Process improvement – Where do we start?

Process improvement – Where do we start?

In my experience there is always someone in the organization that has something they want to do differently or knows an improvement that just must be done. When you start on the journey this is something that you will need to manage carefully, selecting the right improvements to create impact that people can see reasonably quickly to spur on the enthusiasm. You may be surprised by the response but be reassured that when people see that there is a method and order to the way of doing it they will be patient, as long as they are getting plenty of communication. The best approach is to keep it simple – jargon and buzz word free. The more normal it feels, by this I mean no huge launch just simple communication, the more it will eventually become second nature. I plan to discuss launches later in the Year so watch out for this one I it should be a good debate.

So we need a starting point. My key advice is to be absolutely clear on what you are trying to achieve and why from the start. Most commonly there will be an area that has been the focus of many a meeting, a recent problem on a project or even a customer complaint. These start to raise the questions about why or how things are done and maybe how other companies are carrying out things differently. In my opinion the following list covers some of the key areas that gain results in the initial focus period. This is not an exhaustive list but from experience brings up key metrics that become a good measurement base when focusing on improvement.

  •  Customer Perception / Feedback
  • Efficiency of the Business Processes
  • Supplier chain relationships (Internal & External)
  • Profit and loss (Financial analysis)
  • Employee satisfaction
  • Competitor Benchmarks

You of course may find that one or more of these are not measured in a way that can be easily translated to judge performance. There is one of your starting points! Try to limit yourself on just a few areas to start off with; you can come back to this review again.

Next installment:  Focusing your goals into an improvement project..

What do you do before starting an improvement Program?

It is great that you have the focus to want to improve, but how do you go about turning this into a workable plan to make it happen? Your goal/solution may not always be clearly visible but will emerge from a desire to improve in a particular area of the business. One of your greatest assets is your people, so harness that knowledge and use their experience of the business processes to improve. When planning any change focus on where the improvements are coming from, who they will effect and how you will communicate this. Managing the change will be crucial to success and minimizing resistance to the change. Take time to focus on the company culture and people before rushing in to improve on what you perceive to be a problem as others may not see things your way!

 

These are my tips for anyone wishing to make a difference in their organization.

 

  • Know where the company sees itself through its Mission statement and Vision.
  • Have a clear understanding of the company’s business processes and the relationships between them (internal & external customers, bottleneck experiences, and the supply chain involved).
  • Understand the customer and the target market, what are the current demands and who are the competition?
  • Know the level of commitment being given to the project / process improvement by the executive board.
  • Identify how information is currently given to employees, for example word of mouth, notice boards, weekly meetings.
  • Look at how the company’s mission/vision is translated down through to the shop floor? Do employees understand what they contribute to the company’s success?
  • Make sure you understand the company finances, operating costs and margins.
  • Identify and manage any risk areas.

 

I believe a company is only as good as its people and culture – make them understand how much they have to offer and what they can do. There will be hurdles but once these are identified then they can be tackled one little step at a time, eventually leading to the big success you seek.

 

Next installment: Process improvement – where do we start?

Organisational Leadership -my thought of the day

I was intrigued by the article by Steve Tappin today called “End Of Days For White, Male, Stale CEOs?” in linked in, and the comment about a new breed of CEO’s running on an emerging market, powered by dreams, entrepreneurship, innovation and belief drew me in. The possibility that we can change the thoughts of the professional managers working within their boundaries / budgets is something I have been looking at for years through organisational culture analysis. I think its the control and blame culture that needs to be altered to facilitate these profound changes. The organisation is no longer a machine but a living social being and people need to be engaged and excited in order to drive the company vision forward. We need to focus on our people more as well as the leadership, its great to have visions and dreams but these need to be effectively communicated through the organisation. An organisation can be very powerful when everyone is focused on the same goal and the culture is right.