Graham Birkenhead, December 4 2018

Make your Value Flow - End to End

I was chatting with a friend  the other day, explaining a little more about what I do when he stopped me and said: “I keep hearing that term - what exactly do you mean by end-to-end and why do you talk about it all the time?”  

Once you are exposed to end to end (e2e) it comes naturally but it can take a while to grasp the subtleties. e2e is core to helping companies to accelerate. It’s about being aware that wherever you are and whatever you do in business, you are part of something much bigger. We call this the value stream.     

Consider a physical product such as a toy - at one end you have you have a satisfied end-user or consumer (the child for whom it was bought) and at the other you have the source of your raw material. Once the raw material is pulled from the ground each successive process adds value to it – all with the aim of satisfying the end user. In fact, you could go on to how the toy is recycled if you want to take e2e to the extreme. 

My friend runs a software company, so he asked for an example that was a bit more relevant for him.   I explained that one of our clients builds and sells software applications and was having problems with their reputation.  Their quality had been initially great and led to a rapid increase in sales, but just as their sales were growing their stellar reputation started to deteriorate.  The sales department and the software development team were getting frustrated with each other and the CEO was trying to find consensus and solve the problems.  And, as is often the case, it was always the other team’s fault.  Ironically, the sales team was having a banner quarter with a solid increase in deals signed.  But at the same time margins were dropping, deliveries were lagging, and customers were unhappy.  The company was quickly falling apart. 

So, we introduced them to e2e thinking.  

E2e means that everyone in the company needs to know where they fit into the value stream. The sales team were given complete visibility into the development process and the development team could see the entire sales process. The CEO removed the wall between them and gave them collective responsibility for customer satisfaction.  No one received credit (or commission) until an application was successfully delivered and installed by the customer. For them, surprisingly, this was a major a-ha! moment.  

The sales team now saw themselves as the front end of the value stream. This meant they took great care to capture customer requirements in a way that developers could understand and implement without assumptions or going back for clarification – or, even worse, doing lots of re-work which delayed other projects and leaked margin. 

The development team got visibility into the sales team activity – they could flag spare or emerging capacity in different functions and advise the sales team what to sell next and what expectations to set with the customers. 

So What?  Rather than having two competing departments trying to optimise their own bit of the process, they moved to a single e2e flow of value through the company with everyone working to make it as smooth as possible.  Unit sales increased, revenue increased, margin increased, and happiness increased for both customers and staff.  How good is that? 

Try This:  How does that work in your business? Start by walking your e2e process.  Become your product or service and walk it through your company – physically  - not just on the whiteboard. Go from person to person, touch-point to touch-point.  What is happening to you at the various points?  Where are you stalling, what is causing friction?   Now, what is one thing you can do right away that will make it all flow a little smoother?

Written by

Graham Birkenhead


Previous Don't Think Small, Think Narrow
Next Legacy Constraints