For the coming year’s improvement work, I got to thinking about what really needs to “sit” in the business to successfully move forward.
I listed three things that I also describe below. They are all big, life-changing things that can feel overwhelming. At the same time, you don’t have much time to change them. There needs to be a radical change in thinking in particular.
1. Have the wrong organisational structure
The first is the need to let go of the pervasive focus on the pyramid-like hierarchy. There is far too much focus on which administration, department, unit, division or similar we work in.
“No, we’re not responsible, it’s department X” I hear all too often.
You and you must let go of your line organisational units and see the whole picture in order to solve together the task you – as a whole – exist to solve. It is not one and the other, with a constant “us and them”, but it is only one us. We who have together the task of creating a certain value.
If you work in the private sector, it is easier to change the organisational structure. You are free to think for yourselves. Of course, it’s more overwhelming in a large organisation than in a smaller one, but in the end it’s still up to you.
However, if you work in a public organisation, you have a lot of regulations that can be traced back to 1628 and Axel Oxenstierna. That backpack is harder to change and will not have time to change in 2022.
The heavy hierarchical structures were not created out of the conditions we now have in the third decade of the twentieth century, they are based on what the world looked like several hundred years ago.
But regardless of the age of your organisation’s structure, it’s more important what your mental view of the business is, than what the organisation actually looks like. If enough people in a hierarchical structure are united in their vision of delivering great value to customers together, that can be enough. The power of thought is great, and that is true here too.
Think and see customer value-creating flows, which are line-organization independent, instead of thinking only in your own pipe.
2. Not understanding and not focusing on the customer
The second is that there is far too much focus on the internal, where the focus is not on the customer. Nor do they understand the customer well enough, but start from themselves and then “dictate” to customers how they should behave.
Please note that when I say “customer”, it is a collective term for the various designations in different businesses of those we exist to create value for. It can be a user, a student, a property owner, a person in need, a taxpayer, a road user, a plaintiff, and so on.
To get closer to the customer and the customer’s needs, you first need to really understand who your customer is. What are his needs and wishes? And I don’t just mean as a group, but you need to give each individual customer the attention they deserve.
It’s easy to lump our customers together and call them “property owners” and then assume that they all have the same equal needs. Of course, this is not the case, nor does anyone want to be treated as a template. Some property owners have large properties, others small. Some property owners are in a hurry when they contact you, others not so much. And so on.
Your processes must be able to take care of the different individuals, while also being efficient and creating high quality value.
3. Letting people do stupid things
The third part is that in many places we continue to tolerate doing unnecessary and downright stupid things in our business. It’s all that non-customer value-added stuff. Things that don’t contribute to anything for anyone.
Unfortunately, we continue to pay for these stupid things. It’s money that could be used to really create more value for those you serve.
If we stop tolerating spending money in the form of so-called quality deficit costs and things that do not contribute to value creation, we will have more than enough left over.
Many studies show 25-40% wastage. Yes, you read that right. I usually say between a quarter and a third. Let’s be more cautious than that, and stay at one-fifth.
How much is 20% of what you turn over in your business? If that sum was sitting there on the table waiting, what could it do for your customers and for you? What would you use them for?
I am convinced that it would mean a lot of positive things. Better working environment, faster processing, better service and more satisfied customers.
All of this is achievable if we just decide not to tolerate the continuation of non-value creation, and for that we need to change our focus to really understanding and dedicating ourselves to delivering great value to customers. As well as, letting go of our own organizational unit to do so.