How Can I Build Great Work Systems?
In order to build great work systems, you have to improve the processes that are part of each system AND improve the manner in which these processes interface with each other. To improve a process, you have to reduce process waste. This is the focus of most lean and six sigma initiatives, such as kaizen or six sigma teams. Unfortunately, such teams typically make two critical errors.
First of all, they fail to perform effective root cause analysis. Most commonly, we tend to assume that human error is the root cause instead of looking for the systemic causes of repeated human error. Second, we write poor and largely ineffective corrective actions for what may, or may not, actually be the systemic root causes of a problem. In turn, a lot of time and money is wasted, people get frustrated, and the problems keep coming back. We fail to make the transition from reactive work to proactive work.
Each process can be improved by minimizing process waste and increasing the level of customer value that the process delivers. If you don’t also look at how one process is dependant on the results of other process, or plays a role in determining the results of other processes, you won’t be successful. Too many organizations focus only on cost or waste reduction. They fail to also try to increase customer value. They fail to involve their internal or external customers in determining what types of process results are needed or are currently being obtained. For example, in most organizations where lean and six sigma initiatives are being pursued, only 10-15% of the employees are engaged in these efforts.
If you want different results, you have to change the systems which are producing the results you are not satisfied with. That’s the theory, but how do you make this happen? Fortunately, you don’t have to blaze new trails by yourself. There is a small percentage of organizations (I estimate this number at 5-10%) that already have great systems in place. By studying these systems and redesigning your own work systems to better mirror them, you too can get better results.
The primary goal of this website, and Great Systems naturally, is to help you learn from the successes other organizations have realized already. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Some of you may be able to find the work system fixes that are needed simply by reviewing the more than 100 pages on this website. I am also quite willing to work with you personally, via e-mail, telephone, or in a face-to-face manner, to help you improve your existing work systems. If you would like more information about the work systems improvement tools I have to offer, please send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Keep improving! Kevin McManus, Chief Excellence Officer, Great Systems