Category: Business Support
Many businesses and leaders create a mission – vision – values statement then publish their values and forget them. Not a criticism really, just a simple truth. Management courses say they are necessary and you should have them, so managers create them. But what then? How do you use them to improve your business?
My answer is simple and incredibly hard to do. You use them every day in your decision making processes.
When was the last time you looked at your company values…I mean really looked at them and thought about your actions and checked they matched? Mission and vision are usually kept in mind, but most business leaders believe their primary purpose is to maximise profitability. I agree that businesses should be profitable, but there is a wide spectrum of how you do that. We are learning that how you make money is more important than how much money you make. It is my belief that focusing more on how you make money will mean you earn more in the long term. If your actions are aligned with your stated values it builds trust and respect with your entire supply chain, creating predictability of behaviour.
Is cash your primary focus? Let’s be honest, in the current situation it would be reasonable. If so how does that fit with your values?
This is what your values are for isn’t it, to ensure that when difficult decisions must be made you don’t regret them later. Clear values ensure your moral compass does not get damaged with short term needs. For example, many small shop owners (and some much larger businesses!) have dramaticaly increased the cost of essential goods. This could be seen as an impact of market demand or it could be sen as profiteering. Everyone expects prices to rise a little, but if customers believe that prices have risen disproportionately to costs this will lead to friction. Some customers will pay for the goods now, however they will also change suppliers as soon as possible. One must also ask if the short term profit made is worth the long term reputational damage. If your only concern is how much profit can be made it all seems reasonable. If you are putting your customer’s business at risk to increase your own profits, your customers won’t forgive you easily or quickly. As Henry Ford said;
“A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business.”
Join the discussion below, let me know if this matches your experience. If you are aleader, what are the challenges in getting your values used in the business?
A huge number of businesses are still functioning with a distributed workforce, working from home and largely delivering what they have always delivered. Are they using the same processes though? I strongly suspect many businesses have reviewed what people do and eliminated many tasks that are expected when people are in work, but become impossible when they are at home. The question this creates is if these tasks are not essential when people work from home, are they needed at all?
This is a great opportunity to think carefully about the tasks we do each day and ask how much value they really add. There is much to learn from remote working, some of our time is taken up with tasks that are done because “we have always done it that way”. Two phrases that come to mind in this situation are
“Necessity is the mother of invention”
“When needs must, the devil drives”
Why are these important?
We have seen some incredible efforts to do new things, for example Formula 1 teams designing ventilators, engineering companies manufacturing ventilators, ordinary people using 3D printers to make facemasks, cosmetics companies manufacturing hand sanitiser.
When we have an overriding imperative we embrace our ability to be resourceful and inventive. Suddenly staff working from home is not a risk to productivity, it is a vital contribution to saving lives. Many managers and workers have found themselves working from home and needing to find new ways to communicate, new ways to manage their time, and are having to adjust their priorities to fit everything in. Inevitably some tasks are not a high priority in this situation. Now if those tasks are not significant in a crisis, how critical are they to the business overall? It is a question we should all ask, often we are too busy spinning the wheel to ask why we are doing it. This creates several wastes such as overprocessing (e.g. duplication of effort), waiting (sometimes for things that don’t really matter), motion (physical transfer of forms), defects (errors caused by rushing or distraction). We are also becoming more aware of pockets of overburden and unevenness in our organisations, as we observe people looking at new ways of working. As we decide some things are not important for now, perhaps we should consider if those tasks should be retired permanently.
Lacking access to meeting rooms and face to face meeting time has forced us to look at alternative meeting formats, for example Zoom, Google hangouts, Microsoft teams meetings. For many these technologies have been available for some time but have been shunned because they are new or “that’s not how we do it around here”. Needs must however, and now we find ourselves embracing new formats, new platforms and new behaviours. There is an opportunity in these new technologies; perhaps instead of everyone going to a specific room at a specific time for a meeting, we can use Teams to meet virtually at that time. If that saves five minutes at the start of the meeting and ten minutes at the end, for a daily meeting that is sixty hours a year per attendee. Five people in the meeting amounts to 300 hours per year. What could you do with that time? Another benefit of a virtual meeting might be a greater focus on the information that is being shared. Perhaps we can become more attentive to the business information, and in doing so think more carefully about how to present the required information in manner that is clear and accessible. Another example is accounting packs. Do we really need to prepare ten accounting packs, print them out and send them out to all attendees? Or do we need to prepare a single report in a teams folder and give everyone the same time to read the important information before the meeting. If you produce ten accounting packs a month, with let’s say 30 pages, that is a paper saving of over 7 reams of paper a year for one meeting. Not huge, but again why us eit if you don’t need to?
