So, hand to heart, how are you doing with your improvement strategy?
Are you improving much?
What baseline did you set to measure the success of your improvement initiatives?
What did you agree upon when setting out to improve your strategy, workflow and results?
Are you willing to do what it takes to actually improve aka investing time, money and energy for lasting, repeatable and scalable capabilities?
Or are you simply ticking the box on L&D by scratching the surface with 3-day team workshops, 1-day leadership seminars and 90-minute motivational keynotes?
And how tired are you of growing operating costs that are not showing up in your results and in turn create even more friction in your business workflow?
When you look at your market and your competition – are they doing it differently and are they more successful?
“The most serious mistakes are not being made as a result of wrong answers.
The true dangerous thing is asking the wrong question.” – Peter Drucker
Yes, it does take a lot of questions to understand what the challenge is and even more questions to identify the root cause(s) of an issues.
And yes, an analysis must be hard and unemotional to get to the bottom of it all when you are serious about improvements, no matter small or audacious ones.
Let’s set some boundaries right from the beginning, looking for the silver bullet, the magic wand, the next big management book to instantly alleviate all business sorrows and pains is out of the question.
Otherwise please join the search for the holy grail – it is apocryphal, it is the stuff of fairy tales and urban myths and the birthplace of way too many management fads already plaguing small to medium to large companies around the globe.
“It’s not that they can’t see the solution. They can’t see the problem.” – G.K. Chesterton
Guilty of reading an overwhelming amount of management improvement books myself (probably making up only 5% of what is out there in the world), I came up with the following analogy of what the actual outcome and impact of these books are: you buy the latest and greatest book about how to train your dog to follow your every command…and you cannot for the life of you figure out why your cat isn’t changing her behavior…you are puzzled because a pet is a pet, right, and at least something should dramatically change just by absorbing the written words through osmosis.
Well, not so much! And 9 months later, the invested budget is gone, probably some key employees as well (that is if they haven’t been drained off all their energy turning into the working dead) and still no improvements in sight with the next performance review around the corner.
Please don’t get me wrong, there are brilliant books out there that when implementing the essence of their messages can truly make a difference in many businesses, personal and professional lives.
However, jumping on these and hastily implementing, almost force feeding, them to employees, actually shows that a company has not taken the time to identify problems and their causes, to listen and understand their current environment, resources and people in their business and to align the current state of the business to future aspirations.
Let me ask you this, would you buy a house without having an inspection done first to make an informed decision on what your next actions are?
What we see happening in businesses though is that more and more tweaks and band aids are applied to ‘keep things going’, avoid any disruption and showcase short-term wins.
What is actually happening is that the root causes are covered up and not aired out and, in the worst case and very likely scenario, manifest deeper and keep on growing. Resulting in even more desperate measures.
So, I beg of you, please cease and desist your search for a one size fits all solutions and face the music.
Rip of the band aid(s), breathe and lead!
It is one thing to figure out that improvements are needed – either before or immediately after cracks and gaps are identified and named in your business foundation, strategy and workflow.
What comes next is without doubt the most crucial part though – to align focus, agreement and resources.
It needs to be led and lived by the top to reach the hearts and minds of the bottom.
To yield repeatable and sustainable results, a company needs to have everyone in the company on board:
– dedicated to the purpose – everyone must understand the current state and the purpose of required change through clear and specific communication,
– committed to the work – everyone must show up and be present, being encouraged and recognized for being vocal and showing initiative and invest time and energy,
– engaged in its continuous practice – clear and precise role mandates to support their work and initiatives, providing resources, tracking improvements and continuing an open and transparent dialogue to request honest feedback. foster inclusion and collaboration and make improvements personal.
A couple of statics to help the medicine go down:
- 90% of leaders think an engagement strategy will impact business success. However, only 25% have one. (officevibe)
- 15% of employees worldwide are engaged in their jobs (Gallup)
- Disengaged employees cost U.S. companies up to $550 billion a year. (The Engagement Institute—a joint study by The Conference Board, Sirota-Mercer, Deloitte, ROI, The Culture Works and Consulting LLP)
- $11 Billion is lost annually due to employee turnover (Source: Bureau of National Affairs)
- Companies with engaged employees see 2.5X more revenue than companies with disengaged employees. (officevibe)
These statistics truly show that the pool of improvement and potential is BIGGER THAN BIG.
So, how can you assess whether a company is tapping into this pool and doing the work it takes or dabbling their feet in the water and ticking the boxes on a scorecard?
Here are a couple of issues that are the outcome dabbling, tweaking and scratching the surface:
- decline in customer loyalty and retention,
- quality and productivity loss,
- increase of rework,
- delivery delays,
- rise in service and goodwill credits,
- increased board and shareholder pressure,
- staff turnover that is going beyond the organic churn.
This is not an original story by a long shot but clearly, it is time to become serious about continuous improvements and making them stick for the betterment of people, profit and performance.
“If you’re not gonna go all the way, why go at all?” – Joe Namath