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8 tenets of an intelligent business improvement implementation strategy

8 tenets of an intelligent business improvement implementation strategy

The secret to lasting business improvement success lies in the initial stages of implementation, that vital link between concept and execution. Without a good understanding and undertaking of this process, it would be nearly impossible to achieve satisfactory results in turning great concepts into real actions. The key tenets discussed in this post can be generally adapted and applied to any type of business improvement implementation programme, whether in manufacturing operations, supply chain or both.

Generally, the key to implementation success is strong leadership. Leaders who are patient yet demanding appear to be successful. Their demanding side does not compromise on targeted outcomes, and their patience looks for progress towards the target as the key measure of success. (For more information on implementation strategy and leadership, read the blog The keys to making CI implementation stick.)

Organisations today are increasingly quick to ‘talk the talk’, but pay little attention to actually implementing these expressions of intent. This phenomenon, often referred to as the ‘knowing-doing’ gap, has been a topic of management conversation for many years, yet remains problematic.

At the same time, there is a growing awareness that implementation is a core competence of companies capable of sustained success. Effective implementation is essentially about knowing what gap you want to close and then making significant movements towards your targeted outcomes. Recent books describe and promote implementation in general, but few set out the principles for improving on your track record in the effective implementation of an improvement strategy.

Based on additional research around the findings of a collaborative research project undertaken by the Manufacturing Round Table (MRT), it is proposed that an effective improvement strategy be guided by eight core principles. Each is designed to help executives answer the question: How can we improve our track record for the effective implementation of an improvement strategy?

1. Never stop asking the question
A ‘discovery process’ as opposed to an ‘idea imposition process’ has been shown to yield better decisions. Implementation is essentially about testing an ‘if then’ proposition. You can never know in advance that your plan is foolproof. You learn by putting it to the test in the understanding that you will both ‘get things achieved by doing’ and ‘learn by doing’.

2. Prepare a plan of actionstrategy_formation
This constitutes the ‘if then’ proposition, meaning ‘if this set of actions is executed, that desired outcome will be achieved’. Firstly, it requires a clear statement as to what is to be achieved and, secondly, it requires clarity as to how it is to be achieved including the sequence and timing of actions.

3. Have ‘dual organisation’ capacity
A dual organisation has two parts, one designed to meet daily targets, the other to manage improvement processes. In other words, the first structure manages the day-to-day operations, while the second structure looks after the improvement projects. The CEO must head both structures and people move for shorter or longer periods between the two structures.

In so doing, the ability to initiate and cooperate in improvement processes is not only clearly managed, but also becomes widely understood and disseminated. Furthermore, this is done without focus being lost on day-to-day control and achievement of forecasts and plans which is the task of the organisation for business operations.

4. Lead like a relentless but reflective bulldozer driver
Leadership is central to implementation success. It drives the discovery process implicit in the effective implementation of the improvement strategy.

5. Surface the ‘force for effective implementation’
This is essentially the what/why/how of implementation and is a function of:

  • the clarity regarding what you want to achieve, in outcome terms
  • the confidence in knowing how to achieve this new outcome and
  • the conviction as to why it is necessary to achieve this new outcome

6. Effective implementation
After we have developed the understanding of the ‘force for effective implementation’, it is important to use this ‘force’ to elicit appropriate behaviour from stakeholders:

  • who have the power to sabotage the intervention or
  • whose supportive behaviour is highly likely to determine the degree to which the outcome is achieved and sustained

7. Take the ‘first small steps’
Identify the ‘first small steps’ and start with these. Achieving the first, even minor, targets has enormous psychological and practical value; personal and collective optimism and resilience are enhanced as practical progress is made.

Furthermore, action gets things done and it is the most effective form of learning. The use of a ‘pilot’ to emphasize the experimental and learning nature of the intervention and reduce the cost on the learning curve is almost always appropriate when implementing in an organisation employing more than about 30 people. (This is clearly illustrated in the case study High-level accolade for Chile-based CCU after TRACC implementation successes.)

8. Create a fault-tolerant environment for the above seven points to flourish
In all organisations, everybody has a boss. We are all accountable. If we want the people working for us to implement well, we need to cut them some slack about getting everything right all the time.

When a requirement becomes incumbent on each ‘boss,’ it becomes a requirement of the corporate culture. A fault-tolerant environment is therefore needed in an organisation seeking to improve its track record in implementing operations strategy.

In summary, there is growing evidence that too many organisations fail to take effective action even when they know what to do. Through applying these eight principles, management may be better equipped, in an increasingly competitive environment, to take effective action in implementing a business improvement strategy.

(Find out how to make improvement strategy deployment practical and impactful with the CCI-recommended PDCA approach. DOWNLOAD the article Getting to grips with strategy deployment.)

*This blog post is an adaptation of a series of posts first published on the Weekly Link forum coordinated by Barry Elliott, CCI business partner.

The TRACC framework helps organisations build standardised and integrated good practice and performance capacity across their Plan, Source, Make and Deliver functions. Simultaneously it accelerates their collaboration and alignment capacity to build world class end-to-end value chains, enabling the organisation itself to become the ultimate source of sustainable competitive advantage.
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