How to Conduct a Walk-through

How? Let’s start with who. Who participates in the walk-through? The whole Change Team should be involved. However, you can delegate the action to a subset of the team. If you are in a situation where a physical walk-through is possible, you may want to invite the Executive Sponsor to come along. You can do whatever makes sense in your organization given the timing and resources you need to work with.

PLAN the Walk-through or Process Observation

Step 1: Decide what is reasonable in your environment.

  • Identify the main flow of work in your process.
  • Can you directly observe any parts of that process? Situations where your staff interact with customers (“the next step in the process” or an external customer); in person or via phone/email contact
    Steps completed by staff that you can watch them do?
  • Plan on doing a physical walk-through, observing the work of the process (preferably in sequence), and taking notes.

Step 2: Plan the walk-through/process observation.

  • Identify how much data you want to gather.
    • If doing an exercise where you pretend to be a customer (as in the original NIATx applications), how many times will you conduct the exercise?
    • If interviewing staff and/or customers, how many will you talk to?
    • If attaching note forms to work requests, how many forms will you want to have completed?
  • Decide the who, what, when, and where for your walk-through plan
  • Develop any forms you’ll need. (Hint: Use PDSA to pilot the forms a few times so you can make adjustments before completing the whole walk-through).

What process information do you want to gather?

  • What actually happens in each step of the process? How does that compare to what you think happens?
  • What problems and frustrations do staff encounter?
  • What ideas do staff have for what could be done better?
  • What do customers think of your process? What’s it like for them to do business with you? What do they need and want from your process?
  • How long does it take for any single item (customer, work order, etc.) to make it all the way through the process, start to finish? How long does each step take? What kinds of delays are there between steps?

DO the Walk-through

Step 3: Conduct the walk-through/process observation according to the plan

  • Alert staff in any affected work areas about what you’re doing and why.
  • Implement the plan.
  • Monitor the results real-time and make adjustments as needed.

Avoid the “secret shopper” model. In theory, you could conduct the walk-through without alerting staff about what your team is doing. However, in our experience, we found that keeping staff uninformed has a number of drawbacks: First, when they find out after the fact, they will distrust the team and its motives. Second, during the walk-through you will not be able to ask the staff for their comments about their frustrations and successes with their part of the process.

STUDY the Results

Step 4: Capture first impressions.

  • What most surprised your team most from the walk-through/process observation?
  • What problems or frustrations seemed to stand out the most for staff? customers?
  • As a team, discuss what went well with the walk-through, what didn’t go well or was confusing, and what you would do differently the next time around.

Step 5: Compile a list of the areas that need improvement along with suggested changes.

  • Review all the notes from process observations and walk-throughs
  • List any parts of the process that seemed to work well
  • List all the ideas the “observees” (staff and customers) had for improvements
  • List all the ideas that the observers (your team) had for improvement
  • Compile data from the forms (developed in Step 2 and used in Step 3) on duration of the process steps, problems encountered, etc.

Step 6: Sort the ideas.

  • Identify change ideas directly linked with your team’s improvement project
  • Sort these ideas into those you consider quick wins (ideas that can be implemented immediately that should have a big payoff and little risk) and ideas that require further study.
  • Identify change ideas that are outside your team’s scope (unrelated to the aim assigned to you by your sponsor).

ACT on the Results

Step 7: Share the results with your Executive Sponsor.

  • Discuss how to incorporate the relevant change ideas into your project.
  • Have the Executive Sponsor decide how to handle the ideas that are not directly related to your project.
  • Use PDSA to implement any change that the Executive Sponsor wants to implement immediately.
  • Share your lessons learned about doing walk-throughs in your organization.