It is when you start multiplying all these benefits by the number of meetings and tasks across the whole business that your capacity problem becomes clearer. I often hear people say we don’t have time to improve, or e are already fully loaded. They also spend a considerable amount of time each day reworking tasks and replacing defects; do you not have enough time to fix your process? How much time and money could be saved by getting things right first time? Your investment in right first time will pay off.
If we reduce the demand for staff, what do we do with them?
This is a critical point and it is where many businesses kill their improvement programmes. They discover the tasks can be done with less staff and lay them off. They can do the same with less. Short term this is a cost saving, no doubt about it, but long term what is the impact on process improvement? Will your staff give their best efforts to improve the process if it endangers their livelihood? Would you? And what of the skills they take with them, they will undoubtedly use those skills in their next role, which could be with your competitor. Now think about this again. What happens if you use the time crated to increase capacity and grow the business. Redeploy them to relieve bottlenecks in other areas, retrain them to develop new capabilities, think more of their capabilities and potential than their cost. While the business is growing you can use all those staff who you have just trained in improvement techniques to find improvements in other areas. You will gain even more capacity, reduce costs and improve lead time. Exactly what you have been doing to cope in this time of crisis. A bonus is that you will also create a continuous improvement group from within your own staff.
When we go back to a more normal life, it will be tempting to resume all of the tasks we have been happily living without. Old meeting styles will be like an old favourite coat, comfortable and familiar. Consider this as you return to a business life after this crisis; you are able to choose what waste you reintroduce to your processes. Do you take the opportunity to adopt new ways of working and discard wasteful process steps, or do you limit the effectiveness of your operation? The organisations that let go of the activities that they have discovered were not necessary will thrive and grow in the wake of COVD19. We all need to thrive and grow, so I encourage you to create a new normal.
You have an opportunity to take the things you learn from coping in this crisis and use them to strengthen your business, create a continuous improvement culture and improve not only your immediate prospects, but also your long term future. Or not. I’ll leave you with this thought, W Edwards Deming said it best
“You do not need to change, survival is not mandatory.”
I feel for the extroverts who need to self isolate, your world collapsing to a single building must feel awful. It’s easy to lose focus and be overwhelmed by your brains all too human desire to catastrophise and focus on the negative. Rest assured you are not alone, we all have some degree of this to manage.
Also, spare a thought for those of us who find shouting about what we do difficult. Introverts enjoy the isolation, but that doesn’t mean it is good for them. We need to be shouting about what we do, but it isn’t easy.
I am an introvert. My customers tell me I do a great job, however, me telling others feels like boasting. I push through it, but it’s uncomfortable.
What I can do is listen. It is one of the blessings of introversion, listening is easy. I can also see complex patterns in data, be it big number sets or the things you tell me as your coach.
Whatever else you do with this time, don’t sit and worry until it becomes too much. Find someone to talk to, share your fears and concerns be they personal or business focused.
Stay safe, the world will change, we just need to be ready to adjust when we can get back to our lives.
Why should you have a quality management system?
A quality management system is the first step towards truly understanding your business. A good QMS structures your business approach, embedding continuous improvement as a way of doing business.
The standard starts with asking you hard questions about your business and your customers. The system then takes a look at leadership, defining what the responsibilities of top management are, and what processes they must put in place. Planning comes next, to ensure the business understands what must be managed to succeed. Now the business knows what must be done, the resources must be made available to deliver on the plans. Operational control is required to ensure the products are properly designed, the processes for procurement, manufacture and control are in place and that operators know what to do when there is a problem. The process also has to be measured, this includes auditing and non-conformance management. Finally, the system demands continuous improvement.
As an ISO9001 lead auditor and lean six sigma master black belt I can integrate process improvement using world-class tools into your documented system.
Contact me for a discussion to see how I can help your business.
Tamarind Tree Consulting Ltd has joined the Centre for SME Development, a UCLAN initiative to help and support small businesses and new startups.
AS a member of this group Tamarind Tree Consulting Ltd can help new businesses to develop their processes and support the managers and directors to grow with the business. Tamarind Tree Consulting Ltd looks forward to the opportunity to support these entrepreneurs by coaching and mentoring these new business leaders to develop the skills they will need as their businesses grow
I was invited by a close associate to work with him at a large FMCG manufacturer where he worked to help improve team performance. This team works in central services in an extremely large multinational corporation.
I arrived at the location on a Sunday evening and in the car journey to the hotel, my client advised that he wanted to change the focus of the development. Instead of working with the full team, I was to work with a smaller sub-team. My client advised that this sub-team was having particular problems with delivering their expected objectives. My revised task was to support the sub-team to identify what help was needed to develop their skills and improve overall performance. The sub team’s role is to approve new suppliers.
