Adding value through con­tin­u­ous im­prove­ment

New Straits Times - - Business | News - The writer is manag­ing con­sul­tant and ex­ec­u­tive lead­er­ship coach at EQTD Con­sult­ing. He is also the au­thor of the na­tional best­seller “So, You Want To Get Pro­moted?”

IF you can im­prove your­self, the pro­cesses in your com­pany, and if you can help im­prove your col­leagues, you be­come valu­able in an in­stant. So fo­cus­ing on con­tin­u­ous im­prove­ment is a vi­tal key for per­sonal suc­cess.

In mod­ern man­age­ment phi­los­o­phy, “Prin­ci­ples of Lean” is an im­por­tant way of think­ing for busi­nesses. In sim­ple terms, lean prin­ci­ples fo­cus on cre­at­ing more value for cus­tomers with fewer re­sources. It is about in­creas­ing a busi­ness’s value propo­si­tion.

As in­di­vid­u­als, we can take a leaf out of these lean prin­ci­ples for per­sonal con­tin­u­ous im­prove­ment.

Value creation hap­pens when the qual­ity of ser­vice you de­liver is per­ceived by your su­pe­ri­ors as be­ing higher, com­pared with your cost. This means pro­vid­ing what your com­pany wants, but do­ing it bet­ter, faster and cheaper.

Years ago when I was the chief ex­ec­u­tive of a pri­vate in­sti­tu­tion of higher learn­ing, I had a distin­guished gen­tle­man who ap­plied for a po­si­tion as our op­er­a­tions head. He had re­tired from the gov­ern­ment ser­vice hav­ing had a ster­ling ca­reer as a teacher, prin­ci­pal, and a fed­eral in­spec­tor of schools. At the in­ter­view I saw that he was an ac­com­plished tech­no­crat.

I knew I lacked the dis­ci­pline to be metic­u­lous with com­pli­ance. I made what turned out to be an in­spired choice, by hir­ing this fine gen­tle­man.

Kr­ish­nan K Pon­niah, showed up at our col­lege, sat at his desk and with a sense of im­me­di­acy pro­ceeded to take my vi­sion for the in­sti­tute and le­git­imise it. He would lis­ten to my ideas on what pro­grammes I wanted to launch. He would then fig­ure out the me­chan­ics of get­ting it ap­proved by the au­thor­i­ties. And by and large, he suc­ceeded.

The most in­ter­est­ing part is that he was in the re­tire­ment phase of his life. So in­stead of ask­ing for more money, he opted for less with a lim­ited role. He truly cre­ated value for me, be­cause what he brought to the ta­ble, was far greater than what he cost.

The next thing that will help you de­cide how you can add value by con­tin­u­ous im­prove­ment is by do­ing “ac­tion re­search”. Mean­ing, eval­u­ate what you do dur­ing your daily grind. Record your ac­tions and re­flect on whether any­thing you did could have been done bet­ter.

Once you know what your own work­flow looks like, take a sec­ond look. But, this time with a keen eye, look­ing out for any step in the process that doesn’t di­rectly cre­ate value for your cus­tomer, who is your em­ployer. This way you can man­age and im­prove your work­flow, elim­i­nat­ing all the non-value-added ac­tiv­i­ties.

Re­mem­ber that when you waste time, you add no value. Many tasks on a daily ba­sis are nec­es­sary. Things like read­ing emails, at­tend­ing meet­ings, writ­ing per­func­tory re­ports and so on.

How­ever, as you do ac­tion re­search on your daily ac­tiv­ity, you can fig­ure out which of these tasks can be re­duced or even elim­i­nated. Ac­cept­ing them as a fait ac­com­pli will just per­pet­u­ate a cy­cle of time-wast­ing.

Sim­i­larly, I know peo­ple who take un­nec­es­sary steps to do sim­ple tasks, just be­cause they have not thought about how they can sim­plify things. I just came back from a short va­ca­tion in In­dia. I found it very in­ter­est­ing that some old-school busi­nesses in In­dia, main­tain some very te­dious “check-out” pro­cesses.

You pick your items of choice; then you get taken to a counter where the bill is printed out; next you move with the bill to an­other counter, where you make the pay­ment; once you have paid, you get taken to the pack­ing area where you’ll need to show your proof of pay­ment, upon which you get your stuff. Now in some out­lets, these coun­ters are all over the place.

Du­pli­ca­tion of ef­fort is an­other work­flow prob­lem. I was in a restau­rant re­cently, and four ser­vice staff asked me the same ques­tion at in­ter­vals of four to five min­utes. The ques­tion in it­self showed that they were all well trained. But the lack of com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween them meant that I was get­ting pro­gres­sively an­noyed at this re­lent­less bad­ger­ing. So, min­imis­ing du­pli­ca­tion of ef­fort, is an­other area where you can im­prove.

The best tip I can of­fer you is to learn and un­der­stand how the Pareto Prin­ci­ple works. It’s also known as the 80/20 rule.

Read about it and do a Pareto anal­y­sis on your daily work life. If you do the anal­y­sis hon­estly, you will be as­tounded at how much time you spend daily do­ing things that do not add value to you.

When you fo­cus on con­tin­u­ous im­prove­ment for your­self, your work­flow, and your or­gan­i­sa­tion, you add value for your­self.

Value creation hap­pens when the qual­ity of ser­vice you de­liver is per­ceived by your su­pe­ri­ors as be­ing higher, com­pared to your cost. This means pro­vid­ing what your com­pany wants, but do­ing it bet­ter, faster and cheaper.

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