As we are approaching 2010 end people have been very busy creating budgets and setting objectives for 2011. While I am confident there are a lot of organizations listing improvement projects on their priority lists to achieve their strategic objectives I feel skeptical about Quick-Win initiatives being within these lists. Those ‘tiny’ projects that would relatively consume little resources but would have significant impact on the bottom line.
A decision taken by top management to assign every team the mission of listing a few quick-win projects would probably be a breakthrough in cost-saving for the next year. Let’s not talk about long-term goals and the projects or programs required to achieve them, that in some cases are doomed to fail due to unstructured methodologies, lack of buy-in, overallocated or insufficient resources, etc. Let’s not drain our precious resources on unnecessary projects that can be replaced by simple, few-day ones that would triple the ROI and boost our morale. Let’s commit to things that everyone in the organization is able to do because it reflects common sense. Let’s start looking around for a few minutes every day and hunt down something to improve.
Despite the need to learn basic problem-solving techniques and being couched on team dynamics, continuous improvement remains something that can be initiated and adopted by every employee in the organization. All what is needed is a common methodology to adopt throughout the organization in tackling improvement projects. A framework that each team can tailor to its work. Then, sky is the limit.
Low-hanging fruits exist in all places, but they need someone to look at and reap. Walk in your Accounting team, for instance, you will probably find invoices being checked or reconciled manually or semi-manually. Why not train people to use a tool in their hands more effectively to achieve more accurate results with less time? Walk in your warehouse and check how inventory is being controlled. Is it done on paper? Can it be automated with some affordable tool, I’m sure there are many out there to use. Don’t forget the ergonomics side of your operations. Does your workplace area fit employees? Is it laid out well enough to spare them strains and injuries? Is the well-being of employees on your high-priority list? There are a lot to think about just in a few-minute trip in your workplace!
To keep control of your improvement ideas and to monitor how you perform against your improvement goals you need to have some metrics. I believe that some people get confused when they hear the term KPI (Key Performance Indicator). It is so simple, though. You need to have something to measure your performance against, which is a KPI. If you find out that verifying a supplier invoice takes an accountant 30 minutes and you need to reduce it to 10 minutes then you use the 10 minutes as your KPI. So, after improving the verification process you keep an eye on the achieved cycle time and compare it to your target (10 minutes) until you achieve it.
Human resources are the most valuable asset in an organization. Success improves employees’ morale as well as the bottom line. On the other hand, failure projects demoralize employees in addition to having lost money. In order to achieve successful projects we ought to give employees the sense of self-worth by engaging them in improvement initiatives, encouraging them to hunt opportunities for improvement, and winning their buy-in.
Best of luck and Happy New Year.