Debottlenecking Processes for Improved Operations

Last Updated on July 4, 2022 by Owen McGab Enaohwo

Continuous improvement is the pathway to sustainable business growth.

As the chief operating officer at dscout, a consumer-insight company, Chip Hardt sets the pace for continuous improvement by creating systems for eliminating waste. He explains how each project depends on the next and taking the time to identify bottlenecks is essential to optimize processes. Finishing projects on time is how you gain momentum for business growth.

Chip Hardt is the guest in this episode of the Process Breakdown Podcast. He shares with host Dr. Jeremy Weisz his experience in debottlenecking business processes for improved operations.

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Show Notes 

[0:26] Intro     

  • Dr. Jeremy Weisz mentions some of the past guests who have been on the show including David Allen of Getting Things Done, Michael Gerber of the E-Myth, and Lauren Letta, the past COO of Charity: Water.
  • Dr. Jeremy Weisz introduces SweetProcess, a workflow tool that helps businesses streamline their operations even in life-or-death situations.     
  • SweetProcess offers a 14-day free trial without a credit card.   

[2:03] Dr. Jeremy Weisz introduces the guest, Chip Hardt.  

[3:18] Chip gives an overview of dscout

  • Dscout is a video-based application for understanding consumer insights and behaviors.
  • The platform gives businesses insights into the current needs of their customers and how they can meet those needs.

[4:46] Chip shares examples of major companies that have used dscout to understand their market needs.

  • A major electronics company used dscout to create an over-the-counter hearing aid. The company used the dscout platform to learn how their hearing aid is used by consumers.
  • A large tech company used dscout to understand the impact of their product on supporting mental health in young people.

[6:42] How do organizations use dscout?

  • Dscout works closely with the organizations to run campaigns, referred to as missions, to understand what matters most to their customers. 
  • Members of the public can participate in the campaigns for businesses and are paid for their participation.

[9:11] Chip reveals what he learned about operations while serving in the United States Navy.

  • Unlike in the Navy, where a mistake could cost lives, mistakes in business hardly ever lead to death. He tries to keep things in perspective.
  • Time is of the essence in the Navy. This is applicable in business too—you have to do things at the right time.

[10:35] What’s the place of bottlenecks in business?

  • You need to look at your operations as a series of business processes and create a synergy between the several pieces.
  • The inefficiency in manufacturing is similar to the inefficiency in tech. If you don’t follow a step-by-step process to streamline your activities, you’ll have bottlenecks.

[12:05] Chip talks about the debottlenecking process the team at dscout adopts.

  • The organization asked its leadership team to read a book titled The Goal to help them visualize the activities from a manufacturing perspective.
  • The leadership team also read several books on lean manufacturing to learn about removing waste.
  • It’s important to identify and implement the core principles of debottlenecking in your business.
  • People learn in the moment, especially when things are happening.

[14:52] Chip sheds more light on how to use lean to improve dscout business operations.

  • The organization broke its operations into 15 core processes and then prioritized resolving four of those processes for a start.
  • The team laid out key information that each process needed for team members to be efficient in their jobs.
  • The entire team worked collectively to identify the pain points in their business processes and brainstormed solutions.
  • The best way to solve business problems is to ask the people who execute the processes every day for insights.

[20:29] How did the team at dscout decide how to work on the four processes it prioritized?

  • The team worked on the four processes in parallel.
  • They focused on the four core processes because they wanted to identify the biggest issues in their operations.

[22:26] Chips talks about the meeting structure with his team members to eliminate waste.

  • The team leads started by putting together the overall process steps and then had meetings with the process owners for validation.
  • The team leads compiled the information and made some recommendations to the leadership team.
  • With all the information in place, the team started implementing the processes.

[25:25] Are the fifteen core processes Chip outlined general business functions or specific to dscout?

  • Most of the processes are general core business functions and some are very specific to dscout.

[26:18] Chips discusses how the team prioritized the processes to work on.

  • The team developed some principles for prioritization by putting the processes on a metric.
  • They measured the willingness of the process owners to improve the processes.
  • The team evaluated the impact of each process on the entire business operations.

[28:42] How do you get people to accept change without resistance?

