CI 101

How do I prepare to reopen my business?

We are preparing to return to some kind of normalcy in our lives, including reopening our businesses. When we open the doors, the business situation will be very different from what it was before the pandemic crisis began.  You had a vision for your business and a plan to drive you there, but now everything is different.

It is time to sit down and reflect on the future.  The starting point will be to understand the challenges that are coming right to us.  With the help of your team, answer the questions below and then update your business plan.  Things like the sales forecasts, costs, and other assumptions will change.

  1. Reopening implies changes, what needs to change in your operation?  
  2. Do you need to invest in protective equipment, such as acrylic panels or floor markings? 
  3. What new recurrent costs you will have to fulfill new safety requirements?  
  4. How the market will change?  
  5. Do your customers would need something different? 
  6. Does your value proposition need to change?  

After adapting the business plan to the new environment, establish your new objectives and strategy.  Rethink your business strategy carefully, how you guide your decision-making process from now on can be your competitive advantage. 

Your business plan is your guide to the future you envision, but you also need short-term plans to prepare the operation for the new requirements.  What processes have to change?  Do you need to implement new processes to ensure your team and customers’ safety?  Does the work area need changes to adapt to social distancing?  How will you control traffic and flow?  

Many tools will help you to analyze, design and test solutions, PDCA is one of them.  To ensure everybody does the same thing standard work and visual management are important.  Sometimes there is no time for a long analysis, but you can still practice continuous improvement.  If you are not doing it already, build the habit to have daily meetings with your staff.  We call them stand-up meetings, or daily huddles.  

During them the team do a quick review of the operation the day before.  The key here is to ask two important questions, what went well and what needs improvement.  You want to discover the reason for the gap between desired and current state.  A quick 5 Why discussion can lead to simple solutions that can be implemented during the shift.  

From now on, the way to conduct business should be different.  This is the time to prepare yourself and your business for the future.  Given how fast everything changes with the development of the COVID-19 pandemic, the business of the future demands good leadership, employees and leaders engaged in common goals and flexibility.  Continuous improvement and lean thinking promote that kind of behaviors. 

Focus on the things you can control, take a deep breath and start creating your future.  Be safe, stay well.

CI Tools

What is strategy deployment (and why it is vital now)?

A strategy establishes the framework to make decisions, how to conduct business, deliver value to your customers, and achieve target revenues and profits. Strategic planning answers the question, where are we going, and how do we get there?

Hoshin planning or hoshin kanri means strategic policy deployment. It is a process to identify the strategy to follow, develop the objectives, communicate, and execute the plan. Hoshin is one of the various methodologies for strategic planning that emerge from Peter Drucker’s Management by Objectives (MBO). Some of the characteristics of Hoshin are that plans at different timeframes, from short-term to long-term, use PDCA and SMART goals, and establish periodic reviews to assess performance against the plan. In general, Hoshin planning has seven steps.

  1. Assess the current state and establish the Vision
  2. Develop breakthrough objectives
  3. Develop annual objectives
  4. Deploy annual objectives
  5. Implement annual objectives
  6. Monthly and quarterly review
  7. Annual review

Strategy deployment address critical business needs by aligning the goals with its strategy and the company resources at all levels. This alignment makes it possible to respond quickly to changes in the business environment. The use of the PDCA cycle brings into the mix a structure to deal with those changes. It provides a framework to identify and solve the problem.

Hoshin develops the skills and capabilities of the team by engaging them to answer the question of how do we get there? Leaders are expected to guide their teams based on their knowledge and experience. Aligned goals ensure that everyone is working toward the same ends. The team of problem-solvers that you developed, row in the same direction as you do to accomplish those goals.

Lean is a strategy that has proven effective in responding effectively to unforeseen changes and situations. In the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is vital to have a system to analyze the situation, create and implement a new business strategy. You can do this using Hoshin planning. If you decide to use Lean as your strategy, it will be the new framework to make decisions and conduct your business.

Customer Satisfaction

Do you know what is the best thing you can do to achieve Customer Satisfaction?

If you have a business, then you know how important it is to know how much the customers like your service or product. They are the best source for learning about improvement opportunities, their ideas tell you what needs to be improved, and sometimes they even suggest solutions. You need to listen to the Voice of the Customer, if you and your team understand this, you won half of the battle, already.

I remember a situation years ago when one of our most important clients was complaining about a recurring problem. The plant was consistently delivering late, causing them problems with their customers. The root cause analysis pointed to the packaging department, where the team was encouraged to have larger runs. Their goal was to avoid changing products to minimize downtime.

In a different case, the warehouse team was ignoring the 360º inspection before shipping to save time. The customer was receiving products with defects. They wanted to achieve the goal of two hours trucks turn around. The problem with these two examples is that neither of those team leaders understood the relationship between what they do and customer satisfaction.

As a business owner, you need to ensure that your business strategy and goals are aligned. Your team must know the priorities. Encourage asking questions when they have doubts. Talked with them about customer expectations and how their work affects them.

The best thing you can do to achieve your customer satisfaction goals is to accept that your team is first. It has to be a priority for you to train and develop your people. Provide them with the tools and information they need to do their job and opportunities to learn more and grow. If the team feels appreciated, they will be your secret weapon to achieve success. When you take care of your team, they take care of the customers.

CI Tools

What is a strategy? Do you have one?

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

What is strategy?  Do you have one?  Or do you have a plan to achieve your business goals?

Many people confuse strategy with planning.  A strategy is the game plan for strengthening your business performance.  It establishes the framework to make decisions, how to conduct business, and deliver value to your customers, and achieve target revenues and profits. Planning is how you are going to achieve the business objectives and goals.

A plan without a strategy will not be effective.  Every organization needs a shared vision of where it is going, what is the business model, and what will drive decisions.  The strategy is how you are going to overcome the biggest hurdles, is what guides everybody in the same direction.

Planning comes after you know where you are going and what will frame the decision-making process.  Effective planning requires a look into the company’s strengths and weaknesses and to take countermeasures.  

Lean is a business management system, that when it is implemented as a whole, constitutes a great framework to conduct business.   The goal of lean or continuous improvement is to provide the customer with the highest quality, at the lowest cost, in a shorter time.  By using lean as a strategy, you will set your business for success.

Hoshin planning is the process used to identify and address critical business needs and develop people’s capabilities.   Continuous improvement or lean is a strategy to win by developing the team into problem solvers.  At times of economic uncertainty, it is critical to respond to changes in the business environment as fast as possible.  

When you and your employees know how to identify and respond to the daily challenges, the opportunities for success grow exponentially. Never is late to change your strategy, and win!