Do you have days like this?
Last night you worked until 11, so you’re running behind this morning and grab a couple of donuts for breakfast.
- At noon you gulp down two slices of pepperoni pizza as you speed walk to the shop floor to look into a production problem (does that count as exercise?).
- At 6 pm, your inbox pings delivery of the 122nd email of the day, and you’re too tired for the gym, so you guzzle a caffeine boost and inhale two loaded hot dogs from the vending machine as you keep wading through emails.
- You’re shutting down your computer at 8 pm and glance at your last email: a key supplier apologizing because she can’t ship as promised. You frantically start searching for alternate sources.
If this is your typical day, when you go in for your annual physical, you may discover you’ve gained weight and have high blood pressure. What goes into your human system directly impacts your health and performance.
Just like your human processes directly impact your health, your business process directly impacts your company’s health and performance. Do any of these sound familiar?
- Sales and order entry collect the same information from customers who wonder why they have to provide the same thing twice; information in your sales system sometimes doesn’t match what’s in order entry.
- For years, production has complained that a manual count is the only way to know what’s in inventory, and when no one has time for that, scheduled orders can’t be built on time.
- Between production delays and bad customer information, invoicing takes too long, and cash flow suffers.
- You completed your annual “state of the business” report and realize the order to invoice cycle is 15% longer and revenue dropped 20% last year.
If your business suffers from issues like this, it may be time for a checkup.
How to get healthy
Your doctor, barber or hairdresser, and dozens of magazine articles claim to know how to improve your health. Everyone has a story about what they’ve done or plan to do to get healthy. Some people insist they have a fix-everything pill, but you can’t get healthy just by taking a pill, and you can’t get a workout by talking about it. You have to make lifestyle changes: say yes to raw carrots and no to birthday cake, yes to yoga and no to three hours in front of the TV. In the same way, if anyone says they have a quick fix “pill” for your business, beware; it doesn’t exist. Improving business process health requires:
- Choosing to change.
- Identifying issues and their root causes.
- Understanding the possible solutions and the cost of each.
- Making tough decisions.
What’s the problem?
Whether you’re working on improving your personal or business health, some approaches will never work:
- Wishing the problems would go away.
- Talking about the possible issues and solutions while maintaining the status quo.
- Telling yourself and everyone else that next week, month, or year will be better.
- Trusting your business’s future to luck and chance.
Your doctor uses your input and test results to make recommendations for improving your health. How do you identify what’s causing poor business health and define a “prescription” for getting healthy? Professionals specializing in business improvement use interviews, analysis, and input from employees involved in the process to define what works as well as what doesn’t and why. Then they work with you and your team to develop a shared understanding of current processes and to construct a plan to eliminate the issues and get your business healthy.
If you don’t give your doctor honest answers and fully disclose all issues, the reliability of the diagnosis suffers. To get a business healthy, leaders must:
- Acknowledge there’s a problem.
- Communicate openly – talking and listening – about issues within the business.
- Accept responsibility for problems and solutions.
- Create an environment in which employees confidently identify problems and recommend solutions.
Leaders can’t know the details of every job in a business so they have to rely on the people doing the jobs to let them know issues exist. This can only happen when employees trust leaders to listen and feel confident that there are no negative repercussions for identifying problems. A doctor can prescribe medications, give you food recommendations, and order you to get 30 minutes of exercise per day. Will this improve your health? Only if you choose to follow the doctor’s orders. For a business to get healthy:
- The leadership team must be committed to change and be willing to invest in solutions.
- Leaders, subject area experts, and other members of the organization must prioritize and allocate time for interviews and team meetings focused on improvement.
- The CxO who “owns” the processes being improved must actively lead the organization through the necessary changes, including the inevitable pain changes bring.
- The management team must live out the commitment to change by rewarding positive change and never punishing failures that result from attempts to improve.
To get healthy, make good health a primary goal and high priority. To make your business healthy:
- Make business health a high priority.
- Embrace change in words and actions.
- Devote resources to business process improvement.
- Champion improvement objectives and communicate them throughout your organization.
- Be accountable – and hold others accountable – for achieving improvement objectives.
- Reward and recognize achievement of improvement goals.
Don’t wait for wishes and luck to change your business for the better. Take control and make this the year your business gets healthy.
Reward those who persevere despite failure: Thomas Edison conducted more than 1600 tests that FAILED before he found the right material for the filament in a light bulb. From the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, read Edison’s Story.
Busy running your business? You want to improve your business process, but you’re already working 80 hours per week managing and leading your company. There’s no way you can carve out another 40 hours per week to conduct a process improvement project, and you don’t want to hire a full-time business analyst. Call DragonPoint. Our team has successfully conducted more than 50 process improvement projects including:
- Womb to tomb: Prospect, sale, order, produce, ship, invoice, support.
- Sales and forecast
- Accounting month end close
We’ll work with you to identify improvement objectives, conduct interviews, facilitate team meetings to walk through the current process and identify required changes, define measurable tasks to achieve improvement goals, and follow up on progress. Contact us today to speak with one of our experienced business process experts.