3. Breakpoints – how much work do they create?

A variety of studies exist that place the percentage of time the average employee spends on non-value added work at 40% to 90%. Regardless of where you fall on that scale one thing is obvious…

Identifying and eliminating the causes of non-value added work presents an opportunity for cost reduction of at least 40%. And that’s a prize worth pursuing.

What are Break Points?

Any point within a process where work is handed off is a Break Point. There are four main types of Break Points:

1) person to person

2) person to system

3) system to person

4) system to system.

Break Points are places where stuff goes wrong more often than any place else. Handoffs fail, work is incomplete, and stuff gets duplicated in a cycle that produces a perpetual drain on the organization’s resources.

Like the baton hand-off in Track and Field relay races; if something happens at the hand-off, something unplanned, the next runner must stop running and deal with the resulting issue.

They can’t continue with the race, which is their professional skill, until they have dealt with the failed hand-off. So when something unexpected happens at a hand-off we must stop what we are doing and perform an activity that is nothing to do with our professional skill.

What could go wrong at a Break Point?

For the relay team, the runner waiting for the baton could start too early, either runner could drop the baton, the runner receiving the baton could start too late, either runner could use the wrong hand*, the baton could be slick for some reason causing it to slip… you get the point.

*Many Break Points cause work when the patterns we (people) are used to get changed for any reason. People always create patterns of work behavior. It makes it much easier for us to do things that have repetition. The patterns we’re talking about are not documented anywhere, they are the naturally evolving patterns people in our organizations create to help them do their work.

But these patterns are often violated. For example: a new person is involved (they don’t know the existing pattern), someone is using a different software program, somebody changed a form or document, a new policy went into place requiring people to follow a business rule in how they do a more generic activity like making a request or sending an email, someone’s job changed slightly and they have created a new personal work pattern, a new manager comes in, etc, etc, etc.

To identify with the concept of Break Points (BP) all you have to do is think about the work you do on a daily basis. How much of that work is caused by Break Points?

Think about it.

In praise of the Customer focused organization (and the best at what they do!)

When is a good business model a really good business model?

When (perhaps)
… the customers keep coming back for more (76 million per year)?[i]
… you are consistently outperforming you industry rivals (record breaking profits in Q1 2012)[ii]?
… the shareholder value is growing year on year?[iii]
… you consistently drive out costs and grow revenues?[iv… receive positive feedback from yourchosen customer base?
… when your strategy is clearly stated and easy to understand by employees, management, shareholders and customers alike[v]?
By all the above criteria Ryanair the Irish airline is a terrific and much envied success. And yet you may hear many criticisms of Ryanair however as Michael O’Leary, their ebullient CEO points out, they are not Ryanairs customers.
In fact he wishes they never darken his door again as the Ryan Air offering is specifically not aligned with “picky, choosy time wasters” (his words not mine).
What is the secret?
Part of the magic is a complete focus on understanding their chosen customers successful outcome, and while that may not include you or me, it is certainly the bulk of travellers in Europe whose repeat business has helped Ryan Air outperform the sector for the last decade.

So have you personally and has your business really clearly articulated who is your customer and then defined the business you are in?

[iv] BBC News 21 May 2012: Budget airline Ryanair has reported record profits as fare rises helped to offset a sharp rise in fuel costs. Net profit for the year to March was 503m euros ($643m; £406m), up 25% on a year earlier. Revenue rose by 19% to 4.3bn euros.
[v]Ryanair’s objective is to firmly establish itself as Europe’s leading low-fares scheduled
passenger airline through continued improvements and expanded offerings of its low-fares
service. Ryanair aims to offer low fares that generate increased passenger traffic while
maintaining a continuous focus on cost-containment and operating efficiencies. (http://www.ryanair.com/doc/investor/Strategy.pdf)