The Three “I”s to improving organizational performance
In these challenging times it is imperative that companies are focusing on how to improve their operations. This means looking for more effective and less wasteful ways of doing all things. I have an acronym consisting of three easy to remember “I”s. They are as follows:
I will go into more detail on each of these points below.
– Provide clear roles, goals, and expectations for everyone. Fuzzy expectations means fuzzy results.
– Provide clear and candid feedback on an individual level as well as performance of the organization. This is in the form of metrics, personal work goals/ targets, customer complaints, scorecards, awards, etc… Do not make the mistake of only providing feedback on the negative. Employees need to hear the positive as well.
– Provide clear instructions on how to perform work as well as any additional information or resources needed to effectively perform the work.
– Involvement of the workforce is probably the biggest factor in creating effective culture changes, improvements and developing an effective quality system. When these are created and implemented in a vacuum they will be far less effective and supported.
– I am a firm believer in involving the workforce in as much as possible. Some examples include internal auditing, layer process audits, problem solving, improvement initiatives, QMS/ process development, process development (where feasible and value added), customer visits, presentations, setting goals & targets, etc…
– An involved and engaged workforce also reduces resistance to change.
– If we are not improving both as individuals and as a organizations we are falling behind. Those that are maintaining the status quo will soon find themselves behind their competition who is improving.
– Improvement teams and individual improvement programs can be a great way to improve quality, improve safety, reduce costs, improve customer satisfaction and make for a better work environment.
– For those that are certified to ISO 9001, TS 16949 and other ISO based systems, improvement is a requirement. Many companies have reaped huge rewards and savings by the implementation of improvement initiatives as described above. Once we have implemented a good “process based QMS” with objectives that are measured, we can then use these measurements to improve the way that we manage our company and our quality system.
– In addition and related to the 2nd “I” (involvement) it is a great way to engage the workforce as well.
Here is to improvement!
Performance: You get what you expect and accept
I will start with a fitting quote:
“Don’t lower your expectations to meet your performance. Raise your level of performance to meet your expectations. Expect the best of yourself, and then do what is necessary to make it a reality.”
author – Ralph Marston
Undoubtedly we have all seen this in action and experienced it in different areas of our lives. Parents that fail to hold their child accountable for poor grades, and bad behaviors. Bosses or managers that do not provide feedback and guidance on not achieving goals (or worse not setting goals/ objectives). The examples are widespread.
In regards to quality management and operational excellence, the same applies. If we as management do not set the bar high enough to provide challenging objectives, performance may actually decrease to the expected levels. If management “settles” and accepts product quality, personnel performance, operational performance (example – productivity, delivery, scrap, rework, etc…) and even personal performance that is low, that is precisely what we may get. If we provide objectives and goals that are challenging, yet achievable we stimulate the interest. Most people in my experience like a challenge. If we do not provide this in the work environment, people may just “get through the day” to get home to do the “mentally stimulating” things that they enjoy.
Having said this however, we as management need to make sure that we also provide the following to employees and staff:
– Clear objectives/ goals that are a stretch yet achievable
– Clear explanation/ communication and understanding of the objectives
– Resources to be able to achieve the objectives (tools, equipment, data, personnel, time, etc…)
– Competency (knowledge, training, experiences) to achieve the objectives
– Feedback. We need to make sure that employees know that there is a process to evaluate progress and to provide positive and
negative feedback on how the process is going.
– An action plan/ process and or resources if there are roadblocks or progress is stalling
One problem that I have seen in the past is that the objectives/ goals are lowered to meet the performance. An example might be increasing plant scrap levels to match that of the current performance level instead of developing a plan or project to improve this.
Another example occurs on the personal side as well. People that do not like to exercise or monitor what they eat, accept their current health levels as “that’s just the way I am”, instead of devising an action plan to change it.
Establishment of the targets
I would like to elaborate on the setting of these objectives. Many times these expectations are set from the management team. Other times they are set by department managers, or leaders. In my experience we achieve the best scenario when we involve the employees, staff, etc… in developing and understanding the process and the objectives. Not only does this help reduce resistance and obtain “buy in” from employees but it makes them part of the process and creates ownership of the objective. To reiterate: the objectives must be challenging and achievable.
