Drip, drip, drip
Have you been spotting problems?
During the lockdown you’ve no doubt had to carry out some tasks you’d normally have delegated to others in your team.
I know I have.
And it’s only when you perform those tasks yourself you realise that they’re not as straight forward as you thought…
Maybe the system is cumbersome, the equipment used doesn’t function as well as it should, or the process simply doesn’t deliver the result you want.
Has this happened to you?
If it has, I bet you’re left wondering “Why didn’t they say anything?”
When you perform a task every day or every week you probably don’t notice when it takes longer than it should, or doesn’t work as smoothly as it used to. It’s a gradual change so you simply fail to spot it.
So bit by bit it gets worse and worse and we’re blissfully unaware.
It’s only when we stand back and reassess that we notice.
This gradual decline can happen in all sorts of situations:
- the fabric of your building
- the effectiveness of your equipment
- the quality of raw materials
- a system that’s out of date
- short cuts or cutting corners on processes which have become the norm
- IT infrastructure overload, meaning slower and slower response times
- the morale of your team
Any of these can impact your team’s effectiveness, their well-being and most likely your customers’ experience too.
As we get back to business, as new procedures are put in place and people take on different tasks, now is a good time to review and amend.
Where you’re performing tasks normally covered by others:
- What works OK but could be improved
- What is simply no longer fit for purpose
- Where has the system become cumbersome
- Where have corners been cut by others
- What’s missing
- What’s no longer relevant
- How can we improve this
Where team members are returning to existing tasks:
Once it’s been a certain way for any length of time unless it causes us a major inconvenience we simply get used to things that way.
Flush out anything that’s standing in the way of them doing a brilliant job or impacts the customer in some way.
This often highlights frustrations they have in the system or with current resources, levels of authority, existing skills or conflicting priorities.
What would they improve if they could? To help people feel comfortable to make suggestions ask questions that allow them to take off the blinkers.
- What would you do if it was your business?
- What would you do if we had an endless supply of cash?
- What would you do if you had a magic wand?
Although all these question might result in ‘pie in the sky’ ideas nine times out of 10 you’ll end up with some ideas you can use in some way, and because they’ve suggested them you’ll get far more buy-in to implement them.
Where team members are taking on new tasks:
You have a fresh pair of eyes on the task so make the most if this.
What questions do they have on why they are doing the task or why is it done this way (often it’s simply because you’ve always done tings this way – which isn’t a valid reason!)
Ask them to suggest how they could approach it.
Can they suggest better ways of doing things?
When it’s your own department it’s easy to become protective, oblivious to some of the challenges or frustrations others may encounter. So it’s really important that team members don’t feel intimidated if they suggest improvements.
Prevention is better than cure
Failure to report and deal with problems promptly not only leads to frustrations, and later accusations of whose fault it is, but could cost you dearly in the long run if it causes long-term damage.
Have a system in place for spotting problems and for regular maintenance, whether this is done in house or with a contractor. Encourage team members to report problems promptly when the equipment isn’t performing on all four cylinders, or gets damaged, rather than apportioning blame on them for causing the problem.
Have a process which makes this quick and easy.
Listen to what they have to say
Unless followed though promptly they won’t bother telling you next time.
The longer problems are left unresolved, the less emphasis it places on the importance of their welfare or the customer experience in their eyes and the less importance they will place on their contribution to your business.
Old habits die hard
The longer you live with something the more you become accustomed to it being that way, and the longer it will take for people to adjust to the new way.
Make allowance for this, and test and measure to check the ‘new’ way is working.
Culture for continuous improvement
Keeping on top of these issues is as much down to your culture as it is about the systems.
A culture where it’s OK to speak up if you think something isn’t up to standard.
Where people won’t take offence if someone suggests a better way of doing something.
Where it’s accepted that mistakes happen, the important thing is to learn from it and prevent it happening again.
If you only do one thing
Spotting problems and making continuous improvement comes from incremental changes. Identify one small change you could make today that will save time, help a customer or reduce effort in the long run.
Related articles: When you stop noticing the cracks
LinkedIn article: Making continuous improvements