In the continuously evolving world of business, perfection is a moving target. Companies design processes to provide services, manufacture products, or deliver on promises to customers efficiently and effectively, within time and budget constraints. But in just the time between process design and implementation, the marketplace changes. Keep business optimization in mind to keