There’s a lesson in this for you.

People and Organizations all over the world are making the same mistakes again and again.

They don’t DO enough to build an environment of Continuous Improvement, Cut the red tapes, Eliminate waste and GO LEAN.

They aren’t getting out there, working upon creating intellectual property and other assets that will greatly benefit their brand and business.

They are sitting back, waiting for things to happen.

They come up with all kinds of reasons why they’re not ready to succeed yet.

The market conditions are tight. We don’t have the budgets. We don’t have the expertise. This process of change did not work for the xyz organization.  They aren’t clear on what they need to do.…the list goes on.

Waiting is the worst thing you can do.

Success isn’t a mystery.

You simply need to find out as quickly as you can what you need to do in order to achieve your goals; whether that’s landing 5 more clients, Increasing Efficiency and Productivity by 70%, targeting a 45% increase in our Net profits, increasing your income by $100,000 this year, or changing your structure so that you have more flexibility and free time to enjoy life and be with your family without your income suffering.

Once you find out what you need to do, the next critical step is taking action on it.

Coaches, Consultants get   fast results because we focus on exactly what they need to do to get results and put together a clear plan of action.

It doesn’t matter what situation or country you’re in, or what industry you serve. Figure out what you need to do to reach the level of success you want and take action on it. That’s all you need to start doing to get the momentum going to grow your business.

If you’re not sure what you should be doing, speak with someone that you respect and that has achieved the success you’re going after. Buy a consulting course or invest in coaching. Whatever you do, do something! Don’t wait. Don’t hope for that perfect time.

Success is attainable for all. But not all are willing to take the action necessary for success. It’s your choice my friend.

The more things change the more they remain the same. Applied universally most companies end up repeating the same mistakes and never seem to learn from them. I have through my experience captured a few of them. See if your organization is guilty of these and include the elimination of these mistakes in your resolution list. Here goes.

In any field, there are a handful of common mistakes. Continuous improvement is no different. Some of these errors come as a result of ignorance about the proper way of doing things. Some are the result of habit. And a handful comes as a function of taking the path of least resistance.

Regardless of the source of these problems, it is important to be able to recognize them, and more importantly, correct them.

1. Using Averages

It is very uncommon for averages to help you improve processes. Let’s say that your takt time on an assembly line is 12:07, and your average cycle time is 11:52 on all of your stations. Using the average would tell you that you are in good shape. However, you know nothing about how often you have to stop the line. The same holds true in virtually any meaningful metric. The average ship time compared to your target time tells you very little about on-time delivery. The average size of the component may make it look like a part is in tolerance when in reality it has a high defect rate. Make sure you have some way of looking at the spread of your results rather than just the average.

2. Collecting Data without Using It

Everything you do should have a purpose. We recognize this when doing customer facing processes, but often we neglect this principle in our management and administrative processes. Very often we spend resources collecting data, and then sorting and processing and compiling it, but never get around to actually using it to make an improvement. The problem is that resources are spent without a return on that investment.

3. Making Lists and To Do without deadlines

I had a coworker once say, “Lists are just a renewal of hope.” It stuck with me. Very often, we compile lists of things to do, and problems, and issues, and ideas, but the lists just sit there. A list should never be a final step. They can be useful in creating a plan or developing a schedule, but on their own, they do nothing for you. You need dates and people assigned to do the tasks to get things accomplished. The real problem with a list is the perception of activity. Once something makes it onto a list, it can stagnate for an eternity. But since it is on the list, people think it is being addressed and nothing else is done.

4. Not Planning for Improvement Time

This is one of the biggest issues I see for most management teams. They want to develop a continuous improvement culture, but then staff for teams to be continuously doing production work. It sends a mixed message. I tend to recommend about 10% of a person’s time be spent on making improvements. That means that you’ll need to be staffed as if a person was only working 36 hours per week, less breaks, meetings, etc. Now, as improvements come from that planned project time, the staffing requirements will drop. But it is simply not logical to claim that something is important to the business and then not allocate resources to it.

5. Training for the Current Job Only

Most employers train their teams. Much of that training, though, is focused only on how to do the current job. If you want your team members to grow in their capabilities, you need to train them for what you want them to do tomorrow. Unfortunately, training tends to be treated as a low priority, so it is hard to get in front of the training curve. The bottom line is that if you expect employees to take on more responsibility, you have to train them before you give them their expanded role.

6. Managers Overriding Processes

You’ve helped your team develop great processes. You’ve trained them. You’ve set up the systems to support those processes. And then, when there is a crisis or a problem, you immediately discard the process. It is surprising how often managers make exceptions to a procedure. It gets the immediate problem fixed, but at a cost. All the work backed up in the queue now is in disarray, and the team has to get things back in order. It introduces a tremendous amount of waste for very little actual gain. Instead, improve the process to either eliminate the reasons for the exceptions, or set up your process with some decision points to accommodate the special situations.

7. Making Time Estimates or Mapping Processes from a Conference Room

Picture this scenario. A kaizen team is sitting in a conference room, and the facilitator asks them to map out a process. The team hovers around a big sheet of butcher paper with sticky notes and does the map from memory. Or the facilitator asks how long a process takes and the response is “about 5:30″. In truth, when a team is trying to analyze a process to improve it, they rarely get the degree of accuracy they need from memory. Even with a map created by a team of people who do a process every day, I invariably find inaccuracies or missing steps when we actually go and watch the process. And if you look at a list of actual timings, only 2 out of 60 should end in either :00 or :30. About 97% of the time it will be some uneven number. You need accuracy to make improvements, and guesses don’t cut it.

8. Treating Symptoms

Far too often, a team attacks a problem and comes up with a solution. This fix looks like it works. Then, a short time down the road, a related problem pops out sideways. Why? Because the original solution was actually just a treatment. It addressed the symptom and not the root cause. We hear repeatedly to just try things, and we reward action. The problem, though, is that we don’t consider root cause analysis to be action. Spend the time looking for the underlying issue and you’ll only have to ‘solve’ a problem once.

9. Believing “The Customer is Always Right”

Over and over again, people repeat that mantra to me when I am coaching them. Normally it is used as a defense against changing a process. My response is usually something like, “So, if I told you I was only going to pay $1.00 for your product, you would still sell it to me?” This adage is not to be taken literally. Obviously, respecting the voice of the customer is important, but you also have to remember that not all customers are actually right for your business. Some are far too demanding for what they are paying for. Some look for every little loophole and take advantage of policies in ways they were not intended. Some simply think they are more important than all of your other customers and should immediately get priority treatment. Unfortunately, these sorts of customers not only consume more than their share of your time, but they also disrupt the process for other customers, putting other relationships at risk. Managers should be far less reluctant to tell a disruptive customer “no” if the request will negatively impact others. Now, don’t take that to mean I don’t think you should focus on customers or that I don’t value them. You should set lofty goals and provide outstanding service and value to all of them. I just am opposed to increasing the service level of one customer at the expense of others and thinking that it is good customer service.

To know more about how The Idea Smith lean principles and PDCA methodology can help your company improve profitability by reducing lead times, costs and wastes while increasing throughput and customer satisfaction , get in touch .

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