“If you want to retain those who
are present, be loyal to those who are absent.”
-- Dr. Stephen Covey, The Seven Habits
of Highly Effective People
“Learning cannot be disassociated
-- Peter Senge, The
“The most important measures are
both unknown and unknowable.”
-- W. Edwards Deming, Out of the
Why are systems so important?
When it comes to improving performance, we
are really talking about one of two things - systems change or behavior
change. Our normal approach is to ask people to (or demand that people)
change their behavior, even though that approach is rarely effective.
A more effective approach is to change the system, in turn forcing, or
at least redirecting, behavior change. In organizations, our systems usually
give us what they are designed to give us. In a similar sense, they are
not capable of giving us what they are not designed to give us. This may
sound a little confusing, but if you think about it, and read on, you
will begin to see what I mean.
It is important to note that we are NOT talking
about using new tools or kicking off a new programs here. Instead, we are talking about fundamentally
changing how jobs get done each day in the your organization. We are
improving what is already in place by eliminating non-value added steps
and possibly adding new steps that are more value added. Keep in mind
what was said above - behavior change occurs when the systems are changed
to encourage it or when the systems are changed to help ignite intrinsic
motivation (the fire that burns within each us).
What are some of the more important
My nine years of training as a national Baldrige Quality Award examiner, coupled
with twenty seven years of experience in the workplace, has taught me that the
following ten systems are the most important ones in any type of organization.
Click on one or more of the items listed to learn more about why these
systems are so important and how I can help you improve them.
Would You Like to Learn More?
Click on one of the following links to learn
even more about Great Systems! and the types of systems improvements I
can help you make:
“The only thing I know is that
I do not know it all.” -- Socrates
© 2008, Great Systems!
Last Revised - November 10, 2008
An organization's leadership system
serves two main purposes. First, it is intended to ensure that those
who have formal leadership roles have the skills necessary to fill
those roles effectively. Second, it serves to communicate the organization's
mission, vision, values, and goals across all workgroups and into the community, while
also serving as a a feedback vehicle from those stakeholders into
the organization's planning system.
Leadership systems tend to breakdown
when leaders do not practice those skills that they should be modeling,
either because the people in formal leadership roles do not have
these skills or there are no consequences for failing to contribute
effectively as a leader. Breakdowns also occur when leaders fail
to effectively communicate their strategic intent to their people
and the community on a consistent and clear basis, and when they
fail to obtain the necessary feedback for performance improvement
from their stakeholders in an open and consistent manner.
I can help you install an effective
system for measuring leadership performance and developing those
skills that this evaluation process identifies as being in need
of improvement. I can also help you design an effective process
for communicating with your stakeholders in a clear and consistent
manner, both for the purpose of sharing information and obtaining
|The Planning Power System
An organization's planning system does
not have to be complicated, but it does need to (1) involve most,
if not all, of your stakeholders, (2) result in the selection of key projects that
meet your most pressing needs, and (3) include links to performance
indicators for gauging your progress. Strategic planning needs to
occur every two to three years, and uses a slightly different process
than an annual planning process. Both are needed though. The
annual planning effort is perhaps the more critical of the two, as it serves as the bridge between the longer term strategic plan and the workgroup and employee specific action plans which exist to support the execution of the organization's strategies.
Planning systems tend to break down
when stakeholder involvement is low, when too many projects, or
the wrong projects are defined, and when performance increases are
projected without first defining the system changes that will make
them possible. In many cases, organizations only define improvement
objectives (such as "Improve communications") instead
of defining HOW that objective will be attained. Two other common
reasons for breakdown involve failing to ensure that enough people
have the necessary time in their jobs for project work and failing
to link larger company projects to those that are being worked on
at the workgroup level.
I can help you become more effective
at your planning efforts simply by facilitating a one day annual planning
workshop. I would prefer however to help you design and install a planning
system that helps you realize the three needs mentioned above and
avoid those system problems that lead to an ineffective annual or
Satisfaction Power System
An effective satisfaction measurement
and improvement system addresses the key requirements of both your
internal and external customers. Through the use of surveys, focus
groups, other customer listening posts, and regular measurement,
you can increase the degree to which customers see value in your
products and services, while also obtaining information that will
help you begin to anticipate their needs before your internal and external customers tell you what
these needs are.
Customer satisfaction primarily suffers when you think you know what the customer wants and in turn fail
to actually 'keep in touch' with them on a regular basis. Internal
customers are often called the 'forgotten customer' because
their unmet expectations are ignored, even though their needs may be more
important than those of your external customers. Finally, focusing
more on fixing customer problems after they are pointed out to you
will leave you in a constant state of fire fighting, and rob you
of the time and insight necessary for proactively identifying and
addressing customer expectations.
