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Showing posts from February, 2011

Improvement is largely an attitude and a habit

One of the common questions we hear is 'how do we get started with improving our business, what are the tools to use?' The simple answer is that improvement is largely an attitude and a habit. The desire to find new and better ways of working is the most prominent factor, when you couple this with a habit then things get done regularly and continuously. Sporadic improvements don't always generate the gains that you would hope for. The tools that you can use to help facilitate change can make a real difference in specific situations, or if you need a framework to improve. If the desire and curiosity for change aren't present and aren't backed up with habitual actions then you will have an uphill struggle. You can use lean and six sigma tools (for example) to help encourage the starting of an improvement culture in your workplace, but this needs to be backed up with forming habits. Time table sessions and adhere to your own schedule if that helps. So

What are you improving for?

The end result of an improvement usually reflects the planning and decision making that takes place at the beginning, when the idea is being developed. If there is no planning and the improvement is a stab in the dark as to what needs to change then the final result may not be what was expected. The 'what are we doing this for?' question is a great place to start. Sometimes improvements are spotted mid thinking, so to speak, and if you work backwards just a little further you may uncover a more meaningful issue to resolve. This minor change can deliver a major difference in terms of business performance and is along the lines of root cause problem solving (solve the root cause and not a symptom). The fact that an opportunity is present does not always mean that it should be improved. With limited resources it may be prudent to widen the vistas and see what other opportunities are also available. Many continuous improvement approaches struggle due to an overload of less

Confused and stuck? Check the basics.

When a problem arises in a business there is usually a fix put in place. This fix sometimes increases the complexity of the business by adding in additional rules at the operational end of the business. Sometimes it is worth stopping what you are doing and reviewing the basics of how your business operates. Sometimes the disciplines around the basics of operating a business have been forgotten. From a engineering perspective the challenges that we face are symptoms of a deeper system based problem. If you track back to the root of the problem you are usually faced with a basic issue that can be resolved easily (or at least in a straightforward manner) and will prevent a myriad of other symptoms appearing in due course. As people move around organisations there is the possibility that people move into roles and are trained in the current ways of working but aren't exposed to the fundamental principles of working that this particular job requires. Ensuring people understand

Establish your business datums

A datum is a reference point, something that you can look back to work out where you are. Business can move so quickly and by having some defined reference points you can make decisions quickly and consistently. Being able to step back and see where you are can sometimes be difficult and requires objectivity. If you can see your datum and see where you are then an appropriate decision can be made as to what you need to do next. The gap is the action required. A datum doesn't have to be a cold measurement (such as a KPI) it could be a principle that you use in the business to help guide thoughts and decisions. It could be something like 'take work seriously, but not each other' - reminding people on how to conduct their business and their interpersonal transactions. When the datum is communicated through the business then the way people behave changes. Clarity improves action and, by having some definitions about the way the business can be referred to, people c