With the advent of social distancing meeting for a coffee is not possible at the moment. That doesn’t mean we should stop interacting though.
I have met some great new people and had some fantastic discussions. If you would like to meet for a virtual coffee, either comment on this post or get in touch on the contact page.
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.”
If the last 3 months have taught us anything about lean and process improvement, it should be that long supply chains are not lean. It is interesting that many of the businesses that should know better e.g. automotive businesses have been caught out with this problem.
One of the key components of a truly lean business is local supply chains. When COVID19 erupted in China, supply chains to many British (and global) firms were disrupted. The loss of capacity directly affected output of suppliers running long supply chains and trying to achieve JIT (Just In Time). The excess inventory in the supply chain bought some time, but very quickly those businesses found themselves with too few parts. The supply chains were not even just in different countries in one continent, they crossed multiple continents. As the crisis in China worsened, back up plans were implemented. Some worked, some didn’t, some businesses had not activated their emergency plans for so long they were no longer valid. Suppliers had ceased trading, disposed of tooling, changed materials, machinery, people, processes, all of which will have required fresh quality assessments. No doubt these were expedited, often by trading risks, the risk of quality failure later seen as a smaller risk than supply failure now.
We now face a nightmare scenario. Low output from extended supply chains and inadequate emergency response plans in the first instance, now the virus has spread to our country. The requirements for social distancing and isolation are now hampering output here in the UK – just as output in China is starting to come back online. The extended reduction in output has significant economic impact, requiring government intervention to prevent industrial collapse.
For now we must all be rational, obey the social distancing and isolation advice to ensure our communities are safe and the vulnerable are protected, but what of the future? I suggest that when we regain stability, British companies should re-evaluate the use of extended supply chains. We should onshore the manufacturing of critical components to insulate the supply chain from a further risk. With increasing severe weather events from climate change, political instability and regional unrest, long supply chains hold high risk. The risk and hence cost is not borne by the company alone, there is government level risk that is being taken through global supply chains. With some organisations transferring profit to benefit from better tax conditions, it is possible that the contributions of a business in a country don’t match the cost of large scale supply chain disruption. Whilst it can be tempting to focus on short term cost saving, the long term economic damage of a significant global event is too high a risk. This too is a feature of lean thinking, organisations must foucs on the long term strategic benefits.
If a business wants to be truly lean this must include long term strategic thinking and as a result localised supply chains wherever possible.
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
Tamarind Tree Consulting Ltd have joined the BSI organisation. As a business committed to improving the ease and effectiveness of ISO9001:2015 certification for SME’s it is a proud moment to be accepted as a member of the BSI organisation.
I felt it was important to be part of the BSI organisation to help promote quality and process excellence.
Culture change. It’s a huge and popular topic these days. There are so many departments that want to lead this area, human resources, change management, finance, organisational design, manufacturing, the list is as varied as the department names your business uses. Everyone tries their own strategy, but they all run into the same problem;
“Culture determines and limits strategy”
– Edgar H. Schein, Organizational Culture and Leadership, 1985
So why does culture keep reasserting itself, no matter how much well-meaning change management is brought in. Internal consultants, external consultants, charismatic leaders, servant leaders, there are more leadership models than you can shake a stick at. Yet still, the culture reasserts itself, it is pervasive and incredibly hard to change. Why?
Culture change efforts always focus on changing behaviours. It is right that behaviours must change, but with all these skilled people changing behaviours, why doesn’t the culture change?
Johnson and Scholes proposed a model of culture in their cultural web. There are many aspects to culture, and it is vitally important to connect each of the aspects of the cultural web to the values and beliefs required for our new culture.
One of the aspects of Johnson and Scholes cultural web that seems to be overlooked is Stories.
In every aspect of life, we tell stories, and these stories grow to be an oral history of the underlying “common sense” values and beliefs in the business. As change agents we work really hard to change behaviours, but how much effort do we put into changing the stories told? If we change behaviours to conflict with the stories in the business, we set new behaviours in conflict with the historical values and beliefs of the business. We start to hear comments such as “I know we aren’t supposed to say this, but…” or see the more experienced heads in the business purse their lips or shake their heads when new processes or behaviours are implemented. The old stories subside, but they don’t go away, they are instead told in quiet corners to select groups. The problem is the select groups overlap, so the story is still told as the history of the business, and the new behaviours are labelled as “the latest fad” and members are told to “just keep your head down and ride it out”. We create cliques and cabals to either protect our history or We can’t just suppress the old stories, and we can’t create new stories fast enough to displace the old values.