Clear Communication of expectations and specific feedback
As managers we must ensure that we have clearly stated the objectives in language that the targeted employees will understand as well. Posting objectives in the plant or work areas in a terminology not used or understood is a surefire way to set them up to fail. We must also make sure that we talk about the process, objectives with the employees so that it is known that these objectives are important. For example – Hanging a trend chart on the wall with results of scrap levels is great but if there is no interaction or discussion of what the results mean and what is to be done to change then not much will happen many times. These results and actions should be discussed in meetings, even written about in company newsletters, or websites/ blogs. If we do not show that the objectives are important then the excitement of the initial discussions will wear down and everyone will go back to business as usual.
In short – if we are not getting better we are falling behind the competition. In order to get better we must understand the processes, measure the processes and hold people accountable to the results and goals. If we do not involve our employees in the planning, and setting of goals they become bystanders and do not “own” the process or objectives. It is management’s job to clearly communicate these and provide for removing of roadblocks beyond the employees control.
Here is to improvement!
Structure – The key to almost everything
“Why is structure so important?”
In my attempt to try to find relationships and consistent concepts that apply across many areas of life and quality I found myself analyzing my fitness program that I am doing with some friends currently.
Approximately 6 weeks ago, three friends and I decided to go through a cycle of a very popular home exercise (DVD based) program by Tony Horton. After six weeks into the program all four of us are getting the results that we intended. I started to analyze the program, our motivations, etc… to determine why that was. As other quality professionals well know, developing and implementing a new quality initiative, quality process or even a quality system may not always take us where we planned. I started to analyze the approach of this particular exercise program to look for clues. Here is what I came up with:
1) Clear Goal – There is a defined goal and a measurement of success. In the case of the exercise program, my objective was to reduce my body fat percentage, waist circumference and lose a little bit of weight.
2) Starting measurement (base line) – We all took specific measures prior to starting so that we were able to determine if what we were doing was effective. This is equally applicable in quality and in business as it relates to improvement projects or initiatives.
3) A strong enough purpose or “why” – As a motivational speaker once said, with a strong enough “why” the how becomes easy. In this case my “why” was to improve my health, which is a very strong motivator for me personally. I want to live a very long time. As managers we have to determine the “why” for any initiative that we are looking to implement.
4) A clearly defined process – In the case of the exercise program every day in the 90 day program is clearly defined as to which body parts, how many repetitions, how many sets, which days you have a rest day, cardio, stretching, etc… As a matter of fact, there is even a daily eating guide.
5) Removal of the “hassles” or hurdles – Our group set a specific time every day that we met for our exercise session which took the guessing out of it, and allowed us to make a long term schedule that our sessions fit into. Because we were working out at a friend’s house, we did not have to worry about gym hours or crowds either.
6) Ongoing measurement of the process – We took weekly (and even more frequent) measurements of our measures on some weeks. This allowed us to take action if we needed to quickly. This also reinforces the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle as well.
7) Correction – If we were not getting the results that we planned and measured weekly, we modified our approach. This took the form of more cardio, cutting back on certain foods, or amounts of foods. This is also crucial in our jobs/ roles as quality professionals. This reinforces why measuring our projects, processes, etc… is so important.
8) Reinforce the program/ objective – This is very important in any initiative, not just exercise programs. We used social media messages, posts, etc… to continuously talk about what we were doing, share interesting information, video clips, etc… related to the goal and process. This can also be accomplished in our quality roles by spending time out in the work areas, talking to the employees as to how their jobs are going, results of customer feedback (good and bad), posting, scorecards, etc… That which gets talked about and measured gets done.
9) Make it a habit/ standardize it – This is challenging in exercise programs, health and in improvements in general. It is easy to back slide into what we were doing before. Regarding the fitness program, we already have our next 2 programs scheduled. You have to make health and quality a permanent process. In the manufacturing/ quality world this can take the form of audits (LPAs), internal audits, error-proofing, mistake-proofing, 5S, control plans, procedures, etc…
As I have mentioned in previous blog posts, there are many related areas in life and being a quality professional I am always looking to bridge the two. This area just reinforces this concept.
Here is to improvement.