When we decide to make improvements to our business, the number of options available to us can seem overwhelming. Anyone who has looked into the Lean Transformation toolbox will remember how they felt when they first saw the full range of methods and techniques. However, there is a very simple way of deciding which tools will work best and that is to ask yourself whether the way your business operates lives up to the brand you have designed for it and the image you wish to project to your customers. To put this into perspective let me tell you briefly about some work I did with one of my clients. They were under pressure from their customers to improve their performance, particularly with respect to on time deliveries, and were about to embark in some Value Stream Mapping activities. At the point that I came to support the business there was already a long shopping list of methods, problems and potential improvements available for review. The problem was that after some analysis they were now stuck deciding on the most effective course of action.
Your compass can guide you
The discussion we had that got us past this obstacle was around their operational brand. They had invested a great deal of time and money to get their logo, website and stationary all looking the way they wanted it. The real problem they faced was that what they did day to day did not reflect the kind of image they wanted in front of their clients. They wanted to be seen as technically amazing with delivery performance and quality to match. The reality was that they were difficult to interact with, delivered orders late and never had the right information to hand when a customer contacted them. We knew this to be the reality of the customers because they had written to tell my client this. On reflection it was fantastic that their customers had written to them as it gave us both feedback on the current situation and faith that they wanted to continue doing business with my client.
Defining the true 'gap'
From understanding the brand operationally, compared to the current results and customer feedback it became very easy to decide which tools were most appropriate to use. The tools and ideas were filtered to a list that would help my client to improve their on-time delivery and produce more reliable order information for the administrative team. The goal was no longer 'to get better' it was more clearly defined as 'to drive down lead times, to hit 100% delivery performance and to yield real time order information'. Confusion and procrastination were removed from the equation and progress was made.
Helping your team find their purpose
An interesting discussion that developed from agreeing the way forward mentioned above was that of principles for performance. As the Value Stream Mapping continued and developed, the additional information and insights gained made it clear that the focus that each team member in the business needed to have could be linked back to the operational brand. Most of these foci were 'blindingly obvious' once stated, but it was the rediscovery that made it worthwhile. My personal favourite was for the Sales Order Processing Team Leader who had a focus stated as 'to produce paperwork for the shop floor on time'. Anyone observing this statement might be inclined to shake their heads, after all it is what they are paid to do. But, for the first time, the combination of the operational brand and some basic mapping this person could see where their part of the business fitted in with the overall scheme of things and the difference they could make from changing how they saw their role.
What does your journey look like?
So, how does this fit with your business? Does your operational brand meet the needs of the overall brand you have designed for your business, or does it let it down? Reflecting on this question can give you and your team food for thought and also help to select an appropriate set of tools and improvements to speed up your business improvement journey. Change needn't be a difficult process to understand, but having a compass (your operational brand) makes things a lot easier to undertake.
Smartspeed Consulting work in the area of Operations Management helping organisations to simplify and become more profitable. Giles Johnston specialises in the areas of business process improvement, scheduling, and on time delivery performance.
Article Source: Giles G Johnston