By Howard Hubler
From time to time I extend my extensive resume to public speaking. I am all for free speech; that is the only kind that I get. Well, that is where I found myself at the abnormally early time of 7:30 at Ruth’s Chris Steak House a few weeks ago. I was the unpaid attraction for a group of high achieving men and women from all around central Indiana. With the notable exception of my minor league endeavor, the past speakers read like a Who’s Who of Indiana business leadership.
While most of central Indiana executives were home just waking up or brushing their teeth, this room was chocked full of people that simply wanted to be the best of their craft. They were there to listen to all of the wisdom that highly skilled local business leaders could offer. The speakers had two tasks: give their personal story of how they achieved their measure of success and offer some pearls of wisdom in the process. My story was my story; my pearl of wisdom was what I had written about over the last couple of months, “process management”.
Many people use this term in a business context but they really do not know the working definition. The definition as I understand it is a follows. It is a repeatable activity with a better than average predictable outcome. Imagine a store with five employees all handling production or customers or phones all in a way that they feel most comfortable with, but no two people doing their tasks the same. To the experienced observer there were bits and pieces of “best practices” accomplished by each of the staff, but none had all of the pieces put together.
Imagine this: that you were at this company for a day as a paid consultant and you want to make a marked improvement on your visit. You gathered everyone together for lunch for what was to be a working lunch comprised of ice tea and submarine sandwiches. You found the room with the white board and markers and started your drill. “OK, what do you guys think are the various steps to your tasks?” Who here feels that there are some unique steps to your particular approach; who has a style worth copying? What are the, as they call it, “best practices” that you have experienced or observed here that if all adopted, we would get a superior outcome?”
Once your white board was full, you go to the next step. “If we were to change the pay plan, what kind of a compensation matrix could we devise to reward increased productivity using the steps that we just listed? We will afford a bonus program through increased productivity. Our goal was to do that task faster with a greater level of quality. We want to have an improved quality of work life and a better customer experience score here at work.”
Well, well, well; you have just had your first best practice meeting and you only invested one day. Now comes the hard part: maintaining the integrity of the program, keeping the process alive and the staff committed to it. If the pay plan is responsive, it will go a long way in keeping the interest of the staff to keep their commitment to the program. A responsive matrix bonus plan will allow the staff to gauge their success on a daily basis.
Anyway, in closing, is this you? Is there an unspoken pause in your business that this or that process needs to be examined? Could everyone know it but you? There may be a plan out there for your business; all you have to do is reach out and do a little study, then just assemble it with some staff help. They will be surprisingly candid. You only have increased profits and an improved quality of life to gain. In a world full of vocational complications, embarking on a meaningful new and improved process makes just good old fashion sense. Just reach out and grab it. What are you waiting for?
Howard Hubler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.