Your company has always been an industry leader. Your customers are loyal, your financials are solid, and your employees are happy. However, newer competition is lurking around the corner. They represent the new flavor, nimble and embracing the next wave. How do you focus on the present and still innovate for the future? How do you protect your core business and reinvent yourself at the same time?
To get there, it is important to simultaneously focus on the customer, the staff, and the bottom line.
Focus on the Customer
It is critical to always begin and end your strategic discussions with a customer focus. Obviously, it is important to continue to please your existing customers by successfully meeting all expectations. That means far more than just making sure your products and services perform as advertised. It means that all interactions are easy, professional and efficient. It means that all transactions are correct, timely, and easily understood. Above all, any promises must be delivered on time and perfectly.
Of course, that is all common sense. How do you keep that magic flowing to give your customers a reason to stay and new customers a reason to move? You must constantly have an existential discussion of why your company exists in the first place. What is the real reason your customers want to be in business with you? From there, you can lead to discussions about innovation to the future.
The innovation discussions can start from many places such as customer focus groups, employee suggestions, identified deficiencies in existing products and services, and benchmarking both within and outside your industry. As you design your improvement, be sure to always return to a clearly delineated idea of critical needs for the new product or service design. Development teams will greatly benefit from a structured design protocol such as Quality by Design. This will ensure that the features developed will be structured to specifically address established customer needs with a high degree of quality from the launch of the new product or service.
When the new products and services are developed from the customer perspective at the start, the marketing and sales angles develop quickly and effectively.
Focus on the Staff
It goes without saying that a healthy organization has an engaged, secure, and empowered workforce. The first step is to satisfy their needs. A continual focus on recruiting, hiring and retaining the best employees is essential to organizational health. A team with high morale and a strong work-life balance will be one of your strongest assets for allowing your company to innovate and change with the times.
A key component for keeping your company current is an emphasis on training. Training time should be carved out for effective, management-supported learning. This can initiate from company priorities, such as expert-led in-house training, seminars or conventions. It can also be college courses, either online or on-campus. However it is done, the employees must be allowed the time and freedom to successfully learn and practice the acquired skills.
Unleash this talented, engaged workforce to help you come up with the new ideas for the future. Encourage them to submit ideas for improving existing products and services. Engage them in the efforts to create new designs and continuously improve existing offerings. To keep the energy flowing, the company must encourage the input in a structured way, respond to suggestions honestly, and follow-up promptly. If ideas do not generate a response, you may not get additional ideas later.
Focus on the Bottom Line
The last piece to maintaining your strong position is a focus on performance improvement. The strategic plan should have a solid core of goals and metrics. The entire organization then must focus on projects specifically chartered to address the deficiencies identified by the scorecard and strategy.
This effort begins with a focus on the Cost of Poor Quality. These are all costs that occur because all products and services are not made or performed correctly the first time with the minimum expenditure of time and materials. These costs should be analyzed as both effectiveness and efficiency measures. The identified deficiencies are then turned into projects, managed by a structured performance improvement methodology such as Lean Six Sigma.
Effectiveness measures reflect how well the products and services meet the expectations of customers. Failing to deliver products and services in the promised quality and in the promised time frame clearly results in costs of rework and replacement. In the presence of hard-charging competition, the impact to goodwill can be devastating to accounts.
Efficiency measures reflect the amount of resources expended to fulfill the customer needs. This is the waste in off-quality, efficiency, labor and rework we are all so used to battling. Becoming accustomed to a general level of waste and inefficiency hides the additional volumes a company can produce and the more value-added activities on which you should concentrate.
This is a lot for a company to juggle in the effort to stay ahead of the competition. There is no time to waste. The battle for continuous improvement and innovation must be joined every day to thrill customers and give them a reason to return day after day.
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Author: Michael Stamp
Michael Stamp serves as Vice President at Juran. In this capacity, he specializes in Continuous Process Improvement, Lean Management and delivering a variety of quality programs to corporate clients. Mr. Stamp has over 25 years of experience and is an outstanding change agent who can identify opportunities, develop focus and provide strategic and tactical business solutions.
Mr. Stamp’s core competencies include Process Improvement, Operational Streamlining, Data Science, Special Project Management, Training & Coaching, Cost Reduction, Multi-Site Operations, Quality Control/Assurance, Policy & Procedure Development, Leadership Development & Culture Transformation and Statistics.