  • The best way to get people on board is to involve them in the problem-solving process.
  • When you involve people in the change process, they share their ideas and are eager to see their ideas implemented.
  • The best way to fix a problem is to eliminate it entirely.

[32:16] Chip explains how leaders can overcome objections from other leaders on the leadership in the debottlenecking process.

  • It usually boils down to a battle of resources. People are concerned about a shortage of resources. They want to be able to do their own things.
  • The best approach is to let everyone air their concerns and have an open discussion about them.
  • Communicate the improvements that the debottlenecking process will bring.

[34:38] Dr. Jeremy Weisz directs people to visit the dscout website to get more information about the organization’s services.

[35:15] Chip mentions some of the tools that the team at dscout uses for their work.

  • The most important tools at dscout are tools that enhance remote work, especially as the team works remotely.
  • Some of the tools the organization uses are Miro, Trello, Pendo, Carto, Tableau, Salesforce, Zoom, and Google Sheets.

[39:20] Chip shares his story of how he joined dscout.

  • Chip joined dscout in its early days when there were only 12 people on the team. Today, there are 140 people in dscout.
  • He saw the potential of dscout and wanted to be a part of the company’s growth.

[42:21] Outro

About Chip Hardt

Chip Hardt is the chief operating officer at dscout, Inc., a consumer-insight organization. Before dscout, he was a chief operating officer at Sol Xorce and a principal at McKinsey. Chip also manages and directs his own consultancy and advisory firm. He specializes in growing businesses bigger.

He also served in the United States Navy for seven years where he rose to the rank of lieutenant commander.

An experienced helicopter pilot, Chip has an engineering and business degree from the University of Pennsylvania (Penn), a master’s degree from Georgetown University, and an MBA from Harvard.

Transcript of the interview

Speaker 1: Welcome to the Process Breakdown Podcast, where we talk about streamlining and scaling operations of your company, getting rid of bottlenecks and giving your employees all the information they need to be successful at their jobs. Now let’s get started with the show.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Dr. Jeremy Weisz here, host of the Process Breakdown Podcast, where we talk about streamlining and scaling operations of your company, getting rid of bottlenecks and giving your staff everything they need to be successful at their job. I’m really excited to introduce today’s guest, Chip Hardt of Dscout. I’m going to introduce formally Chip in a second. Before I do, Chip, I always like to mention other episodes people should check out of the podcast. People can check out, we did one with David Allen of Getting Things Done. Michael Gerber of the E-Myth, the past COO of charity: water and many, many more. Check those out and this episode is brought to you by SweetProcess and if you’ve had team members ask you the same questions over and over again, and maybe the 10th time you spent explaining it, there is a better way. There is a solution.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: SweetProcess is actually software that makes it drop-dead easy to train and onboard new staff and save time with existing staff. I was talking with one of the owners, Owen, not only do universities, banks, hospitals, software companies use them, but first responder government agencies use them in life or death situations to run their operations. I was thinking, Owen, if it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for me. You can use SweetProcess to document all the repetitive tasks that eat up your precious time so you can focus on growing your team and empowering them. You could sign up for a free 14 day trial. No credit card is required. Go to, sweet like candy, S-W-E-E-T, Chip is smiling because we are going to be talking about bottlenecks on this call. This goes out to tens of thousands of directors of operations, COOs.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: This is the topics everyone wants to hear about and so to introduce Chip, Chip Hardt is a COO of Dscout and Dscout is a mobile video-based consumer insights company that provides an innovative qualitative research platform to its many consumer obsessed customers. I mean, if you’re a company, you want to learn what your customers think and how they use your product. This is what a company can use to gain insights on their customers, so they can produce better services, products, and everything like that. Go check it out at Chip was COO for Sol Xorce and was a principal at McKinsey and was a lieutenant commander of the United States Navy and was in the Navy for seven years. He was even a helicopter pilot and he is no slacker. He got an engineering and business degree from Penn, masters at Georgetown, MBA from Harvard. Chip, thanks for joining me.

Chip Hardt: Well, thanks for having us and I appreciate your description of Dscout. Maybe I could hire you because we’re hiring and then we could use SweetProcess to onboard you and I would have a much easier life.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Boom.

