Cynthia Owens

Senior Consultant

Recent Posts

Visual Process Innovation: Phase 4 - Activate

11-23-2016 | Cynthia Owens | Process
Implementing a new process is the toughest step, and it’s often where organizations undercut their plan by not focusing time and resources on how to engage, teach, and motivate people to change.
Processes don’t change by themselves; people need to change. That’s where  Visual Process Innovation can be so effective.
What is an activation plan?
Co-creating and visualizing the future state jump-starts any process change, and because the multi-disciplinary teams that create the new process become advocates for it, those same people help to develop an engagement and activation plan to scope out what the organization needs to do over weeks and months to make sure change occurs and to make sure those changes stick.
We do this in a discovery session designed to understand employees and how to engage them. We focus on every touch point in your process. Employees need to know why they need to change, how it is changing, and what they need to do differently.
This provides insights to create an implementation plan that helps people understand and accept changes and moves them to activating and defending those changes.
We design learning experiences, so they can understand and practice new processes and behaviors. And, we work with organizations to develop reinforcement tools so change sticks.
Why do you need an activation plan?
Activation isn’t a one-time launch announcement or a communications plan. Activation is a strategy for creating support and lasting change in the way people work.
Without an activation plan, organizations often see only parts of a new process successfully integrated and won’t gain the full business impact of the improvement program.
People are creatures of habit, so change can take time, and activation needs to lead your team to the new process and then reinforce change.

Empathy Mapping: This is an excellent tool for understanding what any new process is up against. It maps the larger context for different stakeholder groups, so we can look for ways to engage them. The framework asks what each group is doing, thinking, hearing, saying, seeing, and feeling to get a clear picture of the audience and begin to look for ways to engage them.

Communication & Engagement Strategy: Focusing on key engagement principles such as transparency and two-way communication, we focus on questions: How do we reach employees? How do they learn? What tools are available? How can we create opportunities for social networks to support the new process? How can we answer questions? This helps us to work with clients to design a strategy for success.

Learning Experiences Activation: Once we know how to reach stakeholders, we work to develop the right tools; from learning games to training programs and playbooks, we work with organizations to design what will be most effective in helping people understand why and how the process needs to change.

Enablement & Reinforcement Tools: It’s easy for people to slip back into old patterns; that’s human nature. Simple engagement tools can test a new process, so you know what’s working and where you might be running into roadblocks. Then, we can turn those into opportunities to reinforce and redefine the engagement strategy to set people up, so they can execute the new process.

Cynthia Owens is a Senior Consultant at XPLANE.
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Visual Process Innovation: Phase 2 - Future State

11-23-2016 | Cynthia Owens | Process
The Future State phase visually maps the new process from beginning to end. That sounds simple enough, but getting that map right is both critical and difficult.
What is Future State Mapping?
One of the reasons Lean is so successful is that it intensively maps the value stream from end-to-end. We’ve developed a similar mapping approach to clearly visualize the human interactions that are critical to making any process effective.
We bring all of the key stakeholders into a room in a discovery session to literally map each step on a wall. It’s crucial to make sure the right people are in the room. The people who actually know the process best will know where the bottlenecks might be and where there are opportunities for easy improvements. A multi-disciplinary group of stakeholders allows organizations to get a holistic look at the process and not just focus on a few areas that are obviously broken.
We look to design the process from beginning to end, including all of the handoffs and interactions that need to take place along the way. It is these vital human relationships that are important to making the Future State a success in the workplace, and Visual Process Innovation brings those to life.
Why is mapping the Future State important?
Most processes get hung up on the human side of process. The handoffs, collaboration points, or routine changes that are required to make a process improvement initiative successful need to be understood by the people involved. Visually mapping these fundamental convergence points is one of the keys to success.
When leaders and employees can both clearly see what they are supposed to do, why they should change, and how they fit into the picture, they can  begin to change. That’s when organizations see and feel the benefit of process change.

Future State Mapping: In a workshop with the key stakeholders, map the future state by asking key questions: What is the action? Who takes action and how is this accomplished? What is the output and what is the handoff to the next step? By the end of the discovery session, the map will help people clearly understand what they need to do.
Paper Prototyping: To see the process in action, paper prototyping using hand-sketched drawings allows teams to test a new process with different stakeholder groups. It’s a quick and effective way to examine a process improvement plan from different perspectives and refine the process before making big investments.

Best Practices and Benchmarking: It can be important to research industry best practices to understand where organizations might find gaps and opportunities to improve, what objectives should be priorities, and gauge customer expectations. This helps set benchmarks and objectives so organizations adopt the best thinking.

