Introducing new policies and procedures doesn’t have to be an exercise for exercise’s sake. Joe Goasdoué, chief executive of the British Quality Foundation explains how the right approach can deliver excellent benefits across the business.
No business can afford to wing it. A business needs to be constantly evolving in order keep up with change: technological advancements, staff requirements and consumer involvement are just a few factors that progress at a phenomenal rate. It is no surprise therefore that businesses are under constant pressure to keep themselves fully up to date and able to compete in a fast-changing marketplace.
In order to stay ahead of the competition, an organisation must constantly refresh its approach, both internal and external. Sadly, too many companies are stuck in their ways and find it difficult to challenge long established methods of operating the business. This is why when new people start and challenge the status quo, they are often told ‘but we’ve always done it this way’. Not only is this attitude demoralising, it can be harmful to the business and it’s worth remembering just because something has always been done a certain way, doesn’t necessarily make it the right way. Research shows that business processes are not joined up and constantly improved in nearly half of UK businesses (YouGov, December 2008). In fact, one in three respondents said that work tends to be slowed down by internal ‘bottlenecks’ or mistakes. Unsurprisingly, this interferes with their ability to meet customers’ needs: only 13 percent say their customers receive their product or service on time every time.
There is no time for complacency, regardless of the economic situation. Unfortunately in a recession, many businesses slash costs indiscriminately in a knee-jerk reaction, or procedures are changed or introduced in an attempt to gloss over rotten cores within the business. Every organisation must carry out a full assessment, first to identify any gaps within the business, or the causes behind faulty procedures before any changes are made. Not doing so carries the risk of missing or wrongly identifying key areas of improvements, applying an incorrect management tool to fix the problem, or worse still, missing an opportunity for improvement.
New policies or procedures need to enhance business performance. If this isn’t the case, buy-in from staff will be extremely unlikely, not to mention the wastage involved in making it all happen. It’s important to bear in mind that new policies and procedures needn’t just be about reducing costs. Often they are introduced to streamline internal processes and strengthen the business as a whole. It will reduce expenditure in the long term as well as avoid wasting unnecessary resources and time.
Business improvement models should be adopted that allow businesses to look at themselves as a whole, and apply the same principles and methods across the organisation to help it achieve a balanced level of business excellence. As businesses are becoming more specialised and sophisticated in the services they provide, so too are the opportunities to employ methods of improvement.
However, business improvement is not yet on everyone’s agenda: one in three businesses said that they have no system in place that helps them to measure and improve their work. What’s more, 36 percent don’t even know how many mistakes are made within their organisation and a further 38 percent don’t know the financial implications of those mistakes.
Businesses committed to improvement must choose the right model; there are many tried and tested methodologies to choose from. However, it’s not a clear-cut choice. It is no longer enough to take the ‘one-route-for-all’ approach, it is now a matter of using bespoke tools that match the profile of each business and address particular concerns or issues. The EFQM Excellence Model for example is the most widely used improvement framework in Europe. It can help organisations assess their strengths and prioritise areas for improvement. The framework is a model of best practice and an ideal assessment and improvement methodology allowing businesses to compare themselves with the best.
For a business to achieve excellence, it must excel in the model’s eight fundamentals, including results orientation; people development and involvement; corporate social responsibility; and continuous learning, innovation and improvement. Businesses that take up the eight concepts for excellence are in a great position to develop coherent strategic objectives and a clear business vision. It will help them to pursue a high level of customer satisfaction and an improved level of business performance.