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From rubbish to reed in two months

We can almost always change and do it again, that was the message of last week’s letter. It was the rule of perfection and correction.

Having been able to create a culture of;

“we can do it again or further if we wish” and
“it doesn’t matter that it’s not perfect right away”, and
“to test is to win and it doesn’t matter if we fail, because we learn from it”,
then comes the next rule.

Rule #2: Speed is attractive

The second rule for successful improvement is related and closely linked to that of perfection and correction. Because if the first is not there, the second will not work as well.

The second rule is speed is attractive. If you can have a culture that everything doesn’t have to be perfect all the time, then you can also maintain a high pace of improvement. It is absolutely crucial to winning “hearts and minds” as they say in English and is a must for success.

Watch out for side shots

Our world is changing so fast, so if we don’t keep up the pace of improvement, we will constantly have to adapt to the changes that occur.

These changes can be:

  • Our driving manager is leaving and we need (choose) to wait for the new recruitment.
  • Another key member of the improvement team leaves and we have to “start from scratch”.
  • Laws are added or changed.
  • Political or board decisions are made that change direction and perhaps create uncertainty.
  • Some other initiative or project that is faster than us is playing into new conditions.

What do I need to do then, you may ask?

Well, you need to focus on the desired improvements for a short time and then quickly implement them once you’ve finished designing them. If you don’t keep the focus of your business on improvement work in a particular area, it’s so easy for it to just drag out, and out, and out…in time. And on top of that, you need to manage one or more of the changes I mention above.

I constantly see the disadvantages in different activities of the delay. At the same time, I also see the benefits when it goes away.

Unfortunately, there are process improvement efforts that just go on and on. Weeks turn into months, which turn into quarters, which turn into years, and there is no implementation of the much requested improvements.

The work moves from being a focused project to becoming “business as usual”. Something that is part of everyday life and there is never a sense of urgency. “If we’ve been doing this for a long time, we can wait another month” seems to be the attitude.

From rubbish to reed in just over two months

But as I said, there are those who succeed thanks to speed. The other day I was helping a business with a process to serve their customers. We mapped out in a week how the current process was (not) working.

Then we moved on quickly to two weeks of designing the process as they wanted it to work. We brought out;

  • what they wanted the flow to look like,
  • how to interact with customers,
  • how to measure and monitor to ensure quality, and
  • the benefits of introducing the new process.

Thanks to the fast pace and good focus, a decision document was “on the table” to introduce the new process less than a month after the start. Once the decision was made, the digitised process was developed and governing and supporting documents were created and linked to the process, staff were trained and the process was deployed. All within six weeks.

This meant that the new process was up and running after nine weeks from start-up. That’s a little more than two months of improvement efforts.

In the past, customers didn’t get the service they expected and the business spent far too much time unnecessarily dealing with situations that shouldn’t exist. In other words, pure waste.

The improvement is tangible

Now, after just over two months, they had a completely new improved digitised and partially automated process that gives customers better service and employees the ability to focus on the right things at the right time, as well as full control of the process flow.

The perception of the employees who were not directly involved in the improvement work was a big “Wow!”. Among those who had worked hard on the improvement work, there was a clear sense of pride and joy at having achieved so much good in such a short time.

Without focus and a real commitment of resources over a short period of time to implement improvements, the benefits of successful improvement work would not have been reaped. It could easily have been a “sourdough” of work instead.

Sourdough should be used to make good bread and not impair our business. Therefore, I advise you to keep up the pace and live by the law that speed is attractive.

I wish you luck in staying focused and fast in your weekly improvement efforts.