I can help you install a system that
gives you regular performance feedback against requirements from
both your internal and external customers. I can also facilitate a workshop which is intended to help your
internal customers work more effectively together, in turn leading
to higher levels of external customer satisfaction. By linking fundamental
system changes to desired levels of service improvement from a behavior
perspective as part of the planning process, I can show you how
to make improved levels of service endure over time and exceed those
of your competitors.
Measurement Power System
A well-designed performance measurement
system is made up of a balanced set of metrics, with each workgroup
and level in the organization using aligned metrics which fall into a common set of key performance areas. Trend charts
are used to understand current system performance, and process capability
is studied through the use of process control techniques. Associates
throughout the organization understand how their jobs affect a variety
of performance areas, including cost performance. Perhaps most importantly, leading indicators of a ratio nature (such as quality near miss observations per employee) are used to gauge process improvement progress, instead of relying mainly on lagging indicators of a count nature (the number of lost time accidents for example).
Performance system breakdowns often
occur when (1) different workgroups use different, misaligned measures, (2) certain
types of measures (i.e. efficiency) are favored and emphasized over
others (such as service and retention), and (3) performance trends over time are not
consistently monitored and reviewed in a team setting. Ineffective
measurement systems are often overly complicated, contain too many, or the wrong,
measures, and fail to effectively gauge those factors that affect true performance
Performance measurement systems do not have to
be complicated to be effective. I can help you install a balanced
scorecard process at all levels in your organization which contains an appropriate mix of leading and lagging ratio metrics. I can
also help you define the best way to use existing technology, such as
spreadsheet software and your intranet, to keep all associates informed
of performance trends and challenges in a highly visual way. Perhaps
most importantly, I can give you the tools to help teach each associate
how their daily job impacts the bottom line and to motivate them
towards higher levels of improvement through the concepts of open
|The Job Design
An effective system for designing each
job to support your high performance goals is needed if you really
want to realize those goals. All too often job design is ignored
- instead, we simply ask people to do more with less, and then wonder
why they keep doing the same old things and don't invest time to do those new things we would like them to do. In order to have time for
team meetings, planning, training, and project work, organizations
often need to review and redesign each job if they are going to
really move to a higher level of performance.
For example, many supervisors and managers
spend way too much time doing clerical work, such as processing e-mail, preparing reports,
and processing paperwork. In this day and age, technology can help
us eliminate a lot of this type of work. We also tend to invest
too much time in non-value added activities, such as doing redundant
work or rework. Whenever this occurs, we are sacrificing valuable
time that could be devoted instead to learning, improvement projects,
and coaching. Front line associates also have non-value added time
remaining in their jobs, but not to the same degree as members of
Over the years and as strange it may
seem, I have applied the time study skills I was taught as an industrial
engineer to the practice of managing in a high performance workplace.
Through personal experimentation, I have learned (1) how to get
the most out of my time as a manager and (2) how the jobs of both
front line associates and management need to be redesigned in order
to support the high performance goals of an organization. Isn't
it time you stopped wasting your time dollars?
Like it or not, the question of "What's
in it for me?" (otherwise known as WIIFM) does and will continue
to exist in any organization. As good employees become harder to
find, the need for attractive and fair compensation packages at
ALL levels in the organization will only become more important.
Additionally, logic will tell you that your associates will work to improve
the organization only as long as they feel their efforts are worth
it to them. It is also important to recognize the efforts EACH associate
makes to improve performance on a regular basis and in a meaningful
Compensation systems break down when
associates feel that some group, or someone, is receiving more wages
and/or benefits than they rightly should. When times are tough,
this issue may not be as great. If the organization is growing however,
or if certain people are getting a lot more of the compensation
pie than others feel they deserve, it can become more critical.
Like it or not, employee expectations as far as compensation and
recognition go do change over time. What used to seem meaningful
becomes only a dissatisfier if it is taken away. Money and other forms of compensation are not motivators as much as they are demotivators if they are unfairly distributed.
I can help you explore and put in place alternative
forms of associate compensation, such as profit sharing, pay for
skills, and stock ownership. We can evaluate the relative pros and
cons of these options, and others, as we design a compensation system
that meets both your short and long term needs. We can also look
at how your recognition system needs to evolve over time in order
to ensure that it remains meaningful, and in turn encourages higher
levels of the 'right' performance, from all associate groups.
