Competition in any business sector is increasing and customers are becoming more demanding. Add to this fierce competition, both internally and from emerging economies, and a complicated, uncertain, and turbulent fiscal and economic environment, and one conclusion is almost irrefutable: business improvement processes are not optional, but essential for the survival of a company or business. Aaron Rodriguez, an expert in business optimization, provides some key suggestions to properly manage a business improvement project.
A business improvement project can only be sustained by developing circuits based on continuous business improvement. Otherwise, at best, only small partial improvements without temporal continuity will be obtained, which will be quickly counteracted or surpassed by the competition.
Achieving business excellence is not an easy goal,” says Rodriguez. “It is a progressive process in which the organization as a whole must be involved, without backtracking and without losing sight of the company’s objectives and capabilities at any given moment.”
The keys to success in business improvement projects. The success of a business improvement project depends to a large extent on following some fundamental keys. One, for example, is the proper selection of the processes to be improved.
The company has to define the specific processes it is most interested in improving, according to the problems detected or evidenced. Once selected, they should be prioritized in order of importance.
The most common signs or alerts that can indicate the most suitable processes for improvement actions are customer claims or complaints, problems with suppliers, processes with excessive costs, high execution or response times, and loss of markets.
Visualization of problems, errors, or areas for improvement in a process or circuit by making a graphical representation is essential. “It is of utmost importance to form effective work teams,” Rodriguez suggests. “The real value of an improvement team is in the different professionals that make it up. The most suitable people should be selected for each project based on objective variables.”
Rodrigues refers to the experience in the process to be dealt with, knowledge of continuous improvement methodologies and tools, leadership capacity and empathy, motivation, and also availability.
There are several methodologies (such as the Six Sigma method) and tools (Pareto or cause-effect diagrams) to carry out continuous improvement processes. It is advisable not to take them as rigid rules to be strictly followed but as a flexible guide.
“It is important that the team members feel comfortable with the methodology used and for this, it is essential that they are provided with the appropriate training, depending on their role within the group,” says Rodriguez. “Consensus and alignment with the company’s objectives and characteristics are two aspects that should never be lost sight of in order to make the right choice.”
Just as important, if not more so, than the achievement of objectives is their periodic monitoring in order to be able to make the necessary corrections. For this reason, it is essential that the initially proposed objectives be measurable as quantitatively and accurately as possible. The commitment of top management must also be fundamental.
Although it may not seem like it, many improvement projects fail because, although there is great motivation among the managers and workers of a particular department, the same does not happen with the higher positions in the company structure.
This lack of commitment from the higher hierarchies prevents sufficient follow-up and continuity, which results in a lack of resources and abandonment of the project. It also makes it impossible for the improvement project to be transferred to other processes, departments, or circuits of the organization.