Saturday, 22 February 2014

Crossing Boundaries (again)

Last week I talked about the need to cross organisational boundaries - to avoid creating 'silo management' where each department takes decisions on its own information to suit its own ends - resulting in sub-optimal performance for the organisation.

This week I return to boundaries to use very briefly on whether approaches to improving businesses are, or should be, different in different geographic regions.

Different regions or nations may have different social, legal, economic, political and technological characteristics.  My own view is that these differences may influence the appropriateness of solutions we may devise, but they do not necessitate a different approach to the business improvement process itself.

I have worked in enough countries of the world - developed and emerging economies - to base this view on personal experience.

But businesses in different parts of the world work very much in the same way. To improve them we still have to work through a process that consists of the essential stages of diagnosis, development, evaluation, implementation.  Throughout this process, we may have to adjust how we communicate and explain, but we have to work through these steps.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Crossing boundaries

Many of us are defined by our academic qualification or professional status - as engineers, managers or whatever.

But most of us have learned that we need to be able to talk to those in other roles ... and need to understand their knowledge base, their expectations, their way of thinking.

How to cross those knowledge and functional boundaries is what we learn after our formal education has stopped (or paused) ... and is at least as important. It is how we make multi-functional, multi-talented teams work in practice ... and how we make business processes effective and efficient.

In your business, if your staff cannot cross these boundaries, you end up with 'silo management' where each person understands only their role ... and not how their role contributes to the whole ....and why, therefore, why what they do is important and must be done well.

If they don't understand that, it is unlikely that any degree of exhortation will make them perform ... so you end up with, at the best, sub-optimal performance.

Communicate with your employees, by all means. ... but also make sure they themselves know how to communicate across role and function boundaries.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Less business sugar, please

Sugar gives you an 'energy rush' - very useful when you have a demanding task to perform.  That is why we like sugary snacks throughout the day when we're at work or taking physical exercise. The problem is that these short term fixes do not do us any long-term good; in fact, quite the opposite. We can end up overweight, with health problems such as diabetes and certainly unfit.

What we need is a long-term plan for our diet and our body which gives us the energy we need when we need it but leaves us fit and healthy over the longer term.

This mirrors some approaches to improving the productivity of their business. Some organisations use the 'quick fix'- cost cutting and labour layoffs. But this can take knowledge and skill out of the business and does little to create longer-term good. A better approach is to concentrate on those measures that create added value for customers and improve the longer-term health of the business.

I know that I have presented this as 'black and white' and that sometimes immediate cost-cutting is needed to ensure short-term survival (and certainly controlling your costs is essential). However, the principle still applies. A long term view supporting a long term vision is a better way to secure the future health of the business than taking the easy way out to solve an immediate problem.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Real Quality

We went through the 'quality revolution in the 70s/80s - now everyone  has ISO 9000 and some have been through TQM programmes. (I'm talking about the big boys, here.)

Why is it then that it is so difficult to get good' service'.  Service in the UK has largely been off-shored to India and other places - clearly as a cost-cutting exercise.

Customers hate calling these 'service centres' and playing 'telephone tag' until they eventually get someone who doesn't understand the problem and has no authority to do anything about it.

They seem to have forgotten that 'lean' organisations start by valuing the voice of the customer (where voice is spelt VOice, not PRice).

So can we have a REAL quality revolution where quality and productivity (which should both be based on adding value) are considered two sides of the same coin and are not traded off against each other.

And as a small company ...remember copying the big boys isn't always the right thing to do.  Stay close yo your customers; value their feedback; and act on it.  That seems to be something you can do that they can not ... or will not.