So much has been written and said about business improvement that it can be difficult to know how to go about it. Phrases such as “Tiger teams”, “Quality Circles”, “Total Quality Management” and “Six Sigma” are bandied about by companies who are trying to improve their business.
Business always benefits from improvements focused on the bottom line, either by cutting costs or by making more profits. By far and away the best is to focus on making more profits. After all you can cut costs that can kill the business, either quickly or slowly.
Business Culture Change
Business culture is one thing that can prevent you from making huge strides in business improvement. and the reasons are usually quite simple:
- Lack of top management interest
- Lack of top management being used as a model
- Lack of an executive “sponsor”, maybe perceived as a scapegoat
- Prevalence of management fads
- Existence of management by fear or by “being told what to do and shut up”
- Lack of consistency
- Lack of commitment when things go wrong
- Lack of time to implement properly
- Lack of proper resources to change the culture
A company culture is fostered by top management, whether they realise it or not. For example you may have beautifully written procedures that make sure your customers get the best possible service. However, if top management wants to strip the budget it may be impossible to follow the procedures and then customer service suffers. And a cycle of blame begins, with top management blaming the workers and the workers doing the minimum to stay in their jobs, thus creating further customer dissatisfaction.
Therefore, to implement culture change it’s vital that top management understand why they’re doing it and are all fully committed to the process. Once you’ve understood the culture change necessary you can begin to improve the business.
And there’s no need for this process to take months and land you with a heavy report and vast slide presentation you have to yawn through.
Ways To Implement Change
Business improvement must be fully integrated with business strategy. It’s simply foolish to try and bolt improvements on without any view of the business strategy. Think how you could massively improve customer satisfaction with the UK call centres only to have them move abroad. You’re faced with doing the whole job all over again. Doubling the price of your improvements. With an understanding of the strategy you could have implemented an interim improvement programme that helped the home country call centres and then trained the offshore call centres before they even began operations.
Cherry Pick Your Changes
First make sure you understand all your processes and the costs associated with them. Again this need not take months. We’re not looking for the exact money down to the last penny. We’re looking for a reasonable estimate that can be used to check the improvement has helped.
Then pick processes to improve based on the ease and speed with which change could be implemented and the savings, or extra profit, that you get. And make sure you only implement those changes to begin with so your teams see quick results. Communicate results to everyone so everyone can see the successes.
Keep A Rolling Change Programme
“Change is a constant” is a phrase we all hear. It may be a cliche but it’s also quite right. Therefore, any company needs to keep improving an aspect of their business all the time. Otherwise complacency sets in and competitors catch up or over take you. Your business profits drop and people start to scurry around desperate for sales and cost cutting. The focus becomes just one of survival and improvement falls by the wayside and with it the ability to continue to compete effectively.
Your turnover may be the envy of your pals in your industry’s association or club. Think, what happens if a new start-up takes your business because they’re innovative, learn and adapt quickly and their customer service is amazing?
Never rest, never assume you’ve arrived at the pinnacle of business improvement. Any company I’ve walked into I’ve instantly seen, at least, 2 or 3 ways they could immediately improve what they’re doing. You should have the same view of your own company.