Chip Hardt: So thank you.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: There you go. Tell people, I mentioned a little bit about Dscout, tell people a little bit more about how companies use your platform and what Dscout does.

Chip Hardt: Sure. Dscout is a great platform to understand consumer insight. Our customers range from small agencies to some of the world’s largest technology, consumer goods, financial services companies, and they’re really interested in what is happening to their customers, how are they feeling, what are their needs? They want to learn about it in the moment when that need is happening. We have a whole bunch of people. Anyone can be one of these people, they’re called scouts. They carry our mobile app and our customers can access these scouts and get insight from them in the moments that matter and they would do this by asking survey style questions, observing them when they’re experiencing a good or service. Oftentimes by video, we all carry a research device in our pockets now and that’s our smartphone and gives people a chance to talk about and show what they’re experiencing. A lot of fun and a platform that really helps companies make things better.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: We’re going to, I want to talk about a few examples and we will talk about how do you debottleneck your company in a sense, and we’re going to get into that. But first, so people can touch and feel what you do. I’m curious of an example. There was a major electronics company.

Chip Hardt: Yeah. We had, one of our recent customer experiences was a major electronics company that was creating its first over-the-counter hearing aid because more recently companies can do this. They used our platform to understand what was working for the people that were trialing the product, what the experience was to get the product and use it for the first time because now instead of being in a doctor’s office, you’re buying it over-the-counter and what the quality of the experience was and then they could use this information to help make their product better, very, very quickly, and then take the final product out to market.

Chip Hardt: Lots of opportunities to do research there. We have another large tech company that really wanted to understand the impact of their product on mental health and young people. They used our platform to get the people that were participating, who were all teenagers or in their early 20s and experiencing challenges, to submit pictures of how they felt on different days and try to symbolize the challenges they were facing. That company even took that information and turned it into a book that could help everybody understand what people were going through. It’s a very wide ranging platform. Lots of things can be done with it.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: This is one of the largest tech companies out there that everyone has heard of. Talk about how the campaign works. From a company perspective and user perspective, a company would come on, use your platform and deploy a campaign. How does it work from there?

Chip Hardt: We ask our customers do something called a mission. That’s what you’re referring to as a campaign. They would come onto our platform and they would create what we call a screener and a screener is an application to participate in a research project. Everyone has probably done these. You fill out a survey, how old are you, what’s your income, what are you doing in the marketplace? Whatever. Then a whole bunch of people from our panel would come back and apply. Then our customers would select participants to be in the mission. The mission might include anything from talking about an unmet need on video, answering survey questions about, tell me what happens the next three times you go out and do X, okay. Or it might be about what’s happening on the web or in an app for a company. We help companies make their apps and their websites better as well. Lots and lots of different use cases, all tied to helping our customers understand what their customers really need and what matters most to their customers.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Now, is it the decision of the company where they some pay people, some don’t pay people?

Chip Hardt: Almost all of our scouts are paid for every mission. There are circumstances where that’s not the case. It might be for a charitable or educational type of mission, but usually the scouts are getting paid. It’s a great way for, it’s a great thing for the scouts as well.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: When people from a consumer perspective, can someone sign up to participate in studies as well?

Chip Hardt: All they have to do is download the Dscout app in the apps store or on Google Play, and put in some information, accept our terms and off they go.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Yeah. That’s great. Yeah. Because I was doing research for this. There’s numerous videos out there. I made $432 with Dscout and so there’s both sides of that. You can check out Chip, I’m wondering some lessons you learned in the Navy. Okay. You were a helicopter pilot, probably many other things. What are some things you learned about operations from being in the Navy?

Chip Hardt: I think the most important thing I learned is that, and I learned that I could apply to business is that, you know what, no matter how badly I screw something up today, nobody’s going to die. In the Navy, if I screwed something up, somebody was going to die and trying to keep that perspective can just help everybody to take a deep breath and just stay centered and move forward. Also in the Navy, we learned the importance of just trying to get started on time. I’m not talking about, do you show up late for a meeting? I’m talking about, you have to get the mission done in the Navy and you got to take off on time because there’s someone who’s trying to take off behind you and getting going on things and getting momentum is so important because you’re thinking usually about you, but there’s five or 10 things that are depending upon you making progress. Building that momentum and getting going is super important.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Yeah. That goes into the conversation of bottlenecks because for someone to get going and someone else to get started, there’s bottlenecks that happen and so you’re trying to constantly remove those bottlenecks.

