Incremental change in an organisation is like a ripple in a pond. Small changes can have large ripple effects.
There are many ways to ensure that you can maximise the effect of the changes you make. A first principle of continuous improvement is to have good information. Good information comes from good data.
What kind of data can you collect to bring about significant improvement in efficiency and productivity?
I think a really good place to start is to look at the things that get in the way of completing tasks when and how you would like. You may be surprised at the time you can save by eliminating the hassles from every day tasks. So what are you likely to find? Here are a few examples.
- Equipment not put back where it should be
- Equipment & materials not stored in the most efficient way
- Missing materials (ie no system for re-order)
- You can’t remember what to do because its been a long time
- Information is hard to get
- You have been “working around” a problem for some time
- Equipment failure on a regular basis
- No consistency in how it is done
Once you have gathered data, ideally over a period of time, you will be able to apply the 80/20 rule to decide on the first place to start. The 80/20 rule says that 20% of the issues will be causing 80% of the problems, so tackle them first.
One drop in the pond will create endless ripples that will make a big difference to your business.
About 20 years ago, I began a journey looking at business processes and how they can be improved. I discovered Total Quality Management (TQM), Quality Improvement, Kaizen, Problem Solving, staff involvement and empowerment. I visited the Toyota plant in Thames (NZ) a couple of times (it’s not there anymore) and learnt about “The Toyota Way”. I was hooked on the processes for staff involvement, problem solving and incremental improvement. I admired the methods for organisation of the workplace and could see the benefit of it for productivity.
When I began consulting nearly 10 years ago, I was surprised that this ethos of process improvement was not prevalent in more workplaces.
And then “Lean” became the new buzzword. Lean was a repackaged, sexier version of the old style TQM- the Toyota way. So what is it?
For me, Lean is about identifying areas for improvement by clearly identifying what you want to achieve, where you can reduce waste, increase efficiency or minimise loss, find possible solutions and plan implementation. It is also about people, involving people in improving their own work processes, providing the tools for people to do better and empowering them to make a difference.
How do you identify where to start? Ask yourself where you think you waste time, money, material or product? For example:
- What makes you, or your team, go aaargh?
- When does plant and equipment let you down?
- How often do you work around something to get the result you want?
Lean is a state of mind, a way of thinking. Once you start to think about the things you can improve it will become second nature and you have taken the first step.
Throughout my career as a manager, and as a consultant, I have heard various reasons for not conducting performance appraisals. The most common is that they are no longer considered relevant. I have always strongly refuted such claims and in this article I will tell you why.
I thought I should research why people say they are no longer good practice. This blog says “If your firm isn’t giving out raises, you’ve got a great excuse to forgo the whole appraisal exercise. Do we really need to tell employees where they excelled and where they fell down over the past year—and does it help them when we do?” This article highlights the thinking that creates poor performance appraisals. There are some fundamental flaws in this type of appraisal and I agree, appraisals that stem from this thinking should be banned. These flaws are:
- Linking appraisal to salary review- a clear link between appraisals and salary review should be avoided as it will drive unhelpful behaviour
- Thinking that appraisal is about “judging” and poor performance- a regular formal review should focus on development and look for opportunities for personal and business growth
- Believing that appraisal takes time and energy- well planned appraisals will take time and energy, but it should be well directed time and energy which empowers and motivates people
My own set of rules for appraisals are:
- Respect each other’s time and make an appointment well in advance, providing tools to aid preparation (these can be forms, on-line questionnaires, or a few key questions to think about)
- Preparation by both parties is key. Think about what you want to cover and why, what you want to achieve and what the next growth step could be
- Come to the meeting with an open mind, relaxed in the knowledge that this discussion will have outcomes which are mutually beneficial
- No surprises- neither party should hear things they haven’t heard before. This is an opportunity to talk about the last 6-12 months in context and to highlight issues that you consider important, don’t use it as an opportunity to blind-side the other person.
- Focus on development of the individual and opportunities for business development through projects or objectives.
- Set goals for the next 6-12 months and also dates for review
- Refer to the goals during routine meetings with each other during the year.
It is also important to realise that appraisals are important to high achievers who need feedback on their performance and relish goals to strive for. Regular appraisals are also an important component of retention strategies, if people know about the opportunities ahead of them they are less likely to look elsewhere.
So put appraisals on your business calendar at least once a year (ideally twice) and enjoy the experience.
More reading :
Eliminate annual performance review
Performance appraisals are dead- long live performance management
What are your experiences of appraisals? Do you think they should be banned?
Being organised does not come easily to me, I am not a details person and rush from one exciting new thing to another. However, I know the power of being organised and know that I suffer when the “wheels fall off”. I am a busy, self- employed wife and mother and mostly work hard at being organised. Sometimes things just don’t work and I then need to stop and get back to basics by reviewing my systems and improving how I do things.
It might be a contradiction, but I think it is because I have to work hard to be organised, that I understand the power of having systemised processes to complete my tasks.
Some questions to ask yourself
1. How can we guarantee quality, create customer loyalty, increase productivity?
- Specify product or service standards
- Identify “moments of truth” for the customer (Ie why do they come to you and what would make then go elsewhere)
- Identify what wastes time or causes hassles for staff and clients.
2. What do we need to put in place to meet the standards?
- Extra step
- Extra resources
- Change process
- Train staff
- Product testing
3. How can we ensure we meet the standard?
- Product testing
- Quality Assurance step
- Audit process
- Customer feedback
- Standards for inputs
Once a new process is put in place it is important that it is reviewed, so plan a “trial” which is checked and then implemented as standard procedure. If you follow these steps and create the discipline of asking the questions regularly, you will improve staff morale, make life easier and increase your productivity.
In recent years there has been much written, and spoken, about resilient organisations. What does being resilient mean? One definition is to withstand shock without permanent deformation or rupture. Another is to recover from, or adjust easily to , misfortune or change.
What makes an organisation strong and therefore resilient to outside forces?
My answer is “the people”
There are a few steps you can take to build strong organisations- I have listed a few that I think can be easily implemented in any organisation.
- Recruit well: Select people for attitude and build the skills they need to do the job well
- Train well: From day one, have an orientation programme that helps your new recruit to understand the culture and become part of the organisation quickly. Have a range of training options to continually up skill your staff member (ie one-on-one “buddy” system, mentoring/coaching, formal study programmes etc)
- Communicate well: tell people stuff! Involve your staff in what is going on, good and bad. Involve them in solutions, trust them with information. Have conversations about your organisation, the industry, the economy- what ever is going to affect you.
- Empower: Delegate authority to the level it needs to be. Not everything needs to be held by the management team. Your life, your staff’s working life, the customer experience; will be much better if your staff are empowered to make decisions.
- Reward: Pay as much as you can for the skills, experience and attitude your staff member brings to the job. However, reward is not just about money- shout morning tea, send a thank you email, take someone to coffee, say thank-you, tell someone they have done a good job- simple things that will make a difference.
- Systemise: Develop systems that support the jobs that need to be done and the people doing them. Take out the hassle, the bureaucracy, the unnecessary steps and create more efficiency.
- Continuously improve: develop a culture of continuous improvement, of looking for a better way and challenging the status quo. Have the conversations that matter to your organisation.
A strong and resilient organisation will withstand outside pressure and get better and better- and you will have a team who can help build it.