Creating a Culture of Continuous Improvement
by Rafael M. Pefianco MPM FAAPM
If your company is flourishing today, it does not mean it will continue to do so if you rest on our laurels and stop trying to improve. History has shown that even mighty companies fall. According to a recent article in Forbes by Philippe Silberzahn and Milo Jones (see http://www.forbes.com/sites/frederickallen/2012/06/19/thats-all-folks-why-the-writing-is-on-the-wall-at-microsoft/), collective creativity is the key to the success of many companies.
They point out that G.M.’s 2009 bankruptcy came at the end of a long decline dating back to the early 1970s. They say that some researchers attribute G.M.’s breakdown to a decision made by its CEO back in 1958. That was when the company decided that its divisional managers would no longer be part of its policy committee, putting an end to the fusion of strategy and operations. The crucial loss of creative capacity took some 40 years and it resulted in GM’s eventual bankruptcy and need to be bailed out. Similarly Kodak was the darling of Wall Street for years as it was losing the digital war, a superbly managed slide to irrelevancy and collapse.
Similarly, they say the writing is already on the wall for software giant Microsoft. Silberzahn and Jones write that until the late nineties, Microsoft was defining the software industry, and the best people in the field would automatically head for Redmond, because it was the cool place to work. But who thinks Microsoft is cool today? Its focus is now on perpetuating the past and on what makes the organization run efficiently. It’s still hugely profitable, but a look at its figures shows that, in simple terms, it makes money from its old core business and loses money everywhere else. Its creative capacity has long gone. At the helm is a man whose mastery of numbers and operational skills is legendary, in short, a control expert preparing for the eventual collapse.
The above article points out that if the big boys can fail, what more our company? If we are to survive and flourish, we need to be very creative and innovative. We must continue to evolve our products and processes to meet the desires and wants of our customers.
Create a Culture of Continuous Improvement
One of the concepts that can help us is Continuous Improvement. The key idea here is that what was good enough yesterday may not be good enough tomorrow. We need to continuously look for ways to improve our product or process. The improvement need not be a huge innovation. Even small improvements can add to a large improvement over time. The idea is not to wait for that one great idea, but rather to begin right away.
The question we will be asking ourselves is:
- What matters most to your customer (internal or external) and why is that important? (Your purpose)
- What stops you from achieving your purpose?
- What do you need to achieve your purpose?
- How can you measure how well you achieve your purpose?
PDCA and Continuous Improvement
Deming’s PDCA is useful here. PDCA stands for Plan, Do, Check and Act. This means that instead of having long meetings to discuss whether or not to implement a process improvement, why not experiment with a small pilot project and see if the proposed new process actually results in an improvement. Of course, the pilot project should be small enough so that it does not endanger the business.
If your analysis shows that the change has led to a business improvement, then your team should go ahead and implement it. If the change is a dud, then you should document it so that the experiment is not repeated.
Creating a culture of continuous improvement will keep your people on their toes, keep their creative juices running and help you keep that creative talent that will keep you ahead of your competitors and flourish even in these very demanding times.
Rafael M. Pefianco MPM FAAPM
Rafael M. Pefianco is a highly trained Mechanical Engineer. He has managed warehouses and distribution businesses for many years. He is an International Trainer whose passion is to enable Filipino professionals to reach world class levels by sharing the insights he has gathered working and teaching abroad and in the Philippines. He is a Master Project Manager and a Fellow of the American Academy of Project Management. Please click [Background of Raffy Pefianco] to read more about him.
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