Chip Hardt: Exactly. I mean, we’ve gotten to the size now, Dscout’s about 140 people that are headquartered here in Chicago where there’s a lot of moving pieces. You can’t solve things by brute force. You can’t do everything manually. You have to start looking at your operations as a series of business processes, almost like a whole bunch of little factories. We don’t tend to think about, in the tech world, we don’t tend to think like that because we’re usually not making something. You tend to think of inefficiencies and bottlenecks as something that happens in the manufacturing world and it’s really the same in tech. It’s totally the same. You are making something for your customer and you have to ensure that step-by-step things are not getting held up, you’re not spending all your life rushing around trying to expedite. It’s really very similar to manufacturing. I did a lot of manufacturing work at McKinsey and have been surprised at how the same it really is.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: I want to walk through the debottlenecking process that you take your team through and I know you do this for the staff, for the customers and on many levels, but you started off with your team recommending some resources before you even got started. Talk about that.

Chip Hardt: Yeah. We asked our leadership team to read a book that is a classic. It’s got to be 40 years old. It’s called The Goal. It’s the story of a man who’s trying to save, he’s a plant manager and he’s trying to save his factory. To do it, he has to radically cut cost and increase output and basically debottleneck the plant. It’s really one of the fundamental premise of lean thinking, okay. It was written back in that day and it really gets people to think about their activities in terms of a process and in terms of trying to make something. We all read that book, as well as some materials about lean, I’ve done a bunch of lean work at McKinsey and lean is about removing waste. The more waste you can remove and the more you can simplify and identify things that are not of value to either your customers or your internal customers downstream, the better. We started by talking about that and it’s a great book. Recommend it to everyone.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Are there any other resources books you recommend on this topic? I do, The Goal is one of my favorite books. Not only is it, it sounds like it could be dry. It’s actually pretty riveting because it ties in someone’s actual personal life in it and it overlays the person’s marriage in this whole situation.

Chip Hardt: Right.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: It’s really a great read.

Chip Hardt: It really is. It’s a little bit, there’s a few cringy moments in it nowadays. Life has changed since the 19, I suppose, late 70s or early 80s, when it was written. My leadership team pointed those out to me. I’m the oldest one. I noticed them less, but there’s a lot of resources. We try to not focus… Really, we just looked at some basic lean resources and the goal, because most of the learning, when you’re doing this, you get by doing it. Okay. Just come up with the two or three simple most core principles, eliminate waste, find the constraint, that sort of stuff, and then start to apply it. People, adults in particular learn by doing, they learn in the moment when things are happening.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Walk-

Chip Hardt: We want to get people into the process.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Yeah. Chip, so I want to walk through a little bit about this process and how you use lean service apps with your team. First thing you did was you said, check out these resources just so we can all be on the same page. What’s the next thing that you did?

Chip Hardt: In parallel, we looked at the company and broke it down into 14 or 15 core processes. For example, one of them was order-to-cash. Okay. Look at the process from the point where we get a sales order, to the point where the cash comes in the door and it has been put into our accounting system. Doesn’t sound too exciting, but extraordinarily problematic in our case for a wide variety of reasons, right. Another one was a challenge everybody faces right now, which is the hiring process. We all know how hard it is to hire in tech. I mean, it’s a battle every day. Well, there’s a process behind that. It starts with planning and finishes with onboarding. We broke the company into about 15 different processes. After that, our team did some prioritization and said, let’s learn how to do this.

Chip Hardt: We picked four processes and we began working on those. To do it, we, and this is something that back when I was a consultant, I would’ve had a team of three or four people taking weeks and weeks to do and we would’ve documented every detail of the as-is process and everything. That doesn’t work, that does not work in a tech company, particularly a startupy company with a very fast moving agile culture, like Dscout, right. We just very simply laid out the key, all of the key process steps and the key information flows in a process that took a couple hours, not several days. We’re mostly remote as a company. We did this all in Trello. I used to do this on, you would cover a whole wall with brown paper and have sticky notes everywhere.

