How to manage your business or sector effectively

You have decided to transform your organization. Your managers learned how to manage in a participatory way and you trained the teams to solve problems. So your employees are now making decisions on a daily basis. Finally, you use several tools to improve your performance. Or you think about it, but you’d like to start with yourself.

How to do without reports and monthly management committees? How to evolve towards more agility, participatory approach ? This is the purpose of this article, which will give you tips to manage your company (or your sector) according to best operational excellence practices.

We can not become what we want by staying what we are.

Max DePree (1924 – 2017) American businessman and writer

It is the visit of Tony Whale‘s Office, General Manager at Concision, Christchurch, New Zealand, who inspired me this article. You will find his testimony on the use he makes throughout the article. Concision produces prefabricated panels for building construction.

How to sail a ship?

The captain knows where he’s going. This is the equivalent of the Hoshin, or the strategic plan of the organization. Although the final destination is quite distant, it directs decisions. The captain does not choose the shortest route, but the most efficient. So he chooses which storms or iceberg to avoid.

He knows where he is. These are your dashboards and your indicators. In the past, the captain used the stars, a compass and a quadrant to position himself. Now he’s consulting radar, weather forecasts. He thus has a better knowledge of its position and the conditions of navigation. Decisions are easier to make, but based on his knowledge of the current situation and his experience.

Sea view from the cabin of a boat. In the foreground, the navigation bar and maps with radars.

At last he decides what he does. These are your action plans, your decisions: workforce planning, project launch, etc. The captain gives instructions to the crew about the speed, the direction to hang, the sails to take out or put away. Finally, he records his decisions on a map or in his logbook.

how to manage a business or a sector effectively?

Based on the concepts of operational excellence, I propose you to use the basic methodology: the PDCA.

When you practice operational excellence , transparency is one of the key factors for success. your management method must be known and your indicators displayed. every employee must be able to access the information. Just like a member of the crew can see the map and the progress of the ship, your employees must understand where they are in the realization of your mission.

I chose to dedicate each of the walls of my office to one step of the PDCA. So according to the wall I look at, I visualize the desired state (Plan : orders to be produced), the current state (do : actions in progress and check : dashboards) and finally the decisions (Act : corrective actions and follow-ups). I follow the performance on five themes: costs, security, workload, quality and delivery.

Each of the PDCA steps can be reviewed during a weekly meeting of 10 to 20 minutes, which makes a total of about 1 hour of meeting per week. These meetings replace the management committees and monthly performance reports.

Plan knowing where we go

What is your workload for the next few months? What is your master plan? It is in this section that you will document your forecasts. This is the place for the Hoshin and your dynamic project management. You can add the company’s vision and mission to remind you of the direction to follow.

I use a white board with orders scheduled this week, this month and this quarter. I update my board during a weekly meeting with my team. We discuss the orders and the workload ahead.

Do: the actions taken to get us there

This is probably the easiest to set-up and the most complicated to keep alive. If you have already launched a weekly “Scrum” meeting, then this is what you will place here.

The principle is simple: each member of the team writes down his or her actions for the next 2 weeks. In practice, it’s more complicated…

It is necessary to limit the number of actions between 3 and 5 per person, otherwise the board becomes illegible. You have to discipline yourself to indicate actions that have a range of 1-2 weeks. So you need to help your team cut their tasks into deliverables.

Then it is necessary to document what is the range of the project or the realization of the plan. Entering a timesheet, or having a follow-up meeting with an employee should not be included in this table. These are recurring, almost operational actions. What projects or activities do you pilot to deliver what you have planned in “plan”?

I organize a weekly meeting with my team to discuss the actions they take around the 5 themes that I follow. I use a combination of white board and Excel documents that my team completes before the meeting.

Check: Verifying we’re on track

This is the favorite part of all: the figures, the data, the graphs, the trends… To learn more about the management of a table of indicators, it is here…

How are our results, do we achieve, exceed our results? This discussion should not last more than 10 or 15 minutes a week.

Any discussion or topic that requires a deeper discussions is taken outside the weekly meeting with the concerned persons only. It’s effective for everyone, and additional data can be prepared for this meeting. In addition, experts or field employees can participate.

I use the data to animate the discussions. I use the 5 why to fetch root causes. I do not want green indicators, but indicators that guide me in decision-making.

Act: Getting back on track and following-up

Finally, like the captain, you’re documenting your decisions. This is your logbook. Much more than the memory of the organization, decisions are recorded for future reference, in a learning objective. You also write down in this section the follow-ups. Indeed, these actions usually take more than two weeks, or must be carried out at a later date. This way, you keep your “do” section as dynamic as possible.

I realize that understanding why is the most important aspect. When the 5S is not well done, it is often because the person thinks she has to clean up. The 5S have nothing to do with the housekeeping. Then I note in my follow-up actions the need for training and creation of meaning.

Conclusion

The power of this model lies in the Cascade/escalation. In fact, by synchronizing the different types of meetings between management and first line, you can quickly share information and reach the peak of performance.

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