Thursday, 31 October 2013

Free Business Improvement Report

If you are looking for some ideas on how to improve the profit and control of your factory based business then download our free report now.


This is a direct link, so there is no need to enter your email address / sign up to our newsletter.

To access your copy, please click on this link: Free Business Improvement Report

I hope you enjoy the ideas.


Giles Johnston
Author of 'Business Process Re-Engineering', a practical plan to improve business performance.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Do you need to change your approach?

Improvement projects rarely run according to plan. You make a change to your business processes and then find out that your initial assumptions were wrong. You gain new insights and these can be re-invested into your revised attempt. The key is to know when to change tack and when to hold.

When the results just aren’t appearing you need to ask yourself if the people who are involved with the change really understand what is happening. This is not a condescending point, this is reality. Communication within a change project often leaves people wanting. The instructions that get handed down are usually lacking and this can lead to a less than satisfactory attempt.

The method that is being used may not be as efficient, or effective, as you may have hoped. If the initial expectation is that there is a lot of work to be undertaken then try stopping the work after a few hours have passed. Can it be done differently? Can a different approach yield results much faster? A little bit of doing and a little bit of thinking can make a big difference to the rate of change experienced. Just ploughing ahead with a less effective strategy does not make sense.

Sometimes the idea just doesn’t seem to work. It might be the idea itself. It might be the people involved with the change. It might be the culture you work in. It might be a number of factors at play. The ability to isolate the handful of factors that encourage success may be outside your control. It is at this point that you may need to consider a course of change that suits the characteristics of your business better.

Knowing when to stick with a change programme and when to tweak it is a skill. It is a skill that can be developed over time and I hope the above helps.

Recommended Actions


  • Review your change projects for their rate of implementation, look for those lagging behind.
  • Decide which projects aren’t a good fit for your business and consider reconfiguring or replacing them.
  • Review the methods being used to implement the changes and question their effectiveness.
  • Ensure that communication of the ‘why’, ‘what’, ‘when’, ‘who’, ‘where’, and ‘how’ is clear and consistent throughout the change process.



Giles Johnston
Author of 'Business Process Re-Engineering', a practical plan to improve business performance.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

New Continuous Improvement Tools Website


After receiving a number of enquiries about the availability of my e-books in PDF format I have now uploaded them to the improvingbusinesses.com website.

This site launched last week and also hosts the improvement kits that you may have already seen elsewhere on this blog.

To visit the site, click here, or on the screen shot below.


 


Giles Johnston
Author of 'Business Process Re-Engineering', a practical plan to improve business performance.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

When Do You Find Time For Your Improvement Projects?

Available for immediate download
A common theme I hear from my clients is 'when will I have the time to implement the changes that I want to make?'

It's a fair question, I think most of us feel pushed at the best of times to get everything into our working weeks (however long those may be). To answer my clients comments I ended up creating them simple to use spreadsheets to help them see their weeks and their obligations differently.

For most of them they hadn't realised how much time they lost every week. They also tried to do too much at once; an unrealistic plan that ended up with them going nowhere.

I was relating this story to some small business owners the other week and their response was 'can you send me a copy?'

I've gone one step better than that and the spreadsheet I use with my clients, and a set of instructions, is now available on our sister site (www.improvingbusinesses.com).

The instructions take you step by step through how to use the spreadsheet tool and then helps you identify how you can streamline your week if you still need to find a few more hours to get the projects delivered.



Giles Johnston

Monday, 14 October 2013

Use A SOP Map For Faster Training

Standard Operating Procedures (commonly known as SOPs) are an extremely useful tool for most businesses. SOPs are also one of the most underrated tools I see on my travels. This simple instructional approach is underutilised in many businesses as once they are written they never see the light of day (until something goes wrong!).

In my book, ‘Visual SOPs’, I discuss using what I call a ‘SOP Map’ to help get better use out of your SOPs. The idea is simple – you attach your SOP references to a business process map that you have for your business. The visual reference I make in the book is about keeping our SOPs visible within the business. If your business process maps are a visible item then this is a great way to help incorporate SOPs into your day to day working.

