It’s that time of year again, we spend the lead up to the end of financial year, thinking, talking and planning for new year ahead. How to increase sales, get new clients, grow and expand, among other areas. But we don’t talk about what isn’t working. We don’t talk about the elephant in the room. I was making a purchase online the other day and the process was cumbersome and complicated, so much so that I ended up contacting the company directly. A simple five minute purchase turned into a long and drawn out transaction. When things like this occur, I’m always left asking myself, why?!
So my challenge to you this financial year is to give business improvement a voice in your planning. Or as I like to call it, owning your elephant.
What is the one element of your work life that has been challenging you recently? Any manager, at any time, can launch a business improvement project. It doesn’t have to be a big, complicated or formal affair. For this financial year, here are my top hints on how to identify, plan and budget for a business improvement project.
Look for the problems – Ask yourself, your team and your customers the difficult questions – What can we do better? Where are our areas of failure? What really annoys me when it occurs? Why do our customers go elsewhere? What area of the business is costing a lot but delivery is an issue? What do you see around your business that you could be doing better?
Understand the cause – Once you’ve identified between five and ten items, investigate to understand why it is happening. What is the underlying cause for these issues or problems? For services you’ll be looking at areas including people, policies and processes. For products, consider the same as well materials and equipment.
For most of us, it easy to see the effect, be it delays of items to customer, website down time, or frustration with the product, but the cause involves a lot more investigation.
Select the top two – Out of the causes identified above, limit yourself to two items to begin with and focus on the subsequent impacts on your operations. Keep the others front of mind and investigate further as time passes.
Delegate or own – Make a decision based on the project, can you own the change or is it better off being delegated?
Plan for success – Run this activity as a project, handling it in small manageable chunks, with agreed end dates and of course don’t forget to calculate the budget for this work, including resource hours.
Remember that sometimes simple is better. The newest, latest software will not always resolve your issues – it might even be the underlying cause of the problem!
So my challenge to you is to think strategically, think change and think improvement. Think of the elephant, give it a name and own it.
Don’t be the trainer who has to clean up after it!