Establishing a long-term approach to working with business improvements may be one of the best investments an organization can make. Society is currently undergoing a digital transformation that forces organizations to adapt to new ways of working and serving their customers.
As the principles for working with workflow efficiency and product development has largely remained unchanged, the digital transformation is enabling organizations to work with business improvements in new and more efficient ways. Many organizations that start working with continuous work improvements initially see rapid improvements but are unable to achieve long-term effects. What is it that makes some organization successful in achieving long-term efficiency and profitability gains while others fail?
“This is a phenomenon that is apparent in small as well as large organizations. Identifying rapid waste elimination in your own organization is usually easier and results in fast initial improvements. However, finding improvements that give long-term effects often requires us to take a holistic view of the organization, looking across the entire value chain. To achieve this, one needs to establish unity across the organization with common goals and clear leadership. It is especially important that the right tools and methods are used with respect to the goal.” - Mikael Göthager, Senior Management Consultant at CANEA.
Working with continuous improvements
The philosophy of Lean in its simplest form comes down to adhering to a few fundamental principles that encompasses the entire organization. To ensure flow efficiency towards the customer, time and focus needs to be directed towards “the right things”. Doing this means that you are systematically reducing everything that does not provide value to the customer through continuous improvements. The concept of Six Sigma was developed by Motorola and has since then been developed to be applicable in multitude of different areas and situations. By identifying and analyzing the root causes of different issues one can methodically reduce the cost of poor quality and solve problems. By Using Six Sigma, organizations can take full advantage of the digital transformation and achieve greater effects in their improvement work by:
- Learning what data is relevant
- Using and analyzing data in the right way
- Making decisions based on the right and most relevant information
As the world is developing and changing as a consequence of digitalization, so is business development concepts. Just as Lean emerged from the automotive industry, from its roots in IT the Agile Manifesto is finding new applicable areas in various industries. The Agile approach rests on many of the same similar principles as Lean and provides alternatives ways of working that enables flexible development processes with a clear focus on the customers, value creation, and continuous improvements.
Reach your full potential with the right tools
By using concepts for business development and improvements that adhere to a systematic approach you can make sure that focus is directed towards the right things and that you are continuously developing towards up-to-date goals. No matter what concept an organization is adhering to, in order to succeed there is a combination of fundamental components and IT tools required.
In our view, the fundamental components and tools of improvement work are:
- Leadership that prioritizes improvement work and establishes a clear goal and a sense of direction. By using a strategy tool, management can, not only set and follow-up on the goals in real-time, but also visualize them throughout the organization. This allows everyone in the company to get a clear picture of how the company is currently working towards the goals as well as what impact their own actions have on company-wide goals.
- A focus on visual workflows where the customers is in focus throughout the value chain. Mapping out and visualizing processes and workflows is an important part of understanding and identifying improvement possibilities. It also creates a great opportunity to gather all relevant information in one place making it more accessible and easier to find.
- An understanding of which tools one has as at one’s disposal and how they can be used to facilitate development. It is important that everyone in the organization understands and are able to utilize the functions of the company IT-platform. For example, the understanding that when reviewing an under-performing goal, you could use a workflow to initiate a corrective action or that documents can be attached to a workflow to ensure that correct information is collected. Motivated and engaged employees that feel included and pushes development forward. One should make it easy for employees to report and track improvement suggestions. Preferably the improvement suggestions should be tied to the specific process or workflow in order to ensure that all suggestions are handled and does not get lost in the regular flow of emails.
- Mandate and a forum for cross-functional collaboration as well as a balance between strategical and operational activities. Furthermore, one should ensure that everyone have access to the same information, have a platform to collaborate and that alignment between strategical and operational activities can be visualized and monitored.
Establishing a long-term approach to working with business improvements may be one of the best investments an organization can make. Organizations that have managed to achieve long-term efficiency and profitability gains have succeeded in:
- Establishing unity across the organization with common goals and clear leadership
- Identifying the right tools and methods relevant to the goals
- Implementing an IT platform that supports the selected methods and provide the required tools
- Understanding that user-friendliness and relevance is critical to ensure acceptance of the solution