Neatness is a myth.
Most consultants, including us, like the neatness of process maps, fish-bone diagrams, and four-cell matrices. But we’ve learned that the most appropriate graphic representation of what goes on in the typical business is a spider web. Instead of neat boxes and straight lines, the influences run back and forth between sales and operations and accounting and all of the subcells in these major areas. Tweaking a single area without dealing with the impact of that tweaking on everyone else simply muddles matters more. Because we represent a variety of specialties and communicate with each other, we deal with the sticky issues of the spider-web world of business change.
What they don’t know can hurt terribly.
We sometimes assume that employees really know what their jobs are. Just like we assume that we’ve given them the tools to do their jobs with. Our experience is that too often both of those assumptions are wrong. If you want to know whether your employees know what their jobs are, try this simple test: walk up to an employee and ask, “How do you know when you’re doing a good job?” If the employee gives you a blank stare or says, “Nobody’s told me I’m not.” the employee needs more information. We’ve determined that there are at least four things that the employee must have to be successful in a job — in addition to a real understanding of what the job is and how it relates to the mission of the company. And we’ve worked with companies to make sure that they provide them.
Program de jour is devastating.
The last third of the twentieth century may well be remembered as business’s era of the program de jour. TQM. Reengineering. The balanced scorecard. Activity based management. There were new ways being introduced to improve business faster than executives could read the books.
But the bulk of TQM implementations, ABC implementations, and reengineering efforts were never completed. They made great conversation, but didn’t change the businesses much. It was a matter of lip service.
We’ve lived through the trends, read — and, in some cases, taught — the processes, and we’ve seen what good ideas, rationally and thoroughly applied can do for companies. These are tools. But like most tools, they’re only as good as the people who use them.