What is this thing called 9Stucks?
9Stucks is a dynamic business diagnostic tool. It identifies nine distinct yet interrelated business challenges that cause a company to underperform.

Part 4: Go with the Flow(charting)


This is the fourth post in The 9Stucks Boot Camp Series.  The third post (‘Logjam and the 80/20 Rule’) identified StorageCo’s two most pressing challenges:

  1. a business model that generated unnecessary complexity, added costs and caused tension throughout the company and the leadership team
  2. plants, equipment, and processes that were old and inefficient
This post will cover the inefficient processes found throughout the company.

What is a Sideways Review?

A Sideways Review was something I did with a team at StorageCo. Years ago a sideways review was called flowcharting; flowcharting was replaced with re-engineering. One of the current terms for understanding the effectiveness of systems and processes is lean manufacturing.

When trying to understand the linkages among business processes within a company, the analysis work should investigate the Ins, the Outs, and Everything in Between. In other words, what activities does it take to book an order, book a consulting project, etc., and then get the product or service made and shipped.

How did we organize the Sideways Review?

We set up a cross-functional project team from the company, got some big rolls of brown paper, hung the sheets of paper on the walls and started to document all the processes at the company. Remember this project was done a number of years ago; ‘brown paper’ was state of the art!

The following chart shows how we organized the overall operations; these were divided up to facilitate that detailed, ‘horizontal’ review of the company. There were four main segments:

  • order processing
  • production planning
  • production
  • distribution

These four sections were then broken down into even more detail.

Notice how this graphic is organized by PROCESS layers (or MAJOR FUNCTIONS), not by DEPARTMENT. The company had many long-standing departments that were contained both within each of these process steps and departments that overlapped the process steps. Given this was a very old company, their organizational structure seemed to be put together more like additions being attached to an old house rather than like an organized remoldeling effort.

StorageCo had a tremendous number of large and small process issues that needed to be changed, eliminated, or replaced with better technology.  They also had ongoing, quality breakdowns in most areas of the plant.

Despite the fact that StorageCo was pretty much a ‘sales-driven company’, many of the internal process and quality problems had a negative impact on their relationship with customers.  There was not an excessive attention to detail given to process matters – get the sale and get the product shipped was the order of the day.

Here is a sampling of the issues that came from the Sideways Review:

  • order processing is out of control
  • incorrect information passed on throughout the company
  • no one is really aware of the order status
  • no one truly responsible for many aspects of a particular production process
  • scheduling had limited customer contact
  • outdated forecasting for inventory levels
  • materials needed to be coordinated across departments – frequent breakdowns in communication
  • inconsistent colors applied in manufacturing
  • substandard supplies from vendors were accepted into production
  • improper shrink wrap caused shipping damages
  • lack of order details in plant documents

Stating the Obvious – The Importance of Quality Control Systems

The yellow highlights on the graphic below reveal a number of quality problems that were associated with just one of the main production functions called ‘Inline Production’. There were other manufacturing quality control issues found throughout many of the other company functions.

We completed the Sideways Review – now what?

After the extensive findings of our review were digested and discussed, the owners, top management and rank and file employees all agreed change had to happen in a number of areas. It was time.

Where would you start after completing the business process review?

What needs to be done to make the process and organizational changes take hold and stick?

The fifth and final post (‘Coach or Food Fight Referee’) in The 9Stucks Boot Camp Series will discuss the change programs that were implemented for both these process areas, and for the other key aspects of the business.