The five essential factors of business improvement

As we emerge from what has been a very fragile economic climate, many organisations are now embarking on business improvement initiatives in a bid to greatly enhance customer service and sustain growth and profitability. In many cases, companies concentrate on only one element of change and disregard other factors when making improvements. This often leads to change being unsustained or results not being delivered at all.

These are five fundamental factors that influence successful business improvement:

1-      Customer journey: Many organisations fail to grasp the importance of the customer journey and experience. By taking the time to understand customers’ current and future needs, companies are better placed to answer these. Equally, business practices can be developed that enhance the customer experience and lead to increased growth and loyalty. The customer is the life blood of the company, without the customer we don’t have a business, yet all too often they are overlooked.

2-      Operating Framework: Many businesses assume that the development and implementation of new technology is the answer to all operational and reporting problems. The reality is, this will only support existing behaviours, rather than changing them. A system is not a substitute for management action. If the system is not updated and used properly by the people within your business, it will not be effective.  In order to drive and support the right kinds of behaviours, an effective operating framework is required. This is the glue that holds any business together. It comprises the forecasting, planning, controlling and reporting of work.  It enables key questions to be answered like what needs to be delivered and when? What and how many resources are needed? How are you performing against plan? What has been achieved? How can you improve?

3-      Processes:  Companies tend to stick to what they know. They believe that operational processes that have always worked will continue to be effective and deliver profit. Changing a process will cost time and money and is often something that teams would rather avoid. However, operational processes inevitably become out of date. Steps are introduced without careful consideration of the wider impacts, and slowly materials and time are introduced to make life “easier”, or to meet “customer” demand.  This can cause your once efficient process to become inefficient.  It will cost your business more if you don’t change your inefficient processes. Teams are not always compliant and become complacent, if the process is not easily executed and intuitive. Often teams find short cuts, even if those short cuts cost you money. In addition, when processes are re-engineered, it is normally through some kind of technology implementation or a Lean/Six Sigma type initiative. Typically, once re-engineered, they are well laid out and logical. However, the control of the processes is often what’s missing, allowing things to go low visibility, creating chases and causing frustration for both staff and customers alike. Processes can be controlled through active management and an effective operating framework.

4-      Policies: The common understanding is that policies are put in place to satisfy a regulatory body or meet the needs of an accrediting body, that will award some sort of recognised badge, ITIL, ISO, H&S, IIP etc. Businesses believe that this will enable the organisation to gain status and recognition within their field. Some policies are enforced and are a legal requirement.  In order to adopt policies successfully, the necessary systems and processes need to be embedded first and most importantly, employees need to be fully trained in their execution.

5-      People / Staff Engagement:  It is assumed that people within the business should be committed and loyal because they are being paid. Firms also believe that if they give their employees a new system to use, or train them in a new process that it will be followed without question and supported. The people within your business are the most influencing factor in determining whether your improvement initiative succeeds or fails. If the teams within your business do not use the system, follow the process or comply with the policy, your initiative will fail. Staff will only do this if they are fully engaged. Managers have a responsibility to ensure their teams’ values and beliefs align to the goals and objectives of the business. Furthermore, it is imperative to ensure the attitudes and behaviours of staff within your business are engaged and positive, and the communication within your company is concise, open and honest. The people within your business hold the key to its success.

For your business to realise and fulfil its potential, these five factors must be considered. Whether your company is looking to cut costs, maintain strong growth, greatly enhance the customer experience or gain a competitive edge, Balcroft can help you implement sustained change to ultimately achieve your long term business aims and goals.

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