Over the past several weeks, I have had the good fortune to participate in a number of “Kaizen Blitz’s” with a client. They were focused on identifying great improvements in my client’s go to market and sales strategies. One of the profound things about these workshops was that 70% of the participants came from non-sales or marketing functions—manufacturing, development, operations, quality, legal, human resources, and executive management. The results of these meetings–as we move forward in executing these ideas will drive tremendous improvement in the client’s growth, with great improvements in the performance and productivity of sales and marketing.
Let me step back, a Kaizan Blitz is one of the processes or tools used as part of “Lean” approaches to the organization. We often hear of lean manufacturing, lean development, more recently of lean lartups and lean entrepreneurship from Eric Ries great work in his book The Lean Startup, How Today’s Entreprenerus Use Continuous Innovation To Create Radically Successful Businesses. Lean has it’s roots in the quality movement and most famously traced to the Toyota Production system. The kaizen sessions are focused workshops on continuous improvement, eliminating work that does not create value.
Many people mistake “Lean” as a process of eliminating unnecessary or wasteful work. In reality lean is focused on Value Creation. What Lean is really about is identifying the true essence of Creating Value. It requires that we focus on what is needed to create value, identifying everything does not create value or diminishes value—all of that is considered waste. Through the process of implementing “Lean,” the organization must constantly focus on identifying what value is and focusing 200% on those activities that create value.
In manufacturing, the downstream steps/activities and the people who performed them are the “customer.” In lean manufacturing, we focus on making sure that we have eliminated all the non-value added things for those customers. For instance eliminating waste, reducing errors, maximizing efficiency, so the product we provide these downstream customers enables them to maximize the value they add for their downstream customers.
Lean is one of the most important concepts for us to understand and drive in Sales and Marketing. It mandates us to really understand what value is–from the point of view of our customers, and to focus exclusively on activities that create value for the customer, eliminating everything else.
Lean is not a random approach to improving our ability to create and deliver value. It is based on the “scientific method.” We analyze what value is, we analyze the steps and activities required to create and deliver value, we analyze and identify those activities that don’t contribute to value and we eliminate them. We may create “experiments” to test what customers really value–they may not be able to articulate it, so we have to develop some “hypotheses,” rapidly creating and executing experiments to test those hypotheses, iterating rapidly so we can accelerate our understanding of value and focus on value creation and delivery.
Over the coming weeks, I will be writing about various aspects of “Lean” in sales and marketing. I’ll share some of the things I see our clients doing in implementing lean approaches, how we can learn from these and leverage them for profound growth.
I want to go back, for a moment, to these Kaizen blitz’s with my client. I mentioned that 70% of the participants came from outside sales and marketing. It’s one of the important things we need to recognize about sales and marketing—and “Lean” forces us to understand this. That is, Sales–Revenue Generation is not just the job of sales people. It requires total alignment and support of the entire organization. Every function contributes to Revenue Generation. Maximizing our ability to create value for our customers is not just Sales and Markeitng’s job, but requires the entire organization working together.
In these workshops, we identified what were the “wastes,” the non value creating activities between these organizations that impact our ability to connect most effectively with our customers. We found huge numbers of activities, wasteful meetings, ill defined roles and responsibilities, an absence of accountability, an absence of measures. The teams now know what to focus on eliminating. One of the results of this effort is that the teams freed up the time and wasteful activities of sales people—we established a goal of enabling sales people to spend 50% of their time with customers in value creating sales activities–more than doubling the time they currently spend.
In the workshops, we started to go beyond eliminating waste, focusing on what “Lean” is really about, Value Creation. We have a long way to go in these projects, but we have identified some next steps. I’ll be writing about these, along with other aspects of “Lean Sales And Marketing” in the coming weeks.
As I kick off this series, I’d love to hear from you about your experiences in “Lean Sales And Marketing.”