Value 2B: Obsessively Reduce Cycle Times in Every Area
By Ben Peterson, Former CEO
At Blue Raven Solar, we have three values helping us work towards our mission statement:
- Develop a High-Trust Culture
- Be Efficient
- Continuously Improve
We are in a growing industry that is growing just as fast as we are, and it is sometimes difficult to keep up with constant changes in technology, legislation, and trends. Here at Blue Raven Solar, we do our best to adjust our work accordingly, but it often takes time and a lot of effort, especially if it is a larger change in a long-term process. However, it is a top priority we are at the top of our game so we can continue to make solar affordable and accessible for homeowners across the nation. Defining exactly how Value 2 applied to our specific positions within our organization was dire.
Our second value, “Be Efficient,” means:
2A: Produce results that are worth more than they cost to deliver
2B: Obsessively reduce cycle times in every area
2C: Keep the sales and field experience simple (even if it means adding complexity elsewhere)
2D: Stay lean – eliminate unnecessary costs (even through periods of rapid growth)
Previously, we talked about how important Value 2A is to our organization and our efficiency.
Now, value 2B is our topic: Obsessively reduce cycle times in every area.
What Does it Mean to Obsessively Reduce Cycle Times?
This statement is one I see being more complex, because it can be extremely broad or extremely specific. I typically break down what it means to live Value 2B into three distinct parts:
First, we want to reduce cycle times. Cycle times measure how long it takes to complete a task. Sometimes we string multiple tasks together into a process and then measure the process from start to finish. Regardless of which way we decide to measure, we always want to try to make our current cycle time less than our last. While you might imagine every company wants to “reduce cycle times,” we doubt it is a frequently cited value. For most businesses, the customer sales and delivery cycle are quite short.
However, for Blue Raven Solar, reducing cycle times is essential because going solar can be cumbersome and often takes several months. There are many factors we often cannot control. It requires coordination between permitting agencies, utility companies, homeowners’ associations, and insurance companies, as well as the homeowners’ own schedule and availability. When we are focused on reducing cycle times can we expect to deliver a positive customer experience. Nobody wants a long and drawn-out residential home improvement project, do they?
Second, we want to reduce cycle times in every area. We do not tell each department managing customer projects that reducing cycle times is important. Each department is communicated the importance – from accounting, finance, marketing, sales, operations, technology – even our legal department needs to keep up and be efficient. Reducing cycle times does not always mean “working faster.” It often means taking more time to do things right the first time. Any time we make a process faster and reduce cycle time, we grow more efficient as an entire organization.
Finally, we focus on the word “obsessively.” When asked what our employees are ‘obsessed’ about, we hear the passion in their voice. We want our employees to feel the same way they feel about their passions as they do about cycle times.
Being Competitive in the Marketplace and What Our Employees Think about Cycle Times
Solar is a competitive industry, and the industry has recently reached “grid parity” in many markets. We are disrupting a way of delivering power to homeowners that has been around for over 100 years. To deliver economic value to customers, our company must be efficient so we can offer solar systems at a price point, helping their pocketbooks as well as the environment. Our ability to deliver this value hinges on efficient cycle times.
We asked employees how they experience value 2B at Blue Raven Solar. Here is what a few of them said:
Blue Raven Solar is literally obsessed with cycle times. We measure every single cycle time with scrutiny and obsess over making each work queue appear “green” on our dashboard.
We are very thoughtful about schedule times so that we can always have people here to get the work done when it comes in. Our goal is to decrease cycle times.
Our effort to get as many final inspections scheduled as soon as possible is impressive. It has been a lot of trial and error, but I really admire how our team is always working to see how they can streamline their process and it is definitely beginning to show in the numbers.
Last year we started recording the exact time we sent final designs. This helped us improve the time from when the final design is made to when it is sent and continue to shorten that time. That in turn ensures that the same day the site survey happens, the final design is sent to the customer, and they can approve it right away. This has helped us reduce our cycle times at the beginning of the process and allow more time for permitting and parts of the process that are not in our control.
Our Proposals team takes great care to make our designs as quickly as possible. Most of the team hits their cycle time and productivity goal on a regular basis.
All of the leadership is concerned with cycle times down to the hour. Saving a whole day is celebrated as a huge accomplishment.
We are constantly working to increase productivity between departments. Install ops and Inspections/Permitting work really hard to communicate efficiently with each other to get customers moving through our processes quickly.
I see our company putting resources into the areas where we see problems and taking the time to problem solve – our goal is to reduce cycle times everywhere!
Being on time and keeping commitments with/for customers actually reduces cycle times.
We have implemented individual and team sprints over the last few months and meet together to go over what worked and what did not after each one. It has been helpful to evaluate personal projects and hear from team members on how to streamline things where possible for the next sprint.
In the design department I see a growth in how fast we approach projects with new hotkeys, shortcuts, and code to be able to complete tasks faster and accelerate the rate we complete designs and permit packs.
We are always pushed to not only be more efficient in our current processes, but to find other, simpler and faster ways to manage our workload. As long as we keep that goal in mind while we are tackling our tasks, we will subconsciously be looking for ways to help the company adapt and improve.
Blue Raven Solar has been consistently providing feedback to each department and individual on what we can do to improve and meet our goals.
On the design team, we split into two shifts, one that comes early in the morning to create final designs for site surveys that come in early, and a shift in the evening, so that even the late surveys will have final designs done before the end of the day. This definitely reduces cycle times. Almost all site surveys get final designs on a same-day basis.
More Than a Value
Obsessively reducing cycle times naturally builds on results that are worth more if they take less time to produce! If cycles take less time, the cost of production automatically goes down and we deliver results. Value 2B is a great addition to our second value, because it might seem like something an organization should deem obvious, but it is so important to keep it front of mind.
Like all our values and their supplements, Value 2B is a vital part of the way Blue Raven Solar can bring the mission statement to life.
Our mission is to make homeowners’ lives better by reducing their energy bills, by increasing their reliance on clean and abundant renewable energy, and by providing a world-class customer experience through a reliable sales process and a speedy, high-quality installation.
We emphasize a speedy, high-quality installation because we can back it up with Value 2 and its supporting statements. Obsessively reducing cycle times helps ensure we are always giving our customers speedy, high-quality installations. We cannot think of a better way to keep our mission statement alive and relevant than obsessively bringing solar to our customers in the most efficient way possible, without mistakes and errors there to slow us down.
Our Mission, the Backbone of the Organization
We are dedicated to living our mission and values in everything we do, no matter what part of the process or the effort required. We believe when we achieve our mission and help a homeowner make the switch to clean, renewable energy with the best products and services around, we are truly making a difference in the world.
Every homeowner working with Blue Raven Solar gets to see our mission and values in action. We are a top solar installer in the United States, and we are dedicated to maintaining a high-quality experience as we continue to grow and change.
You can experience the mission and values in action by making the switch to clean energy with Blue Raven Solar! Find out how much you can save.