So what is the one thing that must be changed?
You can’t eliminate the story since it is part of the oral history of the business, so use it by changing the perspective of the story! Don’t just focus on changing behaviour, ensure the stories told in the business reflect the changing values and beliefs. Us the telling and retelling of the stories to change how the stories are interpreted and understood.
For example, if you have a hero culture and stories are told about how people have cut through bureaucracy to find solutions to past situations, just telling people not to tell the story won’t work. Telling people to obey the bureaucracy won’t work. Change the emphasis of the story to match the new belief system; add to the story, for example, add that whilst it was a brilliant outcome, highlight that there was a huge risk to the business from missing paperwork, and we were lucky to get away with it. When you get an example of the bureaucracy controlling the process and preventing an error, add a positive that using the bureaucracy has enabled the business to meet the customer needs. Once the change is embedded the story is changed forever. Reality hasn’t been changed, there is no deception, we have interpreted the old story in line with our new values. All the while we are telling new stories, stories that support the new values and beliefs.
In this way, we accelerate the culture change by adding new stories and modifying the interpretation of the old stories to match the modified cultures and beliefs embedded in the business. Be careful though, if you just tell people to interpret the story differently you will drive it into the shadows. The new interpretation must be through storytelling in collaboration with the people who guard the business beliefs and used to flush out conflicts between new and old values in a positive way for discussion and debate.
In summary, if you want to change the way your business behaves, change the stories that are told in and by the business both new and old.
What story will you change today?
I have recently finished the classroom studies for ILM Level 7 Certificate in Executive Coaching and Mentoring. I have been coaching for about 15 years and decided this year it was time to invest in formal qualifications to back up the skills I have. Although I have been coaching for a long time, it is only recently that I have identified this as an important skillset and opportunity. I started doing small business mentoring with Boost about 2 years ago,and over the course of the last 2 years, I have been blessed with amazingly positive feedback. I then started helping a former colleague who was struggling to get his team to deliver on business objectives. Whilst helping him, he and his team identified that I was very good at coaching. I got comments such as “You really see people don’t you?”. Someone even commented that I was very good at this.
Having had this feedback I decided to go get some formal qualifications, after all, I had been doing it for many years it should not be too difficult. Then I had another thought. How much would I learn if I started with the view that I already knew all I needed to? So I revisited my thought process and decided to start assuming that I would learn new things. I am so glad I made the change in my viewpoint! I was blessed to work with an outstanding group and some great teachers. Along the way, I learned some new techniques that helped me to strengthen what I already know and some new tools that took me out of my comfort zone. These new tools are really important. One of the things I realised is that I am very good at coaching and mentoring people like me. I am not so sure I would be as good coaching and mentoring someone who was very different until now. The new tools were uncomfortable since they demanded that I engaged in a different way. Having got past my discomfort, I now feel much better equipped to help more people.
The outcome then is that I now have more tools available that can be
used to supplement and complement the tools I have been using for years.
What is coaching?
The way I define coaching is the activity of helping the client find the best solutions to their problems by asking them the questions they can’t think of or articulate, then supporting them to find their best answers.
What is Mentoring?
Mentoring is using the mentor’s knowledge and wisdom to guide the client to develop their own insights, knowledge and breakthroughs and from that create their own wisdom.
The next step for me is to continue learning and helping others. People often leave it too late to ask for help, meaning instead of coaching and mentoring to help them early on in their issue, they get caught in firefights and don’t make time to find help.
In case you are wondering why the pictures of buttons, these were a coaching tool that felt very uncomfortable until I understood it. One of the new tools uses buttons to help start meaningful conversations. This was something I would never have thought of.
The question you have to ask is could I be your button, the key that unlocks your potential and helps you become the best possible version of yourself. If I can, get in touch here
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.”