An enterprise is, of necessity, attentive to results when getting started. They measure success based on profit, happy customers, pride in craftsmanship or any of a number of other merit-based responses from the market. Over time, the focus on important factors like performance, efficiency, and profit often lead to the introduction of key performance indicators, system enhancements, and processes that are intended to be followed and automatically result in success. In short, goals shift from enterprise output to individual department metrics and from doing what is necessary to achieve the desired result to turning off your brain and doing what you are supposed to do according to the systems and processes.
The resulting problem is difficult for any organizational culture to resolve. Departments have to continue to present KPIs, whether or not they are tied to company results. They are rewarded on sub optimizing their results instead of subordinating them to those of the enterprise. Management, far away from the day-to-day decision making in the work that generates the output, demands better quality, efficiency, and profit from people that were told to follow the systems and processes and the results will follow. It’s an endless loop that requires an intervention.
You have to take your foot off first base in order to steal second. It’s a scary decision that requires courage and confidence. Courage, because you are abandoning the safety of a previous success. Confidence, because you have to know that your knowledge in the light of experience will advance you beyond your previous accomplishment. It might sound like an over-used catch-phrase, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work: You have to get back to basics.
What matters to your customer? Minimizing the gap between expected and perceived performance levels of the product or service that was the basis of a transaction. You need to get to the end of the assembly line and go over the product like your customer. Like your customer matters. Like your customer is not your Quality Control department that exists only to find your performance shortcomings.
This isn’t about finding fault, but that’s what it will feel like. Root cause analysis is, by definition, fault finding. In a perfect organization, finding and fixing root causes are celebrated as long as the enterprise learns from mistakes. Organizations that are managed by fear give finding root cause a bad name because fixing a problem means someone is going to have a really bad day. If you are in a management position in a company for which a transformation is required, your job will be to create an environment of trust so the path to success isn’t painful.
When you start at the end of the assembly line, in an environment of trust, and start working your way back through the concurrent engineering development and manufacturing processes you can always identify the decision or behavior that resulted in sub-par outcomes. You can then implement corrective action. Once the enterprise cares more about outcomes than their individual department metrics or being able to say “it was someone else's fault” the organization benefits from synergies. Everybody needs to understand: their soul might belong to their functional area, but their ass belongs to the enterprise and its results. The bottom line is that business-as-usual is the enemy of transformation and achieving results. It’s time for Business-as-(un)Usual.