One of the greatest reasons for having SOPs is to speed up training of new team members. Once you have defined the one best way to complete a task in your business you need to make sure that new people adhere to this agreed method. Having a SOP map can help them not only find what document they need to find when, but helps put the entire business process into context.

If you use an Intranet then you can link the documents to provide a more cohesive training tool. Can you imagine having your new member of staff sitting with their notepad and pen trying to copy down what someone else does for their job? Many businesses deliver their internal training this way. Now imagine that this new person is browsing through some very simply written SOPs instead. One of my clients did just this and within one hour their new team member was performing their role for the purchasing department without error.

If you write SOPs then try to think of ways to make them easier to follow as a whole for training your new team members. Try using a SOP map as described above and see if your training time reduces next time you gain a new member of staff.

Recommended Actions:


  • Locate a business process map in your business that you can add your SOP information to.
  • If you can’t locate a suitable map then create your own top level process map.
  • List the appropriate SOPs on the process map.
  • Hyperlink the relevant files to the process map where possible.
  • Present the new SOP map to your teams and encourage its use as a training aid.



Giles Johnston
The book 'Visual SOPs' is now available online in PDF format. Click here for more details.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Influential? You? Most definitely! [Guest Post]

Interesting isn't it the differing perspectives on the current Miliband furore? There seems to be a general concern Ralph Miliband's view will have influenced his son's perspective on the world. Rather than "did he, didn't he?" I would say it's almost certainly the case - how could he not! How can we not influence those around us? 

How have you influenced people already today? Not just those who you care for or work closely with but those you pass in the street, the person you have just phoned to sort out something with your bank or latest IT purchase, or the shop you just bought your coffee or lunch in. Do you know? 

Who has influenced you? Who and what sparked that thought, question, consideration, insight, happiness, sadness, uncertainty, admiration, doubt? Some big thing and intense conversation, maybe, or just maybe the tone of voice the person used, how they looked you in the eye when they spoke to you, the way they shared their feelings about the weather. Alternatively, how were you influenced by the driver in a rush who cut you up, the person who didn't bother to look up to serve you, who looked so cross? 

How do you want use your natural, and fundamental power to be influential on everyone you come into contact with today?

Yes, we are inspired by people who have a special place in our lives, they contribute to who we become, but they are not who we are. We are individuals and just what makes us who we are is complex, simple and ever changing as we are influenced by EVERYONE who touches our lives. 

Be influenced and be influential - enjoy! 


Sam Patterson
developing people to change organisations

Monday, 7 October 2013

Manage change proactively

Once improvements have been identified you need to manage the activities required in order to realise the benefits, otherwise the project will have been in vain. I see many businesses that talk a good talk, but don’t deliver what they could. True, the day to day busyness of work can get in the way, but that’s not a great reason is it?

Managing change is just the same as managing any other project with two subtle differences. The first is that you need to help your team overcome their fear of failure. The second is to help them get started with taking action.

Overcoming the fear of failure can be facilitated by being interested in finding out what the results are from their ‘experiments’. The results they achieve are just that – results. They are indicators and are only outcomes if you decide that they are. Improvements rarely go right, that’s why PDCA (Plan Do Check Act) is at the heart of Continuous Improvement.

Getting started with action goes back to the previous section on taking tiny steps, and may also require that you put your arm around your team members and walk them through the improvement. Over time you will need to stop walking them through the projects, your focus is to build up their confidence to do it on their own.

The other elements of managing the change include knowing who is going to do what and when. Once you have this you need to look at the plans on a regular basis to see if the right degree of progress is taking place. Yes, building these checks into your routines is an effective decision to make.

