As the economic climate tightens and the challenge not just to thrive but survive increases, the need for Business Efficiency has rarely been greater. Irrespective of industry type we are all going to need to do more with less, increase savings & revenue and improve our product and service delivery. Not only this, it’s all going to have to be done in a sustainable manner.
We don’t however, just suddenly flick a switch and become “business efficient.” To start down the business efficiency path we need to ensure we have four key elements in place:
We must start with an understanding that everything we do can be improved – even those things that are working well at the moment. Once any new process is implemented the impact-clock starts ticking because the environment for which it was designed inexorably changes and it’s efficacy starts to diminish. If we wait until we can sense the loss of impact we have usually lost the opportunity to intervene in a time and resource effective way. Like it or not all of our processes are in some way failing or moving toward failure without the appropriate oversight.
How do we know when our organisation has this understanding? Organisations that have this understanding don’t only speak of Problem Solving, they have a substantial focus on Opportunity Identification and designing genuinely new ways forward.
Once we acknowledge this we must then have a willing disposition to continuously improve all of our efforts. Easily said, but this is often ignored in favour of the status-quo or superceded by the day-to-day demands of business as usual. The most successful organisations have a willing disposition and commitment to work both “on” and “in” the business as standard practice.
How do we know if our organisation has this willing disposition? Organisations with this disposition typically commit resources to ongoing improvement methods and tend to maintain or even boost these resources in challenging economic times when business efficiency is most needed.
The third element is a toolkit of simple and easily applied tools and methods to apply to the challenge of being more efficient in business. If asked, most of your staff will readily point to areas that need improving or could be more efficient, but they don’t have the right techniques at their disposable to readily tackle them. When this happens improvement efforts can be hap-hazard and tackled with inappropriate methods resulting in a frustration, failure and reduction in the disposition to continuously improve.
How do we know when we have these methods at our disposal? If your organisation has these methods there will be a dramatic reduction in the reliance on external consultants. There will also be less tendency to invest and apply old methods that are context-inappropriate and offer no reasonable means of measuring dollars saved, efficiencies gained or return on investment.
The fourth key element is the clear authorising environment that enables people to continuously work “on” the business. In such an environment business efficiency is not only encouraged but mandated and expected.
How can we tell if we have an authorising environment? There is no exhaustive list here but some of the indicators are your Organisational Change related leaders will be a part of the Leadership Team, not just reporting to it. All staff with have time allocated to undertake improvement related tasks. Personal development plans will explicitly include activities for working “On” the business and you will have a more empowered workforce more likely to commit greater discretionary effort in improving services and the bottom-line.
In organisations I have worked in and with, I have NEVER seen all four elements together. Even the co-existence of three at the same time is very rare. Of course there have been many using the words and language of business efficiency because we are good at crafting aspirational missions and visions, but we are correspondingly poor in moving them into reality through action.
In today’s changing world and tough economic climate we actually need to DO and ACT. We can no longer continue to talk and analyse and expect to be successful. We need to raise our heads and start designing our forward.
If we want our organisation to prosper, we need to take the focus off categorising personality types or analysing employees past performance to determine where and how they fit. Instead, we need to empower them with new approaches and methods that will allow them to move the organisation forward with efficiency and also determine where and how they fit themselves.