When organizations push for change and growth, behaviors within the organization change. And where once a handful of individuals made key decisions, these decisions are now spread across numerous departments, individuals and levels of the organization. Agility and flexibility are replaced by processes and a mind-numbing disconnect from business goals. Innovation and creativity are supplanted by overhead creep, loss of productivity and poor business decisions. But why does this disconnect form in the first place?
As a result of discussions and intensive problem-solving with thousands of employees, managers and executives experiencing these challenges, the answer was found in a simple, 9-step process. This process helps organizations connect all ideas and decisions that affect change to the financial goals of the company and ultimately, to making money. From it, employees have a clear systematic process that links decisions to the financial performance of their organization. Managers have a ready tool to shape their organizational culture and business outcomes. And both leaders and employees can adapt to increasingly tough competition and excel within their ever-changing markets, while ultimately maintaining or growing net profit.
Each of the 9 steps shows how to avoid common decision-making mistakes and provides checklists and tools to foster a creative and idea-driven culture. It includes guidelines that are easy to understand and implement to ensure a financially sound future. Embedded within each step are checks and balances and a process for accountability so managers and employees can remain in sync in both their thinking and actions.
1. Identify the system that needs improvement. A “system” is defined as any operation, process, method or organization. The identified system produces work inefficiently and, if improved, will positively impact the business goals of the organization. It is important to understand that anything at all can be a system—the word system is only used as a generic placeholder to represent anything that a company wishes to improve.
2. Put the right team together. Ensure you have the right balance and diversity of ideas by inviting team members with the right mix of experience together with members from outside the traditional or expected network. Any organization can have an excellent product or service, be financially solvent, or have a stellar executive team. But when it comes to making more money, one of the key elements is finding the right team to identify the issues that are eroding margin and solve these issues, and that may not be the people you would normally expect.
“Ensure the best recommendations for system change are selected based on thorough cost-benefit analysis, and peer and stakeholder review.”
3. Set a goal tied to profit. Identify a specific, measureable, achievable and timely goal that will ensure that any improvements to the system result in positive impacts to the business goals of the organization. Any efforts at improving a system within your organization (or your organization itself) must always be focused on a goal that is tied to profit. Otherwise, it is a waste of time, capital and resources.
4. Observe the system. Utilize the correct analysis tools appropriate to your system, include and listen to input from those involved, observe objectively, document and present findings. This observation of your system must be quantitative and entirely objective. Personal and organizational bias must be removed or will alter the outcome.
5. Identify bottlenecks within the system. Ensure that the focus of system improvements directly targets those areas that will impact the business goals of the organization most significantly. This step is based upon the Theory of Constraints that says focus only on those inefficiencies that are impacting your bottom-line, and once you have identified those inefficiencies, put all of your focus, time and resources on fixing that single inefficiency.
6. Brainstorm. Utilize the right team to accumulate a list of the best possible solutions for improvement to the system. Use an open, unbiased, non-group-think brainstorming approach to problem-solving to propose solutions to that single inefficiency impacting your bottom line.
7. Select optimal solution(s) for improvement. Ensure the best recommendations for system change are selected based on thorough cost-benefit analysis, and peer and stakeholder review. Provide a thorough and quantitative cost benefit analysis that prioritizes your list of best brainstorm ideas in the order of biggest impact to your bottom line.
8. Implement one change at a time. Implement any proposed change independently of any other changes to ensure any measured impacts are the result of this change alone.
Simply put, you cannot know which ideas work unless you analyze each idea independently.
9. Sustain a culture of continuous improvement. Ensure that the inertia of success or failure does not stop a culture of continuous innovation and improvement. For CEOs and leaders within organizations to ensure this sticks, they must both promote and exhibit behaviors that encourage an innovative culture, as well as provide a simple process like these steps. This combination of both behavioral and process change in concert between employees and managers is what will ultimately ensure success. These steps are meant to form a feedback loop, whereby ideas are continuously flowing and vetted and thus, a culture of continuous improvement is born.
These 9 steps are meant to form a feedback loop, whereby ideas are continuously flowing and vetted and thus, a culture of continuous improvement is born.