This week I had several interesting meetings where we talked about implementing improvement work. Similar meetings are also coming up next week, so it’s a “hot topic”.
One question that often comes up in these conversations is how to create structure for success.
There are basically two structures missing;
Structure for improvement.
The structure of the new business that is being built through the improvement work.
Let’s take the first one first.
Structure for improvement work
Recurring mistakes that organizations make when working with their improvement work, or business development if you will, I see is:
- Lack of an overall why
- No model
- Wrong model
- No knowledge
- No coordination
- No view on the structure of the business to be built
Lack of an overall why
The most important thing we need to do, for any business, is to explain WHY. It’s the same whether it’s a meeting, a project, a trip, or an improvement initiative. We must always start by explaining WHY we are doing this thing that we are taking upon ourselves to do.
When it comes to improvement work, it is often the case that we are unclear as to why we should work on developing and improving ourselves. It may sound obvious to many why you should do it, but here there needs to be an explicit and shared WHY.
Is it to save money, to increase revenue, to improve for customers, to improve the working environment, or is it to take market share, to meet future challenges in the industry you operate in, or what is it? Maybe it’s all at the same time? But then, probably not all of them are as high a priority.
Here we need a clear statement of exactly why we should get involved. Many people miss it.
The second part that many businesses lack is a method to follow in their improvement work. Without any method, it easily becomes a mixture of a little bit of everything.
Different people in different parts of the business use different ways of working, which makes it difficult to get a holistic view of WHAT to do WHEN, and HOW to do it.
It will be more up to the individual employee to do what they can and want. Unfortunately, this creates more disorder than it supports success.
Then there are those who say “we have a method”, but it’s just that it’s not really good enough. It is simply the wrong, or too bad, method. It is often too comprehensive and unclear.
It’s not too often that I’m shown a method that’s four blocks, three rings, or something like that. When I then ask what is under each block or ring, it becomes more quiet. There is nothing more. There is no support for WHAT to do and HOW to do it.
Four blocks without any more is a bit of words around each one, it’s a concept (possibly). Four blocks with underlying detailed descriptions, it can be the beginning of a method. But it takes more than that.
Wrong or too bad method, makes no one happy and it leads you in the wrong direction.
To succeed, we need a tried and tested methodology that is like a process to create our processes. Then you will succeed. Follow the recipe!
The fourth point that comes up again and again is that the business lacks the knowledge to carry out improvement work. Sometimes the knowledge is completely lacking, and sometimes it is very uneven among those who have to work with the improvement work.
In addition, it may be that they do not share the same knowledge. Imagine if you have knowledge from having gone through one of my courses (which you, who have actually gone through them, know is extensive and detailed), and then you meet others who have completely different bases for their knowledge.
Mix it with others who don’t have much knowledge at all. It gets a bit tricky to move forward.
If you also lack the above methodology to follow, then it’s a bit like you have to reinvent the wheel yourself before you can get started. You should agree on both the method and your approach to the work. This is valuable time that could otherwise be spent on improving operations.
Regardless of previous knowledge, it is an advantage to share a common knowledge that you can use as a basis.
Another point missing in many activities is coordination. This means that there is no structure to ensure that the work is done according to the methods set out above and with the given common knowledge on how to do the work.
Instead, it means that there is some work here, and some work there, all without similar results and working in the same direction.
Without coordination of the work, the results will also be scattered, making it difficult to put the whole picture together. And without a holistic approach, it’s easy to end up with more paved roads through the business, rather than creating a whole for the whole business.
No view on the structure of the business to be built
The last point within the lack of structure for improvement work bridges over to the lack of structure for what activities to develop. The point itself is extensive, so I promise to return to it in the next weekly newsletter.
For now, I can only state that if you lack a common vision of what you are shaping in your activities, then it is easy to become completely disordered, if you look at it from the perspective of the business as a whole.
It’s very easy for us to develop our business within our line organisations instead of the real value-creating flows. It will lead to an impasse where you can easily get stuck.
Unfortunately, we will create more confusion here than we would probably like, and above all need, to succeed.
As I said, I will come back to this in the next newsletter.
Until then, I wish you a good week.