Every year, countless companies undertake process improvements and change initiatives. Most fail. Generally, they fail for one of three reasons:
- The process or initiative was not the most important thing for the company to work on at that time to improve the bottom line and/or realize growth.
- The employees in the organization did not take accountability and responsibility for the success of the initiative.
- The employees and the companies did not have the time, energy, or attention span to complete the process improvements.
To thrive in 2013, companies need to have their change and improvement programs succeed. To do so, they must first have in place three processes that are the building blocks for success in any change management.
1. Customer Information Process
Somehow, someway, companies need to have a process in place whereby key decision makers get accurate, unfiltered information about customers and the market. These include:
- A CRM (customer relationship management) system. This can be as comprehensive as what Salesforce.com and ACT! offer. Or it can be as simple as sales reports collated together in Microsoft Word and bid and order histories tracked in a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. But, the important part is that the data is being collected and is being reviewed by management not only to judge the activities of the sales team, but also to learn what customers are saying and how, where, and why your company is succeeding (or failing) in the marketplace.
- A systematic program of management visits with customers, both with and without a salesperson present. In visiting with customers, top management can better know what is happening on the front lines and what problems customers are and will be having. They can test out their views and visions of the future and receive a first-person and (thus) unambiguous and unfiltered response from a customer.
- A method for management to put themselves in the shoes of prospective customers. By trying to see the world through their current and prospective customers’ eyes, the company can better understand why customers buy from them and how to differentiate themselves.
With this Customer Information Process in place, your company will be more customer-centric and customer-focused and thus undertake only those initiatives that are vital to serving these same customers or new customers better.
2. Accountability Process
The success of any process improvement or change initiative only comes when employees on the front line take accountability and responsibility for its success. Most famously, the quality of Toyota’s cars are so high not because of Toyota’s great quality control department. Rather, the quality comes from each Toyota employee on the line being personally responsible for the quality of the work that they do.
So, a bedrock to success is to have employees already have a feeling of accountability and responsibility in their current jobs. This requires the leaders of the company to step back, not micro-manage, and let their people succeed or fail of their own accord (while providing guidance and support). Management 101. Unfortunately, such accountability and sense of responsibility are missing in many companies. But, it needs to be in place before any major change or process improvement program can be successfully accomplished.
3. Simplification / Elimination
Many initiatives fail because they are just added to what the team or individual employees are already doing. They become just more work piling up. As such, not enough time and attention exists for the employees to master the new skills and embed the changes in their way of doing business.
Before beginning a process improvement or initiative, companies need to have a process in place to simplify or to stop doing tasks which are no longer vital to the success of the business. Based on a customer-centric view and with accountable employees, companies will discover that countless activities, reports and meetings provide no clear value and can simply be eliminated (or pruned down to their essential). Using this simplification / elimination process keeps the company’s internal business system as simple and value-added as possible. Thus, time and employee attention is freed up to allow for a successful implementation of a change or the introduction of a new process.