TLS Continuum Part 61: What is? Reality of the Present

Welcome to the first of four posts that explore the interconnection between design thinking and the TLS Continuum. It is a dynamic way to understand your customer and your customer’s expectations. This first installment is critical to the success of the process improvement effort since we need to understand the problem in its basic manifestation.

We begin this journey by understanding that the ultimate outcome is going to affect people. The changes you make in the long run are going to change people’s lives. So from that perspective we need to have a firm grounding in exactly what the problem or the opportunity is. We do that becoming in essence one with the customer.

If we look at the combined toolboxes of both Design Thinking, as suggested by Tim Oglivie and Jeanne Liedtka in Designing for Growth: A Design Thinking Toolkit for Managers, and the TLS Continuum I have a clear path to discover those customer needs.

The process begins with scoping the project by creating the scope of the opportunity before you. Begin by asking you what is the opportunity you are exploring and why does that matter to your organization. It also gives you the opportunity to explore what may be standing in your way to success. So how do we get one with the customer?

You begin to one with the customer by creating a good design brief or project charter. What ever you want to call it, the process asks the same questions. We want to know what is the description of the project? What is it that we are trying to resolve? At the same time as we are doing this we need to be very clear about what we are not going to try and resolve. We need to determine what are those factors present in the current state that have absolutely nothing to do with the problem before us. Remember we can’t and should not try and resolve every problem before us. Another critical aspect of getting into the head of the customer is to determine what is standing in our way. Why can’t you do something if it is an important piece of the puzzle?   As we will see below there some really good tools to help you achieve this step. As we scope the project we also need to identify who is the end user of the improvement effort.

Now that we have the project charter (design criteria) in place we are ready to see the problem from the customer’s point of view. The toolbox provides us with the way to determine that aspect of our journey. Begin by creating a journey map or process map. Get a handle on the workflow through your organization. In many cases we do not start these maps early enough. We begin with the process within our own organization but do not look at the process from the customer’s point of view. Go to the customer and conduct a “Stand in a circle” exercise. See how the process works in their world real time. Take at least a half an hour time allotment and watch the process in action. Input these observations into a SIPOC form so we can identify the process in a visual fashion.

Once you have these results go back to your office and find a room that you can turn into a “war” room and obtain easel pads where you can peel off pages and create posters. Using these pages create a visualization of the process steps. Use post-a-notes to lay out the process in each step. Use of post-a-notes enables you to rearrange the aspects of the process as you make changes. The visualization process provides us with a clear picture of the design criteria we need to go forward. You achieve this by refining your initial charter.

The beginning of your continuous process improvement effort is to become one with the customer. You want to live, breather and act like your customer. Understand their trails, tribulations and frustrations with the current process. Take that knowledge to design the criteria for deriving solutions that will improve the customer’s processes. IN next week’s installment we will look at the steps to determine the future state of your process.


Daniel Bloom & Associates, Inc. assists organization’s with the creation of empowered change strategies which are customer centric, organizationally aligned and quality based in your organization.


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