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Beliefs drive actions. Some choose to believe that when something is working good enough, then it’s alright. Leave it alone. No need to improve it. Others of us (my hand is in the air) choose to believe that everything can be improved. I have an additional belief – it’s way more fun to pursue making it better than it is to sit back and rely on it continuing to work reasonably well. Status quo isn’t fun. Pressing to make things better is!
What do you believe?
The specifics of your business are always changing. Try keeping up with strategies and tactics. Impossible. People will always chase tools. Chasing tools is for fools. Chasing improvement isn’t.
But tools do improve things, you may argue. They can. But not necessarily.
Be careful what you fall in love with. The safe money bets on constant improvement. Sometimes subtle tweaks pay off big. Sometimes big projects backfire costing us thousands. Press for improved results. Don’t get fancy.
Find the speed bumps in your operation.
There are constraints in your business – those roadblocks, or at least those speed bumps that slow things down. Work is slowed down or stopped somewhere in your operation. Start looking for those. Identify them and figure out why it’s happening.
The first rule of business is to fix what ails you. But that’s an improvement. A major improvement.
Ask your people where they’re stuck. Ask them why they’re stuck. “What are we doing that’s a royal pain your butt?”
It can be something as innocuous as people having to enter a customer’s information twice during some transaction. When you call customer service did you ever wonder why the agent needs your name and account or pin number or phone number, then minutes later they need to ask for your phone number again? You know why? Their system is asking for your phone number in two different areas because their leadership is too inept to figure out they need to change that. They need the system to auto-populate the second phone number field with the first input. But nobody is paying attention. So day after day the poor agents are stuck asking customers for their phone number, then minutes later they have to ask for it again. You don’t think that agent is going to memorize your phone number, do you? Hello, speed bump. How are you today?
It may as major as some safety issue that nobody is watching. Until some disaster happens. Don’t wait for that.
Go hunt down these issues and problems. None are too small. Find them all. Don’t stop looking. When you think you’ve found them all, start over again. It’s like cycle counting inventory. You’re never done. Commit to the effort.
You won’t fix them all at once. Vet them. Figure out the ones that absolutely must be fixed pronto. Things like safety, customer experience and others should get top billing. Things like idiotic processes that take longer than necessary can come later. But get to them all. In quick order.
Communicate to the people what you’re doing. And why. Get the dialog opened up and keep it open. Ask better questions as time goes on. People are going to be reserved or whiny. Drill down to get the best intel possible. You need to know exactly what’s broken or not working as well as it should.
Find out where unintended consequences are killing you, too. You think companies are intentionally making their agents ask for your phone number twice in a conversation? No. They’re just not paying attention and somebody made it a necessary field to proceed without realizing it had already been asked and answered.
Stop being stupid.
Aim next at what’s working the very best.
This is counter-intuitive. People want to attack thinks in order from worst to next worst. Tackle everything that’s bad and broken. All that stuff in the middle, leave that for last. It’s ordinary and average. It won’t kill you for it to remain that way for a bit.
What’s remarkable? Look under the hood of that to find out why it’s working so well, and to examine if you can make it even better. A small incremental improvement in superior results is a much bigger needle moved than quantum leaping something that’s average. Go big or go home.
Learning. It’s all about the quest and what you’re learning along the way. As you dive more deeply into those things that are working a pattern will emerge. You’ll notice there are some things you can likely deploy in other areas where things aren’t so spectacular. And by trying to improve those things that are already working well you’ll also display a positive dissatisfaction with the status quo. You’ll begin to create a culture where everybody questions, “Can we make this better?” That’s when the ideas and creativity start to really pop because people know how committed you are to the cause.
It’s also fun to test your skills of improving when you tackle something working really well. And you do figure out a way to improve it. You show yourself and the organization that everything can better.
Mostly, you show people that we can each be better. And that’s the quest. For all of us, individually and collectively to grow, improve and transform.
Be well. Do good. Grow great!