Good Procedures – a business requirement.

Procedures can be formal or informal, simple or complex but whichever you use they are there to minimise the guesswork and irregularity in the business.  The format of which should be standard throughout the company as far as possible (there are many templates on the web to build from), they should also be effective and efficient! I have worked with companies that are overburdened with procedures and those that literally rely on the information and experience of individuals.

Overburdensome procedures take away the ability to move quickly, to adapt to change before competitors.  This scenario is usually found in larger organisations (& Government) and colloquially called “bureaucracy”.

Whereas a lack of documented procedures can often facilitate a faster response, the problem that lies herein is that the improvements and changes are again not documented.  Thus there is confusion over the “correct” procedure to follow.  Plus, as is often the case without procedures, results and KPIs are not accurate and may even be guesses, if they are presented at all.

Either way, change is required with benefits found in both scenarios. Redesigning procedures can be seen as being easier due to the fact that they have already been written and only need “tweaking”, while in other situations documenting procedures from scratch can also be seen as being easier as there is a clean slate to work with.

The issue here is often not the need to redesign or design procedures; it is the perception of change. There are companies that state they are looking for change, to make the improvements they know they need to take their company to the next level. I just wonder how many people have found a company’s statements on change are not always congruent with their actions.

Some companies I have worked with see change as part of their business, continual improvement itself being a process that happens everyday. These are the companies that have realised change can bring a level of uncertainty or a period of moving backwards before improvement (but careful planning and testing will reduce any negative effect).  Yet there are others that talk about change but can only manage partial implementation, sometimes abandoning improvements that have been made. I have found there is also a correlation to particular industries as well.

I would welcome comments on companies that have good procedures and how they design/change them.

Next instalment – Failure to change


To Lean or not to Lean

I am always amazed at the passion people have for following/not following the different methods to enhance, improve their business.  Some say following “fads” is detrimental to long term improvement yet other stand by a particular model stating vast improvements and yes there are those that jump on every band wagon. I also often read comments on blogs stating one method came from another, or this one is better than that because the first is a fad when this one is not….etc, etc.

So which is correct, which can stand up on its own merits? – in my belief, it is all of them and none. These are all just tools, which should be used to solve the problems they were designed for and when used with other tools will meet the requirements of the business and help it achieve its goals.

To use an analogy: it is like building a house, builders use hammers, screwdrivers, saws, workbenches, etc.  Although they can use a hammer to punch a screw into wood, a better tool is a screwdriver, so the same with all these tools. So firstly you learn about the tools, their applications, their suitability and their flaws. Then you gain the experience by putting these things into practice.  For example a 2lb hammer may do the job but if the job requires a 12oz hammer, that is what should be used.

BUT, all these business tools will evolve for each industry, business, and company, even down to work station. The ability to improve the business is incumbent on the managers and employees to make things work, to know and feel how it all fits together.  One of the major problems until recently (as I see it) is that Finance ran the company,  this was through the micromanagement of costs – at best this took the focus away from real management of the business and at worst focused on aspects of the business as standalone entities (saving money in each but leaking money between all the gaps).

I am sure we have all seen one function/department make improvements at the detriment of another. Managers and staff need to take accountability for the whole process and the benefits of using bottom line goals, work across the business and use all the tools (as appropriate).

To Lean: Lean has been used to varying extents and capabilities by many, for millennium (usually entrepreneurs); the difference is, we have now named the method and people are writing about it and more are using it. So, it is not a fad but just another tool that has been (re-) identified.