The two loops of the [bu:st] process management method eyeLean

In this article we would like to introduce you to parts of the [bu:st] process management method eyeLean. The method has emerged from experience and has proven to help our client to view their situation from a new perspective and to lead the project to success.

That’s what the agile [bu: st] process management eyeLean stands for

When we decided to transform our approach into a written method, two things were quite modern: the term “lean” and the prefix “i”. With a little bit of self-irony we therefore internally named our method “iLean”. When our method was visually fixed, the picture of two loops, which have similarities with the pupil and the iris of an eye, resulted. From this moment on we decided to name the [bu:st] process management eyeLean. The sound remained the same, the spelling changed.

“The only person who behaves reasonable is my tailor. He takes a new measure each time he meets me, while everyone else always sets the old standards, hoping they still fit.”

George Bernard Shaw, Irish dramatist

Every customer is unique. His demands on agile process management are as well.

Part of our self-image as a premium consultant is to look at each customer individually and to deliver solutions that are not blindly applied to a seemingly familiar pattern. Rather, it is about understanding the customer and his challenges and adapting our standards to the specific situation. How many times have you been promised such a service? How often did you feel misunderstood after many years of investing time and money in a supposed to be appropriate solution? Would you spend so much money on a poorly tailored garment? So why are you doing it in the consultation?

Due to numerous positive feedback from our customers, we decided to open the gates and to give you an insight into our approach. We want to show you what sets us apart from other process management experts, and we are happy to share our knowledge with you to give you food for thought for your own project.

The [bu:st] process management method does not lay a template on a supposed pattern

In order for us to have the same understanding, one thing first: In our view, a method is not a rigid pattern that should be carried out blindly without reflecting on the situation. Rather, it is something structuring that helps us to do things in a meaningful order. This ensures that the work results complement each other to save valuable time and energy. There is no unnecessary sorting and structuring.

For us as process management experts, it is important to point out the difference between knowledge and understanding. It often seems that established knowledge and understanding of the topic are confused. Understanding does not mean finding information to accomplish a task. Rather, understanding is the art of seeing things in a new context, of abstracting them and adapting them flexibly to the circumstances.

First make yourself clear about the situation, then involve others

To build understanding, in the first loop we get a picture of the project and the company situation. Then we will discuss the topics with the customer in the second loop. Through this systematic separation, we build on an uninfluenced understanding, which is later compared with the customer´s vision. This gives us the opportunity to check whether we really understood the situation, the “language” and the challenges of the client and his project.

In the interest of the customer, the project conditions are always in focus. So we can match our results from the first loop with the image of the customer and show him a different perspective at the same time. By doing so, we help our customers to break out of their pattern and to successfully start the project.

That’s how you learn the difference between knowledge and understanding

A mechanism in our brain means that things that are understood cannot be forgotten. Once you really understand the meaning behind a method, it does not matter in which context you apply it. So it is not necessary to memorize individual steps in order to be able to work according to a certain method, since these steps are subconsciously derived once you have understood the method.

Although we individually adapt all of the steps to the situation, the strategy behind remains the same. Take the project schedule as an example. If you search the internet for the names of each phase of the project, you will find a variety of terms for the same phases, all of which claim to be the right ones. But once you understand how a project works, it does not matter if they are called “initialization” or “preparation” in the schedule. Once you understand what is important in the starting phase, you can overcome challenges and solve problems.

The inner loop of the [bu: st] process management method

Our agile process management method is based on running through two loops (one inner and one outer). Characteristic of the inner loop is that all steps are directed inwards, which means that this loop is initially only run by us as consultants. The customer will be involved at a later date. This allows the [bu:st] process management experts to get a realistic picture of the current situation and to create a possible target image.

Step 1: Create personal Gemba

The first step of our method begins with the personal Gemba. According to the Japanese word for “place of action”, this is about getting an idea of the production site and to get in contact with the industry, the company, the product and all other possible influencing factors (depending on access and access possibilities). We first assess the situation from a neutral perspective before exchanging ideas with the customer. The goal is to acquire the best possible prior knowledge.

