For the better part of twenty years, I observed business processes with an eye toward defining, streamlining and sometimes automating them.
Now that I am no longer on the consulting side of the table, I get to share greater ownership of our business processes with the other members of our management team.
At the same time, I notice a stark difference between engaging clients from the outside in a process improvement effort and being part of a team that has to work politically together to make those improvements happen.
I also notice that my priorities must necessarily take our team’s priorities into account.
For years I knew that customers paid me to produce grounded assessments for them – to help them see what they struggled to see… some of it because of my ability and some of it by virtue of coming from the outside with a fresh perspective.
Today I experienced one of my earliest and best-loved channels for fresh perspectives in the form of a “service tour” of one of our clinics.
Plant and service tours
On a shelf in my office, I have an old textbook titled “Plant and Service Tours in Operations Management”. Today I suppose we might call it a book of operations management case studies.
During our restructuring, we may come up with several process improvement initiatives that seem like textbook actions from operations management.
Beyond the textbooks, meanwhile, it is also great to get out and meet people who love our company and the service we offer to our customers.
I am thinking taking these tours might be especially important for executives in IT, HR or finance, whose roles might traditionally link us to corporate offices and corporate staff.
My first full-time job after leaving the Navy was at Excel Circuits. We manufactured circuit boards all within the same building, from sales quotes and engineering design specs through QA, packing and shipping.
I was the IT department, and I didn’t know enough to be scared of what that meant.
Instead I ran around the plant, asking everyone what they did, spending time with them and learning what they cared about… and then scurrying back to my desk to write their software.
It had to be one of the most enjoyable experiences of my career – I was so curious and so inventive – I knew that I didn’t know a lot, but I didn’t pretend any differently… and I suppose it all worked out well in the end, after all.
Back to this afternoon
To experience a chapter 11 restructuring is a fast-paced and exciting time.
To be in a new role with the industry-leading company surrounds me with history, traditions and the knowledge of others that is a lot like Excel Circuits was to me so long ago.
So when I had the chance to visit our Plymouth clinic this afternoon, I jumped at the opportunity.
The clinic manager has worked for our company for 8 years. The clinic looked great, the equipment looked great, the experience was awesome.
We talked about our systems and how she used them. We talked about all her paperwork, how she interacts with IT, and what kinds of communications she gets from our corporate office and through our Intranet.
The joy of information systems
You know that I am a software and integration guy. I love to build software systems, but I am never confused that they have to fit first into human and business systems.
One of the great joys of working in information systems to me is that we touch nearly every aspect of every business. We are creative, inventive and highly social if we are going to be any help at all.
Even if you are not a CIO or senior IT manager, you are in front of so many business people of all types, it is a wonder to me that more IT professionals don’t end up in senior business roles.
Look for opportunities to gain fresh perspectives. Go on a service tour of your own. Shop at one of your stores or tour a plant. Meet the customers of your company.
Then come back and share your experiences with the rest of us.