Recommended Actions

  • Break down your improvement ideas into proper projects. List all of the necessary steps and include who needs to do what. Apply deadlines and if possible estimate the amount of resources that are required to complete each element of the plan.
  • Remember that your team are most likely to be going on a journey. Just because you think the plan will be easy to execute doesn’t mean that your team do. Guide and mentor them through the process of testing their ideas.
  • Review your plans regularly to check on progress. Build the checks into your routines if possible.
  • If an improvement doesn’t meet the mark first time try again. PDCA is all about evaluating the impact and then developing a better approach. Keep going until you get your result.
  • Determine an appropriate way to close out the improvement. This could be Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), a memo, a team briefing, or whatever would be appropriate to your business.



Giles Johnston
Author of 'Business Process Re-Engineering', a practical plan to improve business performance.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Adopt a simple CI approach

Continuous Improvement, or CI, is a very common term used in manufacturing (and pretty much every other sector). The word continuous implies that it doesn’t stop, but that is what I see time and time again. Most businesses that employ a CI approach do so because they have problems. This is natural and I applaud this approach. However, a business moving from bad to OK is different to a business moving from OK to excellent. When you have problems they are visible. When your business is doing OK there are fewer visible problems. This is when a lot of CI activity grinds to a halt.

I have three suggestions that might make your life easier should you wish to continuously improve how your business operates. Choose a narrow focus, make it routine and use tiny steps.

You may have seen a trend in this short report about routines. Routines can make a massive difference and including proactive idea generation and improvement activity is no different. Whatever method works for you to generate and manage improvement ideas build into your other routines. Make it part of what your business is about. Over time it will become normal and ‘the way we do it round here’.

A narrow focus can really help when you are trying to generate ideas. When you ask how to improve a business that is working OK, or no one can see any problems with what they are doing, you often draw a blank. When you ask how you can speed up the invoicing process you usually get a response. A narrow focus can generate ideas. Move your focus each and every time you want to generate new ideas. 

Tiny steps are important to take the fear away of trying new things. Little projects and small jumps are good to help build confidence and gain information. Tiny steps are great if you are suffering from inertia and need to get improvements moving.

Recommended Actions

  • Create ways to examine your business with a narrow focus. Combine processes and performance factors (speed, quality, delivery, ease etc…) to use as a focal point for generating ideas.
  • Build your idea generation method into your routines. Make Continuous Improvement and exploring how you can make your business better a habit for the business.
  • Use tiny steps to overcome inertia and help your team to gain confidence and build momentum with their improvements.



Giles Johnston
Author of 'Business Process Re-Engineering', a practical plan to improve business performance.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Is your MRP system configured correctly?

MRP systems are an integral part of many manufacturing businesses. Whether you are running MRP, MRP II or ERP there are some common issues that I see on a regular basis.

I see three main points when it comes to using MRP systems:
1. Decide how you want to use your MRP system.
2. Configure the various modules correctly.
3. Manage the MRP process as you would with other processes.

For point 1, is your business a ‘Make to Stock’, ‘Make to Order’ or an ‘Engineer to Order’ type of business. Being clear about this can make configuring your system more straightforward.

Configuring the modules, point 2 above, means inputting your rules of working into the system. Many businesses either lack the knowledge of how to configure the system or they fail to complete the task. Either way they end up fighting the system’s suggestions every day, often creating workarounds and poor working habits.

Finally, there are routines associated with MRP systems. Identify them and build them into your sunrise meeting and routines, if they aren’t already. Appropriate KPIs are also useful to incorporate. An additional routine worth considering is housekeeping. Maintaining the data in the system is essential. Creating ways to pull out the data from the system, cleansing it where required (plus educating the culprits) and improving it are invaluable longer term.

Recommended Actions


  • Confirm that your system is configured to be the right approach for how you handle your orders.
  • Complete, or correct, the information in the various modules (including; Bill of Materials, Inventory, Routines, Work centres / Capacity and Stocking Policies) so that the system generates the right instructions for your team.
  • Develop housekeeping routines that complement the running of an effective MRP system and build them into your existing routines.



Giles Johnston
Author of 'Business Process Re-Engineering', a practical plan to improve business performance.

Avoid mistakes with your SOPs!