Chip Hardt: It was quite the production. It was fun, but it was just, it was like a big production. We did it on Trello and then brought the stakeholders in to identify what they had to validate what we had written, the steps. Then they, we all went through an exercise where they identified pain points, because eliminating waste is really about eliminating pain and ask them, okay, where are customers frustrated? Where are you frustrated? For the people that are more downstream in the process, what’s giving you problems upstream? Asked a series of questions about how to identify pain. Then after that, we went through a really fun exercise where everybody got to brainstorm solutions. Again, all in Trello and if I learned one thing at McKinsey, it was the best way to solve problems like this is just to ask the people that are handling them every day. The front line has the answer 90% of the time.

Chip Hardt: My job was to just figure it out, quantify it and put it in a nice PowerPoint and help everybody through the change process. But we went through the process of figuring out solutions. We then took that data, stepped back and tried to identify really that core bottleneck. What was that one resource constraint that was holding up the whole process? There’s usually only one or two that are real. Then what are the areas where we could reduce pain in the process? It might be by automating or putting in a tool. It might be by changing the process steps. It might be by changing a policy or procedure and we’re now in the process of implementation.

Chip Hardt: We started small, one of the ones we’re working on is the order-to-cash process I mentioned. We discovered we were doing a giant painful activity twice in parallel and then reconciling between two data sources rather than just doing it once. This is hours and hours and hours across multiple departments [inaudible 00:19:23] extraordinary amounts of pain. Lack of data security, lack of ease of reporting, poor access to information. All because we were doing this one thing. Now we’re fixing that one thing. It’s going to take some work. We have to put in a new tool, we have to change some people’s rules and processes. But over the next quarter, we’re removing a major bottleneck in our financial processes and that will pay a ton of dividends very quickly. It’s really, it’s pretty straightforward how to do this. I wouldn’t say there is magic. You just have to buckle down and get it done.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: There’s so much there, Chip, and I wrote down 10 different steps here and I love how you lay it all out. I’d love to hear how do you, you said you chose four to prioritize off the start.

Chip Hardt: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Are you running different teams in parallel to work on each of those four or did you just use one at a time?

Chip Hardt: We are doing them as close to in parallel as we can, but there is limits. Tech companies, at Dscout, we’re 140 people. That’s not a lot in the whole scheme of things. We’re a small company. We’re growing, we’re hiring. We need amazing people. I do have to make a plug here, but we’re still a small growing firm. We don’t have giant consulting teams or anything like that. Everybody who’s helping on this has a day job. We pick four because we wanted to make sure that we could identify the biggest issues. We had a hypothesis that our biggest issues would be in the four that we picked. Then we involve people who are part of the process and then we have a small team, have just two amazing colleagues that are really helping to drive this, Jess and Carl. Jess and Carl are just amazing people and they are able to work with me and the process owners to really understand what’s going on and then just make some good decisions about how to proceed.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Yeah. I imagine, I’m curious the structure of the meetings, because you have to set time aside. Anyone who’s listening to this, they may go, well, this seems like a lot of work, but it’s even more work to do two things simultaneously, so you’re eliminating a lot of waste, time, energy and money.

Chip Hardt: [crosstalk 00:22:04].

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Even those dedicating a lot of time to this, think of how much time and money you’re actually saving by doing this. How do you set the time aside? Like, oh, we have meetings once a day or how does that work as far as, because this could go on forever because you always have something to eliminate, eliminating waste and find the constraint?

Chip Hardt: Right now we’re just aimed at getting a few of these done and demonstrating to the company how powerful it can be. We had one session where Jess, Carl and I put together the overall process steps and we did some pre-work on that. Okay. Then we validated that and pulled it together. That was a few hours of work. Then Jess held pre-meetings with some of the key process owners and those were about half an hour to an hour and said, hey, can you please validate these process steps and these information flows. Okay, they moved some things around, they added some, got it set. Then we did about two hours, between one and two, I think about 90 minute meeting where we did these exercises. That was with on average eight or 10 people that were partners in that process.

