“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
–Leo Tolstoy, from Anna Karenina
The Anna Karenina principle tells us that happy families share a common set of characteristics which lead to happiness, while any of a variety of attributes can cause another family to be unhappy.
The same thing can be said about companies.
Successful companies are all doing the same things, while unstable companies are failing because of their own unique situations. So it stands to reason that we should all look at what success stories are doing and try to imitate them as much as possible to grow and improve. To that end, here are five business improvement techniques that all successful companies are doing in one way or another.
Ensure Key Stakeholder Engagement
Any business improvement project that is undertaken must have the full support of the key stakeholders involved in the project. If they don’t visibly support your business improvement initiative, no one else in your organization will. And if they’re not actively engaged from the start, your improvement project will most likely fail. At the very least, keeping stakeholders regularly updated about milestones and sprints will remind them that there is an important undertaking going on and that they must be up-to-date on the progress of the project.
Institute an ‘Operational Excellence Group’
There’s a growing trend for companies to institute an internal “task force” to ensure best practices are being followed and drive improvement projects forward. These Operational Excellence Groups should set up regular meetings and integrate the right team members, as this is key to engaging those required to bring about improvement.
Operational Excellence Groups are not only a luxury that large corporations have. Companies of all sizes can set up a committee with the goal of driving excellence during a project. There is also the added benefit of being able to address company-wide issues that were not visible prior to setting up the Operational Excellence Group.
Use a Multifaceted Communications Plan
Achieving cultural change to support an improvement plan requires that you drive the point home in a variety of ways. A simple email announcement won’t cut it. Instead, involving as many of your organization’s employees is the best approach. Give the project a catchy name and hold a launch event with a speech or two to definitely drive the point home that this is not an endeavor to be taken lightly. Training days, posters, even updating email signatures will constantly let all players know that an improvement project is a critical part of business strategy.
And regarding kick-off activities, the most successful companies hold follow-up events months after the improvement project kicks off. By spacing them out and being regular about them, a true culture of improvement will organically start to grow.
Understand the Current ‘State of Affairs’
We often say that you can’t improve what you can’t measure, so make sure you know your current situation well. Develop baseline metrics that you can revisit down the line to determine whether progress is actually being made. Gauge employees’ attitudes and thoughts about the areas of improvement you’re targeting and get their feedback on proposed upcoming activities.
The use of process maps at this stage will definitely make your job easier. It gives you and your whole team a bird’s eye view of an entire operation and allows you to target specific areas to improve and isolate others that may not be as relevant to your improvement goals.
Practice Continuous Improvement
The end of any business improvement initiative should always be the start of the next one. Continuous improvement is a never-ending job and should instead be considered an integral part of a company’s culture. The newly implemented change becomes business as usual and the next most impactful business improvement initiative should get started.
There are some that warn against an obsession with continuous improvement but there’s no denying that the benefits of this philosophy are many:
- Improved product quality.
- Increased efficiency and productivity.
- Decreased cost.
- Reduced waste.
- Employee satisfaction and teamwork.
- Customer satisfaction.
It’s obvious, then, that continuous improvement is how businesses stay successful over the long term and how they beat out competitors.
Today’s interconnected business world is always in a state of change, and if you don’t adapt and become proactive about improving your operations, you will eventually succumb to your competitors. It’s important to always invest in your individual team members’ training but also keep an eye on what the established businesses in your industry are getting right. Reach out to us for a free assessment of your operations and let’s improve them to make sure that you continue being as successful as you can possibly be!
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