In the world of business, there is a basic formula used on a day-to-day basis to move the organization forward. Upper management and managers of the various functional units typically put together a set of policies that directly impact the employees, who, in turn, perform the daily work duties of the company.
Last month we talked about how to avoid the "every man for himself” approach and focus on continuous improvement using key criteria such as productivity, process, procedure, standards and commitment. This month, let’s look at establishing new traditions and making sure that all the team players understand them and make a commitment to follow them.
"New traditions” are summed up as follows:
The customer is the "designated driver.” Organizations that change successfully are customer driven instead of internally driven. This allows them to quickly and continuously understand, meet and exceed their customer’s changing expectations. Typically, the customer’s list now expands to "better, faster, cheaper.”
Let’s bridge the gaps. A "stuck” organization is too functionally focused—a collection of separate functions that don’t help each other. Overall, the common effect of a functional focus is to reduce quality while increasing the schedule and costs.
A changing company must become process-focused. They need to consistently ask, "What is the best way to achieve desired results where everybody wins?”
Lead, follow or get out of the way. Most "stuck” organizations are management-centered. Managers see themselves as the central players in the organization and assume that they need to control everything. Employee involvement and teams must become the alternative because it is a better way to utilize all of the knowledge and skills of the entire organization.
Teamwork becomes the management system that revolves around a process for improving productivity at all levels of the organization. The process is based on the concept of continuous improvement, which essentially means, "No matter where you’re at, you’re never there.” This gives the company a sense of motivation to strive for something better. It’s not a quick fix, but a process where both management and employees are involved in facilitating change through effective leadership. In turn, the middle management team becomes the "glue” that ties together the three keys to collective success: direction from the top, support from the middle and action by the employees at the bottom.
The "Productivity Prescription Process” is a collaborative course of action organized around four power points: focus, climate, alignment and deployment. It includes the key ingredients that mix together as a recipe of winning ideas, strategies and techniques
Leaders who are making the transition to this collaborative approach must buy into four key principles of change:
1. Change takes time and requires patience and perseverance.
2. Change is a process, not a "hodge-podge” of individual activities.
3. Change requires the persistence to stay on course while overcoming obstacles until everybody gets comfortable with the new way of doing things.
4. Change requires ongoing support as people stumble in their efforts to execute a new formula for day-to-day activities.
So, let us now move onward to productivity improvement. Let us make a promise to develop and practice the necessary skills that bring the Productivity Prescription to life. The key to success is to keep doing it until you get it right. There are no shortcuts. Follow the process, be patient, and everyone will reap the benefits of continuous improvement in action.
Norb Slowikowski is president of Slowikowski & Associates, Inc., Darien, Ill.