staff had to rely on subjective views based on partial knowledge for decision-making, which led to general uncertainty and disagreement on interests and priorities.
Outcome: We conducted eight concurrent projects over 12 weeks using the ActionMap method. The focus of these projects was to map, evaluate, and create detailed implementation plans for administrative functions that would be required in any likely new form of the organization. We spent approximately two days of facilitated ActionMap method operation per project, in half day increments, with another two days of overall program management.
15 – Worldwide Data Center Consolidation
Situation: A large international corporation had physically consolidated two dozen data centers into a half a dozen. After the physical consolidation, several major process changes were needed.
The smaller data centers had addressed the needs of regional clients and the new, larger data centers needed to provide the same regionalized services. At the same time, several major services provided by the smaller data centers needed to be standardized across all the new, larger data centers. These general services also needed to be coordinated with several other activities in each data center.
Core Problem: The core problem in this situation was that the supervisors of the new, larger data centers had previously been supervisors in the smaller ones, where they operated their own version of procedures for these key general services. They needed to come up with high level designs for the new standardized procedures that they could all agree on.
Solution: We conducted two-day analysis, design, and action planning sessions for each of the Production Change Control, Job Scheduling, and User Support functions involved in the data center consolidation, along with a two-day session for how to coordinate those procedures with other data center functions.
Outcome: The outcome was strong consensus on well-documented high-level designs for the new standardized procedures and coordination interfaces.
16 – Systems Architecture for Worldwide Order Fulfillment
Situation: An international high-tech manufacturer had vendors, factories, and distribution centers in all major world markets. A large new product line was being introduced. Competitive pressure required a significant reduction in order fulfillment cycle time. Seven computer systems, none of which provided complete order fulfillment functionality, were being used in five geographic regions to support order fulfillment. These systems were maintained and operated by people from six different nationalities.
Integration and enhancement of the existing computer and network functionality was critical to meeting the order fulfillment cycle time goals. Each of the technical groups had its own agenda for developing the appropriate system to do the work.
Core Problem: The core problem in this situation was there was not a detailed, shared understanding of the regional systems functionality, that could be used as a basis for deciding on the best approach going forward.
Solution: We conducted a three-day strategic planning/team building session among the systems managers, focused on knowledge sharing around existing system functionality and new system requirements.
Outcome: The outcome was the discovery that only one of the systems could support the new requirements, followed by the identification and formal recommendation of a common, agreed upon 18-month development plan.
17 – Nationwide Multi-Unit Retail Expansion Strategy
Situation: A department store chain, under direction of its parent company, planned to triple its number of stores in the next ten years. The overall development and expansion function required close coordination among five separate departments, which in turn reported to four different senior managers.
Existing expansion strategies could provide no more than one third of the required annual growth rate. Communication among the different departments was strained due to historical factors and a current business downturn, which also dampened interest in strategic planning for high growth.
Core Problem: The core problems in this situation were the complexity and scale of the initiative, the separation of knowledge among the departments, and the lack of procedures for the type of planning that was needed.
Solution: Nine days of analysis, design and planning sessions over four months, using ActionMap methods, in conjunction with parallel efforts in two related teams.
Outcome: The result was interdepartmental consensus on a detailed recommendation for a new organizational design for the overall expansion activity.
18 – Activity Based Costing Project
Situation: A major public utility was undergoing an extensive reorganization and reengineering in response to current and potential regulatory and competitive pressures and trends. A pilot Activity Based Costing project was being launched for the customer billing activity, with the goal of producing guidelines for a following reengineering project covering the same activity.
The customer billing activity was spread over half a dozen departments, under several senior managers, and employed several hundred people, with responsibility for several million customer relationships in four major customer categories.
After preliminary project plans had been completed, the project team had six weeks to create, validate and add survey information to process maps and activity outlines for the entire customer billing function. The maps and outlines would be used both for the Activity Based Costing project and for the reengineering work that was to follow it.
Core Problem: The core problem in this situation was that the organization needed to move quickly. Overall knowledge of the operation was distributed over many people, and the organization did not have a reliable procedure for quickly and accurately capturing that knowledge in immediately useful documentation.
Solution: We conducted one day of ActionMap training for project team members followed by one day of detailed project planning. Project team members created first-level maps which covered the entire customer billing function. Starting with those maps, the ActionMap team led four days 90 minutes sessions to map and outline the entire customer billing activity in three to six levels of outline detail.
Outcome: The outcome was a detailed functional outline with high-level maps and evaluations of the entire customer billing process, which became the basis for the remainder of the Activity Based Costing project.
19 – Natural Gas Distribution Reengineering
Situation: A large regional natural gas utility had bought out two smaller competitors. Senior management ordered the reengineering of the scheduling and control functions for the new, combined gas distribution network. A project team had interviewed all the experts and managers responsible for this activity.
The project team group was distributed over nine departments and reported to five vice presidents. There was disagreement about the scope of the scheduling and control activity, and whether it should even be considered an integrated function for reengineering purposes. The project team was approaching a major milestone in their reengineering project, which was the creation of the current process model.
Core Problem: The core problem in this situation was that due to the complexity, scale and number of stakeholders involved, conventional process modeling approaches could not quickly produce a high-level current state model.
Solution: We conducted an extended project with the organization, consisting of 1) a one-day session with the experts and managers of the activity, to define scope, identify major sub-processes, and capture and prioritize evaluations of the overall process; 2) one day of ActionMap training for the client project team members; 3) three days of abbreviated mapping with the project team members, based on the earlier interview information, to design a sub-process structure to organize all the tasks in the scope area; and 4) five days of final model document creation, which included coordinating remotely with the client project team members for drafting, review, and update.
Outcome: The outcome was a detailed current state process model of the newly combined gas distribution scheduling and control function, along with strong, broad understanding of and agreement on the model.