Should Future State Resemble Current?

Joe:   When we go to designing the future state, how closely does it have to relate to the current state? I mean should we be using the same measurements, so we can see that we’re actually gaining or can you just jump out and do that innovative and that blue sky thinking and pull a completely different future state out of there?

Drew  Locher:       Again, great question. There are two different schools of thought. Some people will have their teams create ideal states. I tried that in the early days, and I stopped doing it because you spend a lot of time on something that was never going to be implemented. Now, did it stimulate some ideas, out of the box thinking? Often, yes, but I think we can do that while creating a very practical future state that we know we have a good chance of implementing in a reasonable time frame, and we have some guidelines for all that. The reasonable time frame is, elements of the future state should be implementable – if that’s word – within 3 months, 3 to  6 months, 6 to 9 months, and 9 to 12 months. We don’t want to design a future state where we won’t see any benefit for like a year or longer because the odds of really implementing that future state are going to decrease and we’re never going to get around to doing it.

People need to see improvement. They need to get relief in what they’re doing within reasonable time frames. And we believe, within three months is a reasonable timeframe. So that’s one of the guidelines, and when people are coming up with ideas, I’m asking, can we implement that within 3 months now? How about 3 to 6 months? Yes. Okay, we’ll assume that but we’ll also use the 70% rule and keep updating. We don’t have 100% certainty, but all the idea that we come up with in the design of the future state are going to be achievable. I just asked, do you feel you have 70% chance of implementing that within 3 months or 3 to 6 months? And if the answer is yes, then we assume it on the future state.

Now as we get into the implementation, and we find out that was a bad assumption, that’s okay. The team gets back together, they update the map, they update the plan, and they move forward. You aren’t going to have 100% certainty and people have to be able to deal with it, and that’s basic change management, that part of what we’re trying to do is develop this mindset for humans to be able to deal with uncertainty. Otherwise, this desire for certainty will paralyze, and they won’t even come up with a future state. This will be thinking it’s like casting concrete. It will never change, and it’s got to be right and perfect. We use the 70% rule; we use the 3-month bucket rule, and we try to create a very practical, achievable future state that people feel good about.

Now, if I don’t think that the folks are looking outside their box, and the future state is looking too much like a current state, as a facilitator, it’s something I have to deal with. So one of those underlying assumptions and a lot of times its assumptions of will they long change or who’s they? Let’s go pull them into the event right now. If they’re not on or team already, ideally the day they should have been on the team is as we’re mapping value stream and looking at an end to end processes. The team member should reflect that. But let’s say they’re not on the team, and they might be management. Okay, let’s go and speak to them and see if this is a reasonable assumption. Now let’s not discard the idea because of the assumption it might not be true. A lot of times, I’ll bring my own experience of 30 years to facilitating and show examples. I’ll show photos of different concepts being applied in office and service environments, just to spark creativity in people’s minds that hey, we can do something different. We can throw work fundamentally very differently than we are today, and maybe not have to get a whole new computer system or something like that to do so.

Related Podcast and Transcription: Creating Big Improvements

About: Drew Locher is the co-author of The Complete Lean Enterprise: Value Stream Mapping for Office and Services, Second Edition. You can learn more about Drew at his company web page, Change Management Associates.

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