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Find the Improvement Slipstream

Change can be tough to accept for many people. If it were easier we would find that more improvements happened on their own, but they don't. However, if we can find something to pull improvements through a business, rather than pushing them, life can become a lot easier. It's similar to a skip on a housing estate that gets filled by the neighbours in the dead of night. For years no one has cleared their garages, and then suddenly there is a window of opportunity (the skip) and the job gets done with ease. The tiny changes we make in our business get around people's reluctance to change, but when there is a significant change all manner of other improvements can be made at the same time. People see the big change as inevitable and so are often more willing to accept the other changes brought in at the same time. Whether the change is a new computer system, a restructure or a promotion it brings with it the opportunity to add in additional changes. Obviously th

More clarity equals less work

When we improve the clarity of what we do the irrelevant disappears and the work content can decrease. In other words, when we are clear about what we do, we will find that we need to work less.   Sounds great, doesn't it? Double handling takes place when we are unclear of what we need to do. The best way to increase work throughput or increase flexibility is to do a job once only. Improve the clarity of the work instructions and this can happen in your business. Unclear instructions lead to more questions. Usually the instructions are incomplete because they haven’t been thought out fully. If you find projects stalling, tasks not being finished (or even started!) or inadequate work being produced then review your instructions and check to make sure they are complete. When we have unnecessary complexity in our business things can take a long time. When we get clear about the purpose of the business simplicity can be derived. This allows us to deliver more results wi

Purpose allows simplicity

Day to day business can get awfully complicated. When it starts to be too much is often the starting point for business improvement activity. However, streamlining and simplifying your processes without adequate focus can deliver less than optimal solutions. It is crucial to remember why a process or system exists; this will help you re-focus your approach. In some cases processes can be eliminated rather than improved, things change and sometimes business processes don't follow. When you come from the purpose of why a process exists a very complex situation is boiled down to its essence. When you have the 'aha' moment of what the purpose is, the myriad of steps within the process make sense and you can quickly find the improvement areas that are required and then come up with a simpler approach. Coming from purpose cuts out the unnecessary, everything that doesn't help you achieve your purpose stands out like a sore thumb. Pruning becomes far simpler when

Business Efficiency? Try Effectiveness first.

One of the popular terms we hear is about increasing efficiency for organisations. Many public sector bodies are tasked with 'efficiency gains'. Businesses need to be efficient, but raising effectiveness naturally drives up efficiency. So why don't we start there instead? Firstly, we can be efficient at the wrong things! Looking for efficiency savings typically means that we look to become better at the things that we do. Some tasks (or functions) could be removed meaning that the resources don't even have to be deployed - an instant efficiency gain. More effective means less of the unnecessary. We can redesign how we operate and take out the elements that don't help our cause. There are some things that help our customers and some things that are there for some historical reason. Some things we have to do in order to get our job done, we can look at changing how we work so that these tasks can be removed over time. Effective systems remove delays and e

Less theory and more action

There is so much information available on how to make changes work that it can sometimes be difficult to know where to start. There are internet chat forums stuffed full of people trying to work out where to start. We can get tied up with the perfect application of theory, so perhaps it would be best to give ourselves a cut off point and just get started. Waiting for the perfect plan is never a good option. There will always be another perspective or another viewpoint that will alter your plan. Having a considered plan that will give great results implemented is far better that waiting for the 'perfect' plan. To compound this, there will always be something new appearing to distract you from making changes. There will always be a new technique to confound your plans. Whether the technique is really new, or a repackaging of a previous tool / set of tools is irrelevant, more techniques do not lead to more results. Too much information can also cause confusion. If you

Do less better

We have so many options to choose from when it comes to improving our business. One of the most amazing things to happen however is that nothing gets done. Focus is the key and by doing less better you can get so much more done. There is a Chinese proverb “if you chase two rabbits, both will escape”. When we focus we increase the likelihood that we can get a project or task to completion. We gain momentum and we are able to complete more projects in the same period of time than if we applied a shotgun approach. Efficiency increases when we focus on single improvements, we don’t have to remember where we got to on the project, we are always up to speed and therefore we don’t waste time trying to work out where we need to be. Decision making becomes simple when there is only one focus. We can discriminate easily and our choices always support getting the job done. When we choose only one thing to focus on we improve our chances of getting results. This of course doesn’t mea

Make Use of Parkinson’s Law

If you haven’t come across Parkinson’s Law it is “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” You have probably seen this in action in a variety of situations, but not usually in your favour. We can however use this principle to drive up our improvement effectiveness and our overall efficiency. If we split our tasks into two groups we can use this law to great advantage. The first group would be tasks that will advance our cause, system changes or creating new methods of running our businesses. The second group would be day-to-day activities, including project tasks of a more general nature. If work expands to fill the time available then by giving less time to the second group of tasks we find ourselves with a potential efficiency gain, we will be able to get more done in a shorter period of time. We must, however, take care not to give too little time to the second group of tasks as then they simply won't get done. Likewise we can use the first