A Community Performance Improvement For Small Business


In the last column we talked about the need to improve organizations’ performance, which has never been greater. Customers are increasingly demanding, employees are overextended, the economy is challenging, and competition has never been as fierce. Because business is complex, there is a need for systematic improvement, but where do you start? How do you know on which processes to focus?  And how do you sustain improvement over time?

Organizations around the world have been improving their performance by improving and innovating their strategy, work processes, and culture. The purpose of this plan is to help small business managers apply some of those same basic principles and techniques for customer- focused quality. It applies to all manufacturing and service industries, healthcare, education, and government operations. Small businesses have unprecedented opportunities today to lead economic growth in their communities. The focus of this program is to take action to improve business results.

A leadership commitment to quality improvement is the path to success in our changing environment. This plan details a process whereby small and medium sized organizations can join together to bring in professional consultants for training and coaching key personnel in their organizations. Proven techniques will be taught and action initiated to get measurable results in the performance of the participating organizations. The plan is contingent upon enlisting 10 organizations joining together to learn and share costs for one year. Two days of training in joint sessions each month plus one-half day of individual coaching per each participating organization each month will be supplied over a twelve month time period. Training material and unique implementation processes will be provided for each of the participants. Licensing to use these processes will be granted for internal use only by the participating organizations.


The initial session will start with introductions and objective setting for participants and consultants. The first activity will be a self-assessment by the participants on the Leadership category of the Baldrige Award, the prestigious national quality award.  Leadership is the first of seven criteria to be self-scored, the others being Strategic Planning, Customer Focus, Measurement, Analysis, and Knowledge Management, Workforce Focus, Operations Focus, and Results. A scoring guideline method will be supplied to provide an honest assessment of the starting point.  The objective of this activity is to reveal opportunities for improvement in leadership. All processes can be improved, even leadership, and by starting with this category a strong message is sent to the organization that all will be involved in the process improvement activity and leadership is leading the way by looking at their own processes.

The remainder of the two days will be spent in review of the American and Japanese Quality Masters and selection of realistic philosophies, methods, and tools that can be used in each attendee’s organization.  A copy of Profiles in Quality, Learning from the Masters will be provided. The objective of this exercise is to study people considered to be world masters in improvement, collect ideas useful to each individual organization, and develop operating principles to guide behavior by all employees.

One or both of the top two executives plus another leader in each participating organization should attend the training so that they may be effective in leading the performance improvement movement.