Thursday, April 3, 2008

Seek small ideas – not big ones

As an organisation do you encourage your employees to suggest ideas for improving your business? If you don’t have a formal process by which ideas can be submitted and assessed, then chances are you are going to miss out on some very valuable information that is freely available.
Some recent research by Alan G. Robinson and Dean M. Schroeder which investigated the idea systems in over 150 companies in 17 countries came to the surprising conclusion that high performing companies go after lots of small ideas while low performing companies tend to go after big ones.

Why go after small ideas rather than big ones in an idea capture programme?
1. It can give your company a competitive advantage in the market place
Small ideas are more difficult to copy by competitors than big ones. Competitors may not be aware of small ideas where they will be aware of big initiatives (the grapevine of suppliers etc.)
Small ideas tend to be more company specific. Only work in the company they were generated in (e.g. Vidette Times – Indiana, USA (printing press rolls)
2. It can bring about performance excellence
Excellence is about getting details right it is about attention to detail. In a homogenous marketplace this is what separates companies from one other.
It is workers, not managers who can spot these inefficiencies
3. Small ideas lead to big things
Most big ideas start off small
Small ideas can help identify where there are problems that need to be addressed. Big problems frequently manifest themselves through a host of smaller signs or symptoms
When an idea is generated, ask
· Where else can this be used in the company?
· What are the patterns of the idea? I.e. are the small ideas all pointing toward a bigger problem?
4. It encourages employees and makes them feel heard
The research suggests that employees do not necessarily seek financial reward, and indeed offering it can cause problems such as who originally had the idea!

Setting up an idea capture programme
The difficulty with having many small ideas is that they can be difficult to capture and organise. Unless each idea if considered and processed, then employees will become disillusioned with the process. Client Solutions has developed an application that can help with the capture, review and approval of ideas from a multitude of sources. If this is something that would be of interest to you, then why not get in touch with us, we would love to show you what we have done in this space.

Monday, March 10, 2008

A Truly Path-Based Approach

This month’s edition (March 2008) of the Harvard Business Review contains an article by David Upton and Bradley Staats called ‘Radically Simple IT’. It proposes an approach to implementing new IT systems that is preferable to the ‘big bang’ or ‘incremental’ methods favoured by most organisations.

The ‘Big Bang’ method involves spending a long period of time developing a system and then implementing it in one foul sweep. This clearly is problematic as the new system may end up being ‘legacy from the day it is turned on’. The incremental approach involves replacing an existing system one small piece at a time. This can take even longer than the ‘big bang’ approach and usually ends up duplicating what it replaces which prevents innovative advancement in the business.

Upton and Staat’s suggestion is one that has been used with particular success at a Japanese company called Shinsei. It is called the path-based approach. The idea behind the path based approach is to focus on providing a path for the new system to be developed over time rather than the functionality that will be in it. This approach takes into account the problems inherent in the implementation of new systems namely,

· People often cannot specify everything they will need at a project’s inception
· Unanticipated needs almost always arise once a system is in operation
· Persuading people to use and own the system after it is up and running is much easier said than done

Three foundational elements of the path-based approach are: -

1. Build a low-cost, efficient platform for running the company’s existing business
2. Ensure that platform is flexible enough to support the company’s growth into new areas (i.e. tweakable)
3. Forge together (don’t just align) business and IT

I was speaking recently with a man in South Africa who has used Serena TeamTrack to build such a foundation for his company. This bank operates in 38 countries round the world and employs about 40,000 people.

At his bank, over 30,000 users can log into TeamTrack to participate in over 300 different processes ranging from HR related processes to server commissioning to SLA management. In other words, TeamTrack extends into all parts of the business and links those parts together.

Continual Improvement is something that Shinsei also recognises as important. By using TeamTrack, companies are able to perform continual improvement even after a system is rolled out. The system can be tweaked extremely easily. Any changes that are needed can be implemented by configuration rather development. Business users can make changes themselves rather than having to renegotiate with software developers every time a change is needed.

So how does TeamTrack meet the three foundational elements of the path-based approach? TeamTrack provides a low cost framework (element 1) that can be easily modified to facilitate growth (element 2) by business people as well as IT people (element 3).

If you would like someone from Client Solutions to contact you to discuss how you might be able to leverage the power of TeamTrack in your organisation, please get in touch.