Basic Business Cents
Advanced Strategic Improvement Practices
The leaders in performance improvement practices shared their techniques and philosophy at a conference in the Twin Cities last fall. Attendees came from not only as far away as Florida and Manitoba but also from Bemidji and Park Rapids. Speakers represented industries from banking, medicine, food, education, manufacturing, government, and even consulting. Methods used to improve performance are applicable no matter what the industry or type of business.
Professionals in the field of performance improvement sometimes refer to the little q-quality of products or services, and big Q-quality of processes and systems.
Little q is the traditional view of quality of inspecting after the fact the quality of products and services. Inspection is too late; the poor quality detected has already been produced. It is a measure of waste and rework, warranty costs, dissatisfied customers, and rework. Management and employees look at little q as the responsibility of the quality department.
Big Q involves the quality of the performance of the entire organization and is the responsibility of leadership. It is viewed as the continuous improvement and innovation of the processes and systems that produce the products and services. Transformation of big Q does not happen accidentally. It starts and ends with leadership.
This conference was about big Q.
The CEO of a major healthcare facility said the goal in healthcare is to achieve a better outcome for the patients, not money. Having said that, he also said there is 30-40% waste in healthcare. Lean Thinking Techniques is one of the solutions to eliminating that waste.
A consultant and former General Manager of a manufacturing company who is a supplier to Toyota shared that the Toyota Way is to combine continuous improvement with respect for people. Their management focus is in three areas: Growing the Business, Satisfying Customers, and Growing People. The latter has two elements, teach and coach a standard problem solving method and challenge and coach people to solve problems.
A state government official discussed the need to learn how to change the culture of the organization. He divided that effort into three parts; rely on data for decision-making, develop a learning organization, and share goals.
Several presenters focused on the need to challenge the status quo, constantly looking for better ways.
The truly encouraging fact from this conference is the recognition of the presenters that a change in the culture of the organization is required if the performance improvement journey is to endure over time. Many organizations in the past have made the mistake of introducing the tools of performance improvement without adequately communicating to all employees the reasons why and the importance of the effort.
A good system of improvement will make sure we are working on the right things, we are addressing the issues with the right tools, and engage all employees with the knowledge of the system. In this way, behavior and culture are changed to ensure continuous improvement and innovation is sustained over time.