Step 2: Explore the process map

In order to get a feeling for the customer’s processes, we familiarize ourselves with the existing process landscape and the organizational structure and compare them with our first own ideas. Here it is necessary to allow free thinking and to play with various possibilities. This is the only way to ensure that our input matches the given process structures and that the entire situation is optimized.

Step 3: Develop understanding for the future vision

This is the last step of the inner loop. At this point, we have already gathered a lot of information and, if possible, analyzed and evaluated without the influence of the customer. Now it is time to put this information on one side of the desk and the assignment to the opposite side. By comparing these data, a suitable picture of the future is created and put in the right focus. Are there any contradictions or concurrent information that stands in the way of success?

What should these examples show you and what can you learn from them? Get away from your daily routine by imagining that you are the consultant yourself and that you are in your company for the first time. What would you pay attention to, what questions would you ask? How does everything work on you? If you were to rebuild your business or project from scratch, how would you structure it? Would you have a solution that does not fit with your processes? Through these thought experiments, you create a mental model that you can work with. If you now ask all these questions and answer them for yourself, then in the first loop only one question remains: What is your picture of the future?

The outer loop of the [bu: st] process management method

After familiarizing ourselves with the realities, the outer loop is about involving the people in the project and sharing your experiences. Equal cooperation and an open, exploratory dialogue are the keys to successfully completing the following three steps.

Step 1: Know the process history

The best solution for one customer is not necessarily the best solution for another customer. So instead of imposing ready-made process reference models on your customers and fundamentally changing their processes, it is worthwhile taking a look at the old processes together. To do this, let’s first discuss the history of the current process world: which processes have existed in the past and why are they no longer available? Which attempts have failed? And why? Answers to these questions not only help the consultant to avoid past mistakes, it also helps those involved to reflect on the past. Through this approach, all participants are actively involved in the change process and the acceptance of changes increases.

Step 2: Create lean principles and analyze wastes

A mere check on the lean principles is not effective here. The [bu:st] process management experts are guided by their understanding and are able to abstract the classical methods of wasting. We create a table that contains the classic wastage types and write down in an extra column, what it means to the environment when we adjust them.

This table will be printed out for the next Gemba and filled in with the process participants. However, this conversation is not primarily about querying each type of waste, but rather about identifying the “pain” of all those involved. Our overall picture is complemented by the collection of all the wastes that appear in the process.

Step 3: Create a comprehensive Gemba

This step is different from the first Gemba in an important point: Now it is no longer about the image that we have made of the current situation as an external consultant, but about the actual commissioning and the framework that has been agreed with the client. Here we focus on the points that are relevant to reach the goal and need to be changed. This not only means being there, but also overseeing the operational activity related to the assignment.

In practice, unfortunately, we repeatedly observe that this step is completely misconceived by companies. Often there is a so-called “Gemba Walk”, which actually serves to look at the situation on the ground. In fact, the focus is only on printed slides on a pin board, while standing with the back to the production. The actual goal of the “walk” is missed. 

Practical tip: Turn around and stand with your back to the pin board. This allows consultants and management to concentrate on the essentials.

On a sheet of paper and a pencil, all anomalies should be noted and sketched. In brief and informal talks, further information is collected. A difference to the first (personal) Gemba is that the findings can be shown to customer on site. Depending on the prevailing corporate culture, this can be astoundingly eye-opening.

Avoid the mistakes of the past and reflect on why generally successful measures have not worked this time. When is the right time to try again? Do not rely on reports or numbers – the truth is out there, not what’s on a slide. And that’s exactly what needs to be communicated to those involved. Break down existing structures and look at what’s really going on in the project.

[bu:st] is your professional consulting for agile process management methods in Munich

The [bu:st] process management method is primarily designed to launch a customer project in a given situation. An already performed step does not mean that this step does not have to be repeated. Of course it is necessary to go through certain steps regularly or several times. We prefer to reduce the number of steps, but to carry them out in a demand-oriented cycle. The [bu:st] process management method eyeLean helps to sharpen the blurry vision and getting the best out of our customer.

Martin Zöltsch

Expert in Task Force Management

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Are you interested in working with us? We look forward to your inquiry. Tel: +49 89 452239-0


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