If nothing else, the rate of change
in the world today has created a need for continual learning in
the workplace. As you attempt to install new systems and learn to
use new tools, your people will need to really learn to use those
systems and tools. Finally, there is perhaps no better benefit that
you can give an associate than the opportunity to continually upgrade
their skills. Effective training systems help each employee develop
on a consistent basis, in a manner that results in true skill understanding,
retention, and application.
Training systems breakdown when lecture
and computer-based training are used too heavily, when people don't get many opportunities to
learn, and when training efforts are not linked to the strategic
needs of the organization. A lot of time is wasted each day supposedly
training people - if we are honest with ourselves, we will admit
that people rarely learn when they are not actively involved in
meaningful formal and informal learning opportunities. In best practice organizations, all individual courses are linked to job-based curriculums and formal skill development certification processes.
I can help you design a comprehensive
training curriculum and certification process that will support the strategic intent of your
organization. Through the use of highly interactive, team-based
courses, I can help you get the most out of your training time investment.
We can also explore where the right, and the wrong, places to used
computer-based training exist in your organization. Most importantly
however, I want to make sure that your people learn the most important
concepts and practices, and that we do not waste time on attempting
to learn about concepts that people may rarely, or never, use.
Improvement Power System
An effective system for driving process
improvement is not based solely on team meetings that associates
attend for one hour a week. True process management and improvement involves identifying
your value creation and support processes, the customers of those
processes and their requirements, and the key in-process measures
that you will use to monitor and improve their effectiveness. People
tend to follow the same series of work practices each day, without
even recognizing that they are using a process. By defining and
streamlining these processes, a lot of improvement can be made in
a short amount of time.
All too often a linkage fails to exist
between an organization's training system, its measurement system,
its compensation system, and the processes that people execute repeatedly
each day. When this linkage fails to exist, a lot of time, effort,
and money is wasted. Customer expectations are not satisfied as
they should be, and stress levels rise. System design and behavior
are at the heart of process improvement, but all too often, we tend
to focus more on tweaking our systems and asking (telling?) people
to change rather than significantly improving the systems we use
Through interactive workshops with your associates,
I can help you define your processes, their customers, and their
key measures. We can work together to help ensure that key linkages
exist, and that people know where the waste is and can help define
ways in which it can be eliminated. By getting rid of the daily
headaches, we can raise morale and create time that can be used
to fuel further learning and performance improvement efforts. Perhaps more importantly, I can help you (1) identify current non-value added time investments which are leaving with you with too little time for improvement focused activities and (2) redesign your time wasting processes (such as meetings and e-mail processing) to recover a high percentage of that time.
|The Communication Power System
An effective communication system makes the best use of available technologies and the time you invest in group events such as meetings. Unfortunately, most companies have yet to embrace and effectively utilize the power of technologies such as intranets, shared folders, and e-mail, and they continue to waste lots of time and money each day in various types of meetings.
For example, do you currently have a plan in place to minimize the amount of paper you currently use in your company to share information? Have you strategically decided when e-mail should be used to share and collect information as compared to doing so in a face-to-face manner? Are your people getting and understanding the proper feedback they need each day in order to not only do their jobs, but to do those jobs more effectively? Believe it or not, the solution does not involve spending thousands of dollars on the latest and greatest software package.
I can help you set up low cost systems to make the best of the low-cost technologies you probably already have in place. I can also teach you how use simple tools for coordinating, streamlining, and getting the most out of the variety of meetings that you have. By doing so, I guarantee that you will save lots of time and money while also increasing the amount of information you share with your people, and the retention and use of that information.
|The Technology Power System
Organizations are relying on technology more and more to do their work for them. In some cases, the shift from manual processes to technology-based processes makes sense - take spreadsheets for example. On the other hand, in some companies it is actually becoming a norm to 'hide behind e-mail' in order to avoid conflict or to claim that 'I did not hear about that.' At the same time, we don't use our information to the degree that we could to solve problems (do your managers understand and use their databases?) or plan for effective technology use in the coming years.
Does your organization have a sound technology utilization plan for the next three to five years? Are you getting the most out of the time and money that you invest in preparing, issuing, and analyzing performance reports? Are your people getting the information that they need each day, in a usable form, to make the right decisions? If not, you could save a lot of dollars by using some simple tools to improve the way you use, and plan to use, the technology you have already paid for.
Through the use of interactive planning workshops, I can teach you how to use these tools to get more out of your database of information, your performance reporting efforts. I can also help you create a simple, focused technology utilization plan that will help you ensure that you are collecting and sharing key information in the most effective way possible. How much is your existing technology system costing you?