Ever wanted to know more about the passionate, hard-working team of TLC consultants who help to arm clients with all of the tools and guidance needed for process management? In this interview series, our consultants will be sharing their experiences, motivation and insight on what they do.

Kicking off our interview series, we interviewed Grant Davis, who is based in the sunshine province of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. As an expert in the innovative TLC SOM (Standard Operating Model), Grant has extensive experience in helping companies across major industries such as petroleum, logistics and insurance to standardise, document and improve their processes. Today, we talk to him about his work, the challenges that affect many companies in need of process improvement and the things that keep him inspired.

Six Sigma, Process Management, Light Bulb Moments and the TLC Approach to Training and ConsultingGrant

First of all, tell us a little about your background, and how you became part of the TLC team.

While my focus is on Business Improvement and process management now, I studied accounting originally. In my fifth year of studies, I did a course on Six Sigma and Lean, which changed my path completely. Since then, I am honoured to have worked with a number of companies across many different industries, helping them to find ways to improve their processes and create a culture of improvement that is not just a policy, but rather a daily practice that is implemented across the company.

You are something of a legend when it comes to the TLC Standard Operating Model (SOM). How would you sum up this approach in how it helps your clients?

We have a somewhat unique approach to standardising and stabilising business processes, which we call the Standard Operating Model (SOM). With this model, clients are able to create a franchise-like system that unifies processes and allows changes to be made simply and effectively.

We always tell our clients is that if you can’t describe what you are doing as a process, you don’t know what you are doing.  Another favourite motto we have is, “a problem well-defined is a problem half solved,” and this is very important when it comes to how we help clients to implement the SOM approach. For example, we could create a SOM for a claims department that maps out processes, job descriptions, training documents and roles for that department, but that SOM could be used by another department too, so that everything is measured and standardised across the organisation. To use another popular TLC saying, what gets measured gets managed, and what gets inspected gets respected.

People often assume that the standard operating model is the same as a standard operating procedure, but in reality, the two are very different. SOM marries people with processes, offering a functional approach that serves a number of purposes to each company. Reporting can be done at a higher level without the need to be overly technical. It is a system that is created and documented, then used by people in their day to day jobs. The SOM is used in the same way as a franchise model – all departments work in the same way for best practices, ensuring far more room for improvements that can be made company wide. Changes can be made and captured in the SOM, then rolled out. As everyone has the SOM, changes catch on quickly as there is a solid foundation already in place. This is why we always make sure that the SOM is created first to ensure that everything is standardised.

One of our long-time clients is a leader within the petrochemical industry, with over 20 SOMs in place. For their health and safety department, the SOMs need to span across the entire business, including each department such as engineering, maintenance, HR, legal, finance and safety. Originally, they sought our help for compliance. As you can imagine, in an industry such as petroleum, operations need to be defined and processes are extremely stringent to avoid potential jail time if anything ever goes wrong. At some point however, what started out as a compliance requirement became a consensus exercise. In a large organisation, it is common to have differing opinions and ideas in each separate department, which can have a negative impact on overall improvements as there is no communication or consensus. By putting representatives from each department together in a workshop, the right people were brought in to make the right calls, to use the right processes and start agreeing on the right way forward. We could start to document processes and hold people accountable, so that there could be more agreement as well as more improvements.

Organisations that don’t seek consultants often don’t take improvement seriously. But when a consultant like me is brought in, they have to be there because they are invested in making real changes. Consensus becomes far more valuable at that point. Once everyone has agreed on processes that need to be implemented, we provide assistance with training at department level as well as at branches, dealers and throughout the rest of the company. Things start to catch on, traction is gained and there is change that is driven from top down.

What are some of the main challenges that negatively affect process improvement?

There are a few reasons that companies may request help from TLC:

  1. They know they have problems but do not have time to fix things themselves. When time is an issue, we come in and facilitate the process. Companies let us know how involved they want us to be, and decide whether they want to give us free reign to run projects, or whether they simply want an extra pair of hands to start the facilitation. In this way, we help to relieve pressure and provide a way to push the right buttons and make things happen.
  1. They know there are problems but are unsure where to start or how to uncover specific issues. We are brought in to provide assessments, to show companies where the issues are – are they focusing on customers? Are processes in place or are the right things being done?
  1. They need to be compliant. Compliance is a major factor for many companies. We help to provide process maps for standards and compliance, ensuring that regulations are adhered to properly and in accordance with best practices.
  1. They want a competitive advantage. We work with a top abattoir in KZN, who has a huge reach and a competitive approach to improvement. They appreciate the fact that we have worked with such a variety of industries, which enables them to find out what competitors are doing in terms of improvement strategies. They find the SOM and other services provided by TLC to be extremely useful for ideas, tapping into our knowledge of industry best practices.
  1. They want to develop a culture of improvement. One of our major transportation clients came to us with processes that were broken, with plenty of frustration and the need to identify gaps in quality that were affecting improvement. We helped them get started with problem solving on a daily basis. There is a great motto we share at TLC, “ Look for a better way, every day”. This is something that we actively encourage – the solving of improvement problems on a consistent basis, with continuous thinking about processes.

Whatever the reasons that may bring companies to seek our services; we have an approach that is very different from most consulting companies. If we can’t help, we don’t want to waste anyone’s time. We are not the type of company to come in, do work and then leave clients to get lost. We encourage process mapping to help clients solve their own issues. We don’t want to take over or get ingrained – we want to fix processes and train clients so that we can leave some day. In this way, we aim to help clients learn how to document and fix their processes and continue with everyday improvements. By building relationships, I believe that we can genuinely help to deliver real value. And often, clients then want help in other areas as well, which further builds relationships.

What keeps you motivated and inspired to keep providing your customers to do their best?

I do it for the lightbulb moments. I do it for the times when I am running a workshop with a team who automatically have the hair standing on end thinking of me as a consultant, but soon realise that they can solve their own problems. I love winning them over, especially when I can help them open up to ideas and be receptive to new ideas. It is rewarding when I see people open up and start to solve their own processes. I love workshops and training, and I am very passionate about Lean and Six Sigma. For those who say it is not working, I find it is because Lean is viewed as a tool rather than a culture change. If it becomes just a tool, then Lean is just being followed mindlessly. Instead, Lean should be focused on thinking about why things are done, who benefits, what is this for and how things can be done better.

The team at TLC are phenomenal when it comes to motivating people and inspiring change. They have helped major companies save millions, while bringing about improvements that are lasting and valuable. The calibre of people I work with is extremely high and I am constantly learning in this environment.

Ultimately, one of the things that so many clients say after a workshop or training session is that process management is so logical and simple. The problem with common sense is that it is not so common. This is why we always strive to get people to ask questions and start thinking about things. That is what keeps me motivated and inspired every day.

If you have any questions that you would like to ask Grant, we’d love to hear them. Leave your comments below and let us know how we can help you meet your process goals. Keen to learn more about the rest of the TLC Team? Visit our website to Meet the Team today.