Can you believe it’s nearly Monday again? What kind of work week did you guys have last week?
Last week, I was fortunate enough to spend some time in some lovely places and meet some wonderfully interesting & inspirational people (such as Anna Bastek). Plus, a shetland pony wearing a tartan blanket randomly walked past my living room window on Friday afternoon. All in all, quite awesome 🙂
But the great thing is that, even if it had been an absolute nightmare of the week, today’s the start of a brand new one. New territory to be explored and a new canvass just waiting for us to make our impression! I’m so excited that it’s a little scary, lol.
Anyway, today’s post is a relatively random one, but was something I just had to share following a conversation I overheard last week.
So, the “Conversation”…
Woman 1: Yeah, so she’s absolutely doing my head in.
Woman 2: Why?
Woman 1: Well, I told her about that one customer who wanted the X3000 in black and then suggested that we start stocking it in black. I mean, we have it in every other colour and they just fly out the shop. So why not get them in black. This woman would have bought one if we had.
Woman 2: Oh right, so what did she say to that?
Woman 1: She said it was pointless ordering them in!
Woman 2: No way?
Woman 1: Yeah, I know! I come up with the best idea ever and she just turns around like it’s not even a good idea! We buy those things in for £800 and sell them for £1,500, so imagine what she’s losing! We’ve got loads in red, silver, white etc. So why not get them in black too, innit?
Woman 2: No wonder you’re so mad! What a cow!
Runners, Repeaters, Strangers
So you’re probably now wondering why this post is called Runners, Repeaters & Strangers. Heck, you’re probably wondering what that conversation has to do with Usain Bolt, episodes of Friends & that man you just sat by on the bus (get it… runners, repeaters & strangers?! Is it bad that I make myself laugh?). Bear with me here…
“Runners, repeaters & strangers” is a Lean technique… and is probably one of the most simple – and yet powerful – work tools you can ever have at your disposal. As a “pure” Lean tool, it’s used for identifying where to concentrate your efforts. But if you take the principle and stretch it wider, you can use it effectively for evaluation, to inform problem-solving or decision-making, and to help you influence others. You can also use it to categorise processes, problems and products.
So, thinking of your workplace, runners, repeaters & strangers could be as follows:
- Runners – are the things you see all the time or processes/actions you use on a daily basis. Say for example you worked in a call centre, your runners would be the phone calls you take, the dialogue you go through with your customers on the phone, the completion of your call sheets etc.
- Repeaters – are the things you see regularly, but not all the time. So, for example, your performance meetings which happen once a month, the process you follow to deal with an unhappy customer, or the form you use to return an item to a supplier.
- Strangers – are the things you rarely see or see infrequently. For your boss, it might be the process they follow to sack someone. If you’re a mechanic, it might be a customer with an imported 1955 Chevy who needs an original front wing.
So, how can you use Runners, Repeaters & Strangers to your advantage?
With the conversation above, it seems to me the reason the manager wouldn’t order in the X3000 (whatever one of those might be!) in black was because only one customer had ever requested it in black! Costing £800 a pop, it’s no wonder she didn’t want to fill her shop with a load of stock that her customers weren’t buying.
The manager had recognised that the X3000 in black was a “stranger”… and made her decision accordingly. Meanwhile, “woman 1” was making a recommendation that would mean her manager stocked a “stranger” item as though it was a “runner” (i.e. customers regularly requesting the item in black)… which would’ve been a massive & costly mistake!
So, how else can you use Runners, Repeaters & Strangers (RRS)?
Dealing with issues: Okay, so you’ve run out of forms. Before you start panicking & sending Brian from stationery to collect some from Head Office on his moped, is it that form you use every day or that one you use once in a blue moon? Use RRS to help you decide the best response to the issue.
Problem-solving & Solutions: You’ve got a cracking solution for that problem that’s doing everyone’s head in. But it’s going to cost £10k and 6 weeks of manpower. Is the problem affect something you do each day or a lot of customers… or does it affect that one process you use on the last Friday of each November, or customers who turn 84 on the 29th of February next year? RRS can help you decide what solutions are the most appropriate response to your problem.
Influencing: You’ve got this fab idea for introducing efficiency into a workplace process. By introducing this efficiency, the process will be reduced by a whole 5 minutes… but you need to get your boss to agree to take you offline for two days while you sort out the finer details. Is it a process everyone uses all day every day, or one that someone can vaguely remember Lorraine using once back in 1986? RRS is the key to power influencing!
I can’t emphasise enough how powerful “Runners, Repeaters & Strangers” can be in your work life. The amount of dramas I’ve niftily side-stepped because of this tool are too many to mention. The amount of time I haven’t wasted because of it, has been significant.
Runners, Repeaters & Strangers really is a little pocket rocket of a technique.
So next time you’re in a pickle, facing a crisis or about to deal with an issue/solution, I challenge you to use RRS and feel the power! You won’t regret it 🙂