Chip Hardt: Then came back, had discussions with, these are mostly department head level people about what we had found, but then Jess and Carl and I came back, tied together the information and made some recommendations to our leadership team because I’m the COO [inaudible 00:23:51] the leadership team, right. Then we boxed it all together and had some discussions with our leadership team. Now we’ve started the implementation process and that’s not about meetings. That’s about doing.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Making the changes.

Chip Hardt: If you’re having a lot of meetings, you’re probably not doing this right. We gave ourselves one month to get the four workshops done.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: That’s pretty quick.

Chip Hardt: Yeah, but you got to be quick, take off on time and get going and then don’t stop. Okay. Then go from there.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: What I have, just to summarize for everyone. First, look at some of those resources that Chip mentioned, then document the process. There were 15 that you documented out there. You laid out some of the key factors, you did it in Trello and with some of the information flows. You brought in stakeholders to identify, this is all correct. Then you identified some of the pain points within those information, within that flow, you went over the solutions, you identified the core bottleneck within that process, it’s maybe one or two things. Then you look at the areas to reduce pain, whether it’s automation or changing the system or changing a policy and then you actually went to implementation. From your experience, Chip, the 15 core process. Is this across all industries that you saw or are these specific to Dscout?

Chip Hardt: Some were very specific to Dscout. For example, the process by which we recruit, choose and pay our scouts. Okay, that’s very unique to Dscout or our industry, whatever. But most of them are very cross-cutting. Order-to-cash, lead to order, hiring a person. You can imagine a lot of these are just core business functions.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: I’m wondering the prioritization stage, right. I’m curious again, all of you and your team’s time is valuable. Choosing the right ones in the right order is important. Were there any, I don’t want to say arguments, but any disagreements between the three of you of which ones to prioritize?

Chip Hardt: Well, we started by coming up with some principles to do the prioritization. That included some things like where could we reduce the most pain, which we took all the pain points and we started to, we put them on a matrix and the axes were how much impact you could have and how easy it was to get there. Of course, you want to start with some of the things that are high impact and easy to do, right. But there’s other characteristics that might be more important and that’s things like, is the leader of that process, the business owner, do they have the capacity and the interest in fixing this? Because in any effort like this, the change management is more than half the game, and you have to, you’re changing people’s hearts and minds, not just what [inaudible 00:27:12] they use.

Chip Hardt: You have to have champions for that. People have to be invested. Are there dependencies? If I go make this change that we’re going to make in our order-to-cash process, is that going to screw up things in our sales process? Are we ready for that change in the upstream sales process? Is that going to cause a problem when we do our financial audit because we don’t have the right data? You can imagine the dependencies, you have to think about that. It’s a spider web and finding, you don’t want to pull the wrong thread in the spider web and get the order wrong. But mostly it’s, will this have impact? Is this going to build support for the program? Does the leader have capacity? Is the leader interested in being involved right now?

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: We go through this whole process, all this time, energy and work, which is, then we get to the implementation. You mentioned a key point, which is, you do all of this and now you need to get the people, make sure they’re on board with the change. They may be saying, well, I’m used to doing this way. It’s quicker this way. Even though you know, once they start using it, it may be quicker, easier, better, but sometimes people don’t like change. What are some of the ways you do to get people on board with, okay, we figured this out. We figured out this better way for you and the company. How do you get them on board and like you mentioned championing?

Chip Hardt: We’re in the midst of this now. The most important way to get people on board with the solution is to involve them in the problem solving upfront by far. Because when we had process participants identify the pain points and identify potential solutions, now it’s their ideas and I guarantee that their ideas are going to be better than my ideas. I’m a step removed from the process and it’s their pain that’s going to be solved. Now everybody knows how their life is going to be better before they have to make the investment in fixing it. We saw a huge, the problem we’re having right now is not a lack of desire for change. It’s people fighting to be at the front of the line to get their stuff fixed.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Yeah.

Chip Hardt: I think it’s mostly because we involve people in the process. We’ve also have been very excited, some of our leaders and frontline process participants to look at, we know there’s not bandwidth to fix all of these things, particularly if there’s a tool implementation or something like that. We know there’s not bandwidth to do everything right now. We’re not going to wait for the formal, our formal time in the line. We’re going to find five or six things that might be process-related or policy-related and we’re just going to do those on our own. I was like, great. Right. The-

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Sharing the process of the process, so they can start to fix things.

