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The Corporate Tune Up

March 21, 2010

Is your organization running on all cylinders? Is your organization capable of running on all cylinders? You may be getting the most out of your current infrastructure, but is you organization’s capability optimized, set up to produce 100%? An inefficient organization will never reach full capability or capacity. Don’t confuse inefficiency with under-capacity. When a cup is only half full, this represents under-capacity, not utilizing everything that’s available. However, if you picture a paper cup being squeezed such that it can’t hold as much as it once did, this represents inefficiency. An inefficient organization will never reach its full capability or capacity, it is not possible as some of their potential is being squeezed right out of them. When an organization has learned to yield its maximum potential, we can call this the “optimized organization”.

Are you in need of a corporate “tune up”, are all of your organization’s cylinders firing but you’re just not getting full power? Maybe suboptimal performance, processes and/or behaviors are holding you back. Let’s consider your organization’s weaknesses. I’ve always said a home builder is only as good as his worst contractor. Every contractor plays such an important role in the building of a house that one bad contractor can ruin your whole reputation, and in home-building, reputation is everything. This is the weakest link concept, “only as strong as your weakest link”. An offensive line in football is much the same where one weakness can be exploited by the defense and can overshadow the other stronger linemen. Have you identified your weakest links and ensured that you are leveraging their strengths and not exploiting their weaknesses? In the book, “First, Break all the Rules”, authors Buckingham and Coffman say you shouldn’t try to change or improve people’s faults, instead you should focus on their natural strengths. Through proper resource utilization, you can minimize the weak links in your organization.

Once you have your people in the right roles, how do you optimize even more? The concept of synergy, the sum of two parts being greater than the whole, is a big factor when looking at optimized efficiency. When you have a micromanaging environment, where 2 or more people are focused on the same task, the output is very often less than the whole. When you set your people loose, you can truly achieve a synergistic effect as an empowering environment and culture creates a synergistic effect. In most assembly line style manufacturing environments, the line workers are told to optimize the process they’ve been given. In empowered environments, not only are they optimizing the process they’ve been given, they are also always looking for ways to improve the process, “expand the cup”. There are many documented cases from automotive assembly lines where the line workers had the best ideas for improvement but in most cases, they were never asked. In the cases where their opinions were sought, amazing improvements were often the result. So by making continuous improvement everyone’s responsibility, you create a synergistic effect by getting more out of each and every employee.

Why are processes suboptimal in the first place, why didn’t we just get it right the first time? There’s a story of a young mother cooking a roast for guests and before she puts it in the pan, she cuts a portion of each end off the roast. When one of the guest inquires into the genesis of this unique chef’s secret, the mother replies, “well, that’s just the way my mother always did it”. The reality is that her mother’s roasting pan was too narrow for most roasts, so she had to cut it to get it to fit into the pan! Many organizations today operate under this same mantra, “that’s just the way we’ve always done it”. Well, has anyone stepped back and asked why we’re doing it this way? The status quo may have worked at one point, but as markets, resources and priorities change, you have to change your processes too, organizations must focus on “continuous improvement” to ensure that they are always optimized for the best performance.

Yogi Bera once said, “We’re lost, but we’re making good time!”. You may think you’re making good progress, but are you certain you’re “not” taking the long way? You may feel like you’re doing the best you can and when you’ve finally topped off that cup, it may appear that you’ve succeeded, but then you take a step back and realize that you could be expanding your capability and getting more into that cup after all. This is what separates good organizations from great ones, the latter make “continuous improvement” a habit and are always looking for new ways to expand the cup. So if you want to keep your organization in its peak working condition, always look for opportunities for that next tune up!

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Zach permalink
    April 7, 2010 11:17 am

    Great Article John

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