Nuggets Of Knowledge

Basic Business Cents

Advanced Strategic Improvements Practices

2014 Conference

Dr. Charles Liedtke, owner of Strategic Improvement Systems, hosts the Advanced Strategic Improvement Practices Conference each year in the Twin Cities where representatives from selected organizations present their performance improvement initiatives, results obtained, and lessons learned. It is a great day of sharing and learning from each other. Presenters at the conference this year were from Hennepin County, MN Office of Continuous Improvement, MN Department of Human Services, Mayo Clinic Health Systems, IBM, Buckman Associates, Hormel Foods, Cargill, Strategic Improvement Systems, Toro, Process Management, and Seagate.

This year was the best yet as the activities appeared to be more complete, well rounded, and focused on the leadership and people aspects as well as process improvement.

Some of the nuggets of knowledge that resonated with me are:

  • Tap the power of hidden influencers. In every organization there are untitled leaders at all levels, who demonstrate that they can get things done beyond what their title on the organization chart might indicate. Enlist the aid of these hidden leaders to further the improvement activity.
  • Leaders may provide direction, but do they provide leadership? Are they modeling the way? Do they recognize that they have work processes that they perform and do they work to improve those processes? Perhaps we are not doing enough to help senior leadership become effective change agents. Training and coaching are important for both formal and informal leaders. They need to become role models by improving their own processes. Leaders lead!
  • Government entities do not share knowledge improvement lessons learned internally as well as industry. Promotional opportunities are fewer and individuals sometimes hoard knowledge learned to increase their chances of advancement. Unfortunately, this is true in industry as well.  Improvement lessons learned must be shared openly and applied across the organization.
  • Provide education and coaching for all employees to understanding and obtain commitment for performance improvement and innovation.
  • Improvement ideas can come from anywhere; sometimes the best ideas come from the front-line staff. Everyone in the organization has a brain and do not overlook any resources.
  • The following quote from Roger Milliken was shared, “Operational Excellence secures the Present.  Innovation Excellence secures the Future.”   The world is changing so fast that we must continue to innovate products and processes.
  • One organization gave the Baldrige Explorer Survey to 200 employees and discovered that there was very little understanding of what their work systems were. As a result, the feedback on strategic improvement had marginal utility.
  • Create current Value Stream Maps for Engineering (and other departments) first and then create future Value Stream Maps for review for all employees. Once these maps are developed, they will generate ideas for improvement and innovation. As the ideas are generated and maps redrawn, more ideas will emerge.
  • Make sure improvement changes are sustained and do not slip back to the old way of doing things. Building a sustainable enterprise needs to be integrated with the Strategic Planning Process as an explicit strategic intent. Business needs to completely incorporate sustainability action in the way of doing business; it needs to permeate every decision and every part of the operation.

This sharing of knowledge learned in the various strategic improvement practices added useful knowledge to all the attendees. The presentations get better each year and this year was no exception. It was a privilege to attend and learn.