Chip Hardt: Yeah.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Once you get to them and the prioritization, they may already fixed most of it or a lot of it and you could just do some tweaks.

Chip Hardt: That’s right and hey, maybe we do some interim steps and we roll back in later with some permanent bigger fixes. The best way to fix a process is to eliminate it entirely and there’s a lot of things we do in business that, you really looked at it and you really need to do that? Does the customer really value that? Does it really have to be this or have we just always done it that way? Hey, maybe you can come back later, just get rid of the whole thing. You never know, but the more and also if you let people just make some changes on their own, of course the risk is now our big debottlenecking process will not get credit for that, right. You have to [crosstalk 00:31:23].

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Or it does because they followed your debottlenecking process.

Chip Hardt: But right, you just have to get any concerns about who gets the credit out of your head. It doesn’t matter. We’re successful if the teams are successful and the company is more successful and that’s what’s most important.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Let’s say, Chip, someone’s listening to this. CEO is listening to this, like this sounds, I actually want to implement this sort of thinking. Like you said, you have to get everyone on board with the debottlenecking process and it’s, you have to buy into it and it’s going to save time. What are some of the objections that people may get from the other leaders on the leadership team and how would you recommend they overcome them to bring something like this to their company?

Chip Hardt: It probably depends on individual companies, their state of maturity, their size, their complexity, but it’s the usual, it usually comes down to resources and a battle over resources. Every company has these, the battles are usually not very big, unless it’s a really big company and people are fighting over lots of budgets and… But people are, does this mean I can’t hire someone because now someone’s doing this? Does this mean I’m not going to have some money or I’m not going to have… In tech, a lot of it is, I’m going to lose access to engineering capacity and whatever I’m interested in that’s important for me on the roadmap is going to get pushed back. Okay. It’s things like that.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Yeah.

Chip Hardt: I’d found the best approach is just to let everybody talk about their concerns and then just to have an open discussion about it, right. Because it’s very rare in a, particularly a growing smaller tech company that people aren’t headed in generally the same direction. The CEO is usually trying to pull everyone in the same direction. Our CEO, Michael Winnick is fantastic at that. We’re setting the stage and so frame it around where we’re trying to go and what things are going to be improved because of doing this and then go at it and let everyone talk about it.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, to me it seems obvious if you want to remove bottleneck, save time, energy and money with the staff so they can provide better services, but not everyone, I can see that push-pull with this. We only have so many resources, we’re busy right now. Can we take on another project? All those things that go on internally.

Chip Hardt: [crosstalk 00:34:16]-

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: I love what you said about-

Chip Hardt: … [inaudible 00:34:17] all that stuff, right.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: I love what you said about involving people and getting people on board, which is always baked into the process. If you’re involving people in the beginning, when you get to the solution, they’ve been giving their ideas the whole time. It shouldn’t be, if done right, it shouldn’t be an issue at all.

Chip Hardt: [crosstalk 00:34:37]. Yep.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Chip, I have one last question before I ask it, I want to just point everyone to, it’s to learn more and this has been fantastic, Chip. I appreciate you sharing all of your experience with us. Last question is, I’m in Chicago and you’re in Chicago, other Chicago tech companies people should look at and maybe tools that you guys use as tools, software that you use internally as a company or ones that you just admire out there that people should check out.

Chip Hardt: [inaudible 00:35:16]. That’s a good question. The tools that are most important to us right now tend to be tools that have become very important because of remote work. We went from a world where at Dscout, we would all gather around the whiteboard or a pinup board and write things down and hash them out and talk about it, to a world where we have to do this remotely. One of the tools I’ve already spoken about, that’s been very, very helpful for us is Miro. That’s a virtual whiteboarding tool and that’s the tool. I think I might have said Trello before, but really it’s Miro that we use to do the exercise, process exercise. It’s got those virtual sticky notes on it that you can use and organize. That’s been very helpful.

