Saturday, 28 June 2014

More banana skins

I talked last week about the banana skins we drop - and the thing that makes our firms good being how we 'pick then up'.

I return to the point just to emphasise the fact that you will make mistakes - we all do (yes, even me :).

So, as I said last week - identify the mistakes - look at the data, feel the dissatisfaction, listen to the complaints - and use those mistakes to make you better and stronger.  Your customers - and your staff - will forgive you for making mistakes if you deal with the fallout promptly and effectively.

The biggest crime, by far, is not having the mechanisms - and the humility - to identify and admit your mistakes.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Pick up the banana skins

Most of the time you get things right, I'm sure. Occasionally, though, you will slip on a banana skin - and get something wrong.

It is almost impossible to avoid all mistakes - though, of course, we try very hard.

What matters is how we deal with our mistakes - how we learn from them.

So, when you spot a mistake - don't assign 'blame', assign 'responsibility'  - for learning the lessons and making improvements.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Always have ... Always will

As a consultant, the key 'technique' to improving someone's business is simply to keep asking them the questions ..."Why do you do that?", "Why do you do it like that?" and "What else could you do?"

Ask these questions enough times about enough parts of the business and he/she ( the business owner) will eventually start thinking - and come up with his/her own ideas for improvement.

However, you will not be surprised to find that the commonest answer to the middle question is a shifty look, a hesitation and something like "Well, that's how we do it round here."  Firms do something in a particular way because that's how they started doing it ... and there has never been a reason to challenge it.

Of course there might be better processes, better technology, faster machines or whatever that have emerged recently but the business owner is unlikely to haver done any research to find that out.

So, he/she may not have a real problem - but may be missing a real opportunity.

Don't be that 'Aways done it this way' person.  Review what you do and how you do it on a regular basis. Talk to others in the same industry.  Visit some trade exhibitions and keep up to date.  Search out opportunities to improve. otherwise if you keep missing them, they will turn into problems.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Do you lead from the top?

My time in the productivity business had led me (perhaps rather slowly) to a simple truth.

Effective organisations - with high productivity and good quality -  start at the top with a 'planning and execution system' that stems directly from the organisational mission.  This must define and support 'excellence' and must translate into systems, processes and procedures - and skilled roles and tasks which build in individual and team responsibility for that excellence, together with performance measures that ensure we remain 'on track' with our plans and targets.

For a small business, much of this is instinctive - but it happens in the best small companies and startups where the business owner builds a skilled, trained, engaged and motivated workforce who know and understand their own roles within the overall organisational system.  In fact, in a small business this is usually easier because employees can often see the whole of the 'production process' and it is clear as to what their contribution is.

We need to 'flip' the traditional representation of an organisation structure and see the role of managers and leaders as creating and sharing a vision of excellence and then identifying and removing the barriers that prevent 'front line workers' from creating that excellence.

So, your role is to lead from the bottom!