Most of the material published on Change Management/Improvement appears to concentrate on large organisations with big changes. This is hardly surprising since this is where the big £ are made, or unfortunately in a large proportion of cases lost. An IBM study “Making Change Work” identified that 15% of all change/improvement initiatives failed completely & >40% failed in a major area. So change is difficult – good news for the increasing group of chnage management consultants.
Business Improvement however does not have to be either complicated or risky. One of the much trumpeted requirements for improvement projects to work is “getting people on board”, “aligning the business” or various other similarly named activities. Surprisingly perhaps many small companies suffer from poor goal alignment across the company. This is often as a result of the company expanding past the small well aligned group which started the business, or perhaps a sudden uptick in work activity sucked the hours out of the day and something had to give.
As most of the change management literature will say that alignment is one of the most powerful elements in delivering improvement – logical really because alignment suggests all understand the goal and embrace it and will therefore make their business decisions with the alignment in mind. To be aligned there needs to be a common acceptance of the company’s current status and the goals to be achieved. In order to be a strong encouragement to action the progress toward the goals must be updated regularly in order to encourage all to consider how they may modify things to achieve the goal.
Perhaps the most powerful method of achieving this the humble whiteboard (OK I know I am a fan of this method of communication in small businesses, but that is because it works). The easiest way to achieve this is to select 2 or 3 criteria which are critical to achieve overall business targets (eg. Sales, Lead time, Orderbook, on time delivery, quality costs, defect counts, material issues complete etc.). These are added to the white board with the following columns:-
Last Month, This Month Target, Yesterday, Week to Date, Month to Date. This whiteboard(s) to be placed prominently say by the factory entrance, by the clocking in point, next to coffee machine. Do not forget the off site people – send them a text message with the information when you update the boards, or perhaps uses some sort of interactive computer desk top. Keep this up for a couple of months and you will be surprised at the impact – if you are hitting targets everyone will feel positive and upbeat, miss them and it will surprise you what feed back you get on reasons for failure. Polish the month off with a month end review around the whiteboard(s) with management and section leaders doing the update,
In my view this methdology should be deployed in every small company, change the metrics if necessary every 6 months, but make the metrics simple and ensure the link to the company’s goals and well being are obvious.
A word of warning – everyone will notice almost immediately if the data is not updated so get into the habit of updating it the same time every day. If for some reason it cannot be updated (eg. IT issues) these need to be noted on the board. Failure to update the boards without good reason will be seen as lack of commitment by management and almost immediatley the positive impact will be reversed – you have been warned!