Chip Hardt: We also have made a lot of use even in the operations world with Trello and other agile tools like that. We’ve gone to great lengths to make our company, not to make our company agile and put those processes in place, and agile is really just a modern version of lean, okay. Not just in our engineering, not just for our engineers or our product people, but really, of course for everybody. I manage sales, sales reports to me and I do a lot of our contract work and we manage our entire customer contracting process on a big Trello board and it works really well. We also find it’s important to get feedback from customers as we’re building our platform. We do that with tools like Pendo that are very common for tech platforms, but also with Dscout, we use our own tool to understand what our customers are thinking and what they need.

Chip Hardt: We ought to be doing that, or we would be rather hypocritical, right. We also use a number of, I guess I’d call them administrative tools. One that I use a lot is Carta, which is a tool for managing equity. Equity and our board of directors and all that. It’s a very complex tool, lot to it, but all our equity, all our stock, our options program, all that has to be managed and it’s done there.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: [crosstalk 00:38:06].

Chip Hardt: Then the last one that we use a lot is about communicating output and all of the numbers that every SaaS company measures itself with. We use Tableau for that and Tableau is very good at visualization. We feed in a whole bunch of data from our platform, from our financial systems, et cetera, from sales force. Of course, everybody uses sales force, [inaudible 00:38:37]. All of us are in sales force all day. But it goes to Tableau and then people can see how we’re doing much closer to real time. It’s not just the information it’s like, do you get the information when you need it and is it accurate? That’s a lot of work, besides all the rest of the stuff we all use, Zoom and Google Sheets and everything like that.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Chip, it makes me think of one last question, which is how did Dscout attract you? Because when you look at your amazing career, you could have gone anywhere. You could have done anything.

Chip Hardt: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Why Dscout?

Chip Hardt: It’s an interesting story. When I left McKinsey, I was one of the co-founders of Chicago’s Olympic bid. Okay. I spent a bunch of time first with McKinsey and then after I left McKinsey, working with our Olympic bid, which we unfortunately lost to Rio, as you may recall. I really, after that, wanted to spend time in the entrepreneurial space. I was doing that and I was sitting on the board of directors of a tech company here in Chicago called CouponCabin, which is an amazing, amazing company in the coupon space. It’s a coupon aggregator, like the coupon codes that you bring and cashback company, just an amazing company. Coupon Cabin had used Dscout, before Dscout was spun out of the firm that it was spun out of, Dscout was very small back then, to help it with some strategy and customer research.

Chip Hardt: I met the CEO because I was on the board and he asked, his name’s Michael Winnick and he asked if I would help raise Dscout’s first round of outside funding. I did that and I brought to the deal, one of my mentors from McKinsey, a guy named Pete Georgiadis, Synetro Group, great guy, had been one of my mentors and he’s invested in a number of early stage tech companies here in Chicago. They asked me to sit on the board at Dscout. Couple years later, an opening came up that their, really it was their director of operations left. They asked me if I would join and that took a while, but I joined and I’ve been there ever since and now and Dscout is, when I got there, I think we had 12 people maybe, now we’re 140.

Chip Hardt: We were a really little company back then, a great idea, doing good for the world, but we were a little company and the chance to participate in that kind of growth with great people, with great investors in a company that’s doing something good for the world, we help make all sorts of things a lot better. Company services, products, everything. That’s really cool. I keep sticking around, so now I’ve been there and am having a lot of fun and building a career at Dscout.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: I love it, Chip, and it’s funny because the way you explain the process, the prioritization process and at the end about championing, getting people on board is involving them in the process. That’s basically what the CEO did with you is involved you in the process the whole way.

Chip Hardt: Yeah.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Then it’s like, we need you and you’re like, okay. I love this story. I love all of your, sharing your journey and your expertise. Everyone check out, more episodes of the podcast. Chip, thank you so much.

Chip Hardt: Hey, thanks for giving me the opportunity. This has been a lot of fun and really appreciate it.

Speaker 1: Thanks for listening to the Process Breakdown Podcast. Before you go, quick question. Do you want a tool that makes it easy to document processes, procedures, and/ or policies for your company so that your employees have all the information they need to be successful at their job? If yes, sign up for a free 14 day trial of SweetProcess. No credit card is required to sign up, go to, sweet like candy, and process like Go now to and sign up for your risk-free 14 day trial.

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