“Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change!”
- Jim Rohn, speaker and author
The same can be said about companies. We cannot expect changes if we keep on doing the same things the same way.
So what do we change? Not every change is good. In my experience companies are not short on ideas. It is more the opposite. There are too many ideas – often-conflicting ideas - around the table. What companies often struggle with is to sort the good from the not-so-good ideas and to prioritize them.
Before you decide on any action and take a certain action, you need to establish where you want to end up. The first step is to set the goal and the objective. The more you can quantify and specify this goal the better. You establish where you are (current situation / baseline), and you then look at your objectives (where you want to be).
As you compare the objectives to the current situation you develop your gap analysis. This gap analysis describes what needs to be done; it outlines the work at hand. Without trying to be too simplistic, it is a fact that by clearly understanding your starting point and by defining where you want to end up - possible solutions are already shaping up.
This description is very much simplified, but the task is by no means simple!
Most managers know intuitively what they should do, however as they do not have all the facts lined up and do not have the proof of their assumptions their plans do not get the full approval and often fizzle out before coming to fruition.
I cannot stress the importance of a proper planning process enough. One simple step is to put it on paper. Writing it down forces you to be clear with your reasoning and the facts you base your assumptions on. This step allows you to involve co-workers and peers to check your plan. This again adds to the accuracy and this in turn increases the approval rate.
From the competing priorities you need to find - to use a metaphor – ‘the binoculars for the man in the outlook,’ and ‘not rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.’
The questions always have to be:
• Is this initiative getting the company closer to the stated objective?
• Do we have the collective knowledge to implement the initiative?
• How do we expedite the implementation?
If one initiative is too big, break it into smaller bites if you can. This reduces the risk and allows you to adjust direction easier. You assess the risks and pick the ones with the highest return.
I generally write and talk about operational issues and I stay out of the classical finance, sales and marketing projects. It’s not that I don’t consider them important; it is just not my field of expertise. If you have issues in sales, marketing and finance, you may have to read another column.
However as all departments of a company are interconnected even operations projects have great influence on sales, marketing and finance. For example, quality improvements and/or product development influence the cost structure, sales efforts, branding and many other facets.
Implementing ‘Lean Manufacturing’ will improve your cost structure, but also improve your lead-time and improve your ability to mass customize.
The Continuous Improvement Process can also be used in every situation; production flow improvement, capacity increase, quality improvement, cost reduction, just to name a few.
Depending on what capital investments in equipment and tools you decide on, it will affect productivity, capacity, flexibility, accuracy, quality and other factors.
There is never just one solution for a challenge. It is the cooperation of the different competences in your company that will define the solution for you. The options are often too many to count.
The key is that improvements require change. Change never comes easy. Change has the risk of setbacks and sometimes failure. But in order to be successful you need to drive change and go forward.
Sepp Gmeiner is a partner with Lignum Consulting.
For feedback, questions and/or suggestions he can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.