We recently worked for a Midlands client who asked us to offer our top 10 suggestions for ‘how organisations do better’ – ie continuously improve and develop. This is our list:
1: Ability to learn: they have, and invest in, their ability to learn. For example, they might have an intranet site dedicated to sharing learning from any completed project; they have ‘learning’ as part of their competencies; they evaluate learning achieved as part of their appraisal/performance review and development (PR&D) process.
2 Walk the talk: they deliver their commitments. They understand that it is deeds, not words, that impress, and make the actual difference on the ground. For example, one organisation we work with ensures that not only do they have a list of published company values, but that each value has 10 behaviours that are evidence of the values being put into practice. We have written a series of workbooks for another client which are detailed guides to help all staff put the company’s core behaviours into practice.
3 Added value into new standards: such organisations see a difference between standards, which set the minimum levels of performance expected; and targets, which are aspirational levels of performance – ie added value. Every time a target is met (added value is achieved) this then becomes the new standard – and a further target/added value is sought. So, incrementally, the organisation moves forward, contiinuously improving.
4 Competitive edge (USP): They find their Unique Selling Point (USP) or competitive advantage. By talking to and tracking their customers, they discover what is distinctive and appealing about their product and service, and make sure it is protected, maintained and promoted to and with the customer. They also identify the USPs of their main competitors, and try to match them where possible.
5: Talk, respond, anticipate: They stay close to the customer, talk regularly with them, and respond positively to their needs. But more than that, they also anticipate customer wants and desires. Sometimes a customer isn’t aware that they want or value something until it is suggested or provided. Also some customer needs, though vital, are so obvious they are never expressed in consultation – we call these TFGs – ‘taken for granteds’. A great organisation does more than meet expressed needs: it anticipates customer TFGs, desires and preferences.
6: Customer scope: Continuously improving organisations have a wide scope for the term ‘customer’. They not only include current internal and external customers, but also potential customers. They also work hard to build and extend their customer base through the ‘customer ladder’ principle. They also encourage managers to see and treat their staff as customers of their own ‘management service’.
7 Work as fun: Such organisations invest in making work fun. For example, three organisations we work with have introduced the ‘FISH!’ philosophy into their culture, with significant improvements in staff morale, teamwork and productivity. They believe in ‘fun and work’ rather than ‘fun or work’.
8 Doing and being: For such organisations, how people are is as important as what people do. For example, several organisations we work with have core values which express how people should be at work; one client of ours ensures these ‘being’ values are reviewed as part of appraisal/PR&D. Another has commissioned a series of workshops from us on ‘value-based behaviour’, to give staff key skills in behaving in ways which are value-driven (eg giving feedback, running a team briefing). A core element of Effective’s own values is our belief that process (how we do things) is as important as task (what we do). According to our own research, staff value mangers as much for how they are, as for what they do (eg being supportive, fair, open to suggestions, consultative….)
9 At the heart: ‘Doing better’ (continuous improvement) is not just part of their culture, it is at the heart of their culture. It is either implicit in everything they do, or explicit, for example expressed through their mission or vision statement, core values or competencies. Again, one of our clients requires ‘contribution to improvement’ to be reviewed at appraisal/PR&D. Another tests for the ability to contribute to/identify opportunities for improvement as part of their Assessment Centre for recruiting middle and senior managers.
10 Everyone is in on it: ‘doing better’ is understood and accepted by all staff – everyone walks the talk, not just senior managers. Staff know about it, are encouraged to do it, and are rewarded for it – eg through suggestion schemes. One of our clients has run a ‘MAD’ day – where, on a specific day, everyone has been encouraged to send in one idea to improve the business (Make A Difference). Another of our clients runs a series of BIG project teams (BIG stands for Business Improvement Group). The teams, facilitated by us, have no managers on them – they are front line staff – and their brief is to come up with a project to improve the business. The result is presented to the Management Board, who have mandated themselves to accept the recommendations made (with possible modifications). Famously Marriotts, the hotel chain, empower all their front line staff to provide service excellence by giving them a budget to spend, at their discretion, on the customer.
We offer a one-day workshop based on the above; if you’re interested, either leave details below, or through our ‘contact us’ option, or phone Caroline, our Office Manager, on 0161 437 6809.