I created a team development workshop overnight and we started the next day looking at the team’s behaviours and output. We quickly identified several problems
- The process was inconsistent between team members
- The process was also inconsistently completed between departments.
- The team was governed through fear, carried over from a previous manager
- There were no measures of team performance
- The team was still working to a set of rules laid down by a former manager
The impact of these behaviours was that the staff were uncertain and working in constant fear. Failure to deliver was normal, all failures were blamed on people, and external demands were never challenged. This increased the workload in the department without adding value from the customer’s perspective. As a result, the team had become demotivated and disillusioned
I had two issues. The first was to understand and support the overall process. The second was to work with the individuals to help them improve their skills and resilience.
We employed three strategies to develop in parallel
- Focus on the process to identify and agree on the standard work.
- Work with the individuals to help them identify as a team and start collaborating
- Coach the individuals to enable them to understand their reactions and interact more positively
The strategies worked very well, by applying transformational coaching across the needs of the immediate client, recognising the demands of the wider organisation and the constraints individual team members perceived, we made huge step-change improvements in performance. The client (this team’s line manager) was coached to modify his behaviours to reflect the values agreed with the team. Individuals in the team were also coached to address their confidence and behavioural challenges. Working with the team, we were able to establish common values and establish the required process to enable the team to work effectively as a unit and in concert with other parts of the business. Since the process was developed by the team with support and guidance by me, they were fully engaged with the process.
After completing the intervention, the team identified that they needed to enforce the existing agreement and insist their customer, another internal department, upheld their part of the agreement. The team also stopped competing and arguing internally, focusing instead on solving problems at their root cause. The overall result was a reduction in workload and a higher quality of work product. The team also had higher engagement, morale, and created a positive and supportive working environment.
The work was so successful that further engagements were booked to deliver training and development with this team and with other teams in the business. A team build for another team in the department is planned for later in the year. I continue to coach the team director to support his development.
Tamarind Tree Consulting Ltd is delighted to announce that it has joined the Northern Powerhouse Partner Programme. As a provider of training and productivity improvement support, Tamarind Tree Consulting Ltd is dedicated to supporting Northwest businesses to compete effectively. Deploying world class improvement and quality techniques, Tamarind tree Consulting Ltd can work in both service and manufacturing industries to improve output, capacity and quality.
Managing Director Tim Akerman said “The Northern Powerhouse initiative set out to support increasing productivity of northern manufacturing businesses. Tamarind Tree Consulting was set up with the same aim, so joining the Northern Powerhouse Partner Programme was a natural step forward. We are delighted to support this initiative and look forward to helping northern businesses improve productivity to become more competitive.”
Minister for the Northern Powerhouse, Jake Berry MP said:“I’m delighted to see another great northern business join our growing network of Northern Powerhouse Partners.
“Rebalancing the economy so it works for everyone is at the heart of our vision for the Northern Powerhouse so I’m excited to see the contribution Tamarind Tree Consulting will make as they support other growing businesses in the North to thrive and boost local economic growth.”
I recently gave an interview to Marketing aspects magazine looking at the importance of authenticity in business. If you are genuine and authentic in your business, you are more likely to be clear and succeed.
Read the full article here: https://marketingaspects.co.uk/marketing-business-originality/
Asking for feedback is important for any business, as it helps us to improve what we do and eliminate any negative effects of our activities. What we don’t always recognise is the positive feedback, and the impact we can have on someone’s business when we give great service.
I have started working as a growth mentor in Lancashire, and I have just received my first feedback from that work. It has been interesting and really touches the heart of why I started Tamarind Tree Consulting, it is an opportunity to help people improve their businesses. So getting that first feedback from this sort of mentoring is significant for me. As always, I have set out to do the best job possible for the client. Hearing that the client values the support and has seen practical benefits is brilliant. You can read his testimonial here.
So why this post?
The feedback got me thinking about what is important and why did this work well. It seems to me that focusing on the customer and their needs was key. My role is not to tell them what to do, but to advise and support them through decisions, and activities they are finding difficult. The key factor here is practical application of process improvement, applied with respect for my customer. We haven’t deployed huge amounts of training and tools, there has been no big bang effort. Instead we used the time to focus on the vital few actions, and ensure that we focus on understanding why. This approach leads naturally to collaboration. It has been brilliant to see not only my mentee growing, but also to see this positive impact on his team. You can read his testimonial here
For me, process improvement consultancy is not simply about the hours charged, although more hours is always nice! It is about making a practical, positive difference to the lives of the people I help. Focusing on customers with love may not always result in more hours of work, but it will always help people learn good habits that hopefully stay with them as they, and their businesses grow. People remember those who really help them, and if the opportunity to support them arises, well, I believe you reap what you sow.