Plus / Delta Opportunity Mapping: Building from the current state, stakeholders map what’s working and where those tactics and activities could reap benefits in the process. Then, they map opportunities to improve drawing on their own experience with how the process works day-to-day to create an improved Future State.

Cynthia Owens is a Senior Consultant at XPLANE.
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Change DNA: Action

11-23-2016 | Cynthia Owens | Change

Actions speak louder than words. It’s one of those axioms we hear so often that it is easy to forget how much impact leaders can have when they demonstrate a commitment to priorities and values.
The former CEO of Campbell’s Soup, Douglas Conant, showed he cared about employee engagement by sending hand-written thank you notes to employees. In his 10 years as CEO, he sent more than 20,000 personalized notes.
In his first week on the job, Best Buy’s CEO Hubert Joly went through the standard new employee training and then put on the trademark blue shirt and worked on the sales floor of one of the company’s huge stores.
It took courage and commitment for Conant and Joly to model the behavior they valued and those actions told their employees loudly and clearly what was important.
Even if an action or event is symbolic, it creates a “commitment bias,” so that people are more likely to see it through. And actions create stories that people can retell to reinforce the actions.
Translate your vision to symbolic events
Joly wanted to show that customer service in the store was vital. It didn’t cost him a lot to work in the store for a week, but it carried tremendous weight. If you want your teams to embrace a new open office plan, be the first one to move out of your corner suite. If you want meetings to start and end on time, make a point of following a strict agenda in your own meetings, starting and stopping exactly on time.
Model behavior that reinforces your story
Employees like to be able to relate to the boss’s story. If you started on the factory floor, put time in your schedule every month to spend in the factory or eating in the workers’ lunchroom. If you made your name in customer service, set aside time to meet customers with your sales staff to show them how to build vital relationships.
Create a listening tour
Managers often tell employees they want feedback or their door is open, and then what employees see is a boss too busy to talk. If getting input from your team is important, create a listening tour.  Develop open-ended questions that help you stay in touch with your business. Then make half-hour appointments with staff members and sit down to listen to them.

Cynthia Owens is a Senior Consultant at XPLANE.

Action Worksheet No. 5: Anthropology Study

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Want to Make a Process Improvement Plan Stick? Focus on the People.

11-23-2016 | Cynthia Owens | Process

Originally posted on the Operational Excellence Society website.

So many process improvement plans are dead on arrival. It’s almost like online dating; companies spend millions developing the perfect picture and profile, and yet when the plan meets the actual process, both sides are disappointed.

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Stop Asking Consultants to Give You the Answer

Our clients are increasingly buried in work, and their schedules are always booked solid. As we work with them to understand their needs, they frequently ask us, “Why can’t you just give us the answer?”
We will tell you what we tell them: “Our experience clearly shows the best answers come from co-creating the solution with your teams. When you hire someone to give you the answer, you give away the most powerful tool you have.”
Your own employees and colleagues know what’s broken, and they have clear ideas about how to fix it. They usually come up with more useful solutions. People support what they help to build. This is the biggest reason to engage your teams. That means co-creating it with your people makes them instant advocates, and even evangelists, for those solutions.
Co-creation in product development may mean collaborating with customers or partners to develop new and better products. Inside of organizations, co-creation means engaging your employees to design better internal solutions.
At XPLANE, co-creation means bringing together a cross-functional team to discover, design, and iterate a solution. Over the years, we’ve heard every reason why co-creation won’t work. Here are the top three:

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Break Down Silos: Advice for Leaders from Their Teams

07-20-2016 | Cynthia Owens | Culture

One of the most common challenges leaders cite is that their teams are stuck in silos and they want them to collaborate to be more competitive. But if those leaders really want teams to collaborate, they may be focusing on the wrong things. Spoiler alert: mandating stand–up meetings isn't going to change how people work together.

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Internal Sprints Accelerate Projects and Jump Start Change

We hear it all the time: Projects are stuck. Teams are bogged down. Organizations just can’t move forward on a nagging issue. Leaders want to jump-start change.
Design sprints can accelerate progress, focus on critical decisions, and get teams unstuck. Design sprints work because the right people are free of distractions and can focus on answering a key question in a limited amount of time.

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Focus on User-centered Design; It’s Not About the Title or The Org Chart

In the wake of some high-profile departures of communications leaders, PR Week asks whether communications and marketing should be separate or combined.&nb
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Design is the Key to Success This Year – Make it Work For Your Team

It’s XPLANE’s year.   The Chinese Year of the Sheep is known for design and creativity and so are we.   Design is part of everyth
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The Magic of Discovery

Put 9 experts from 9 different organizations on a project without much direction and you are likely to have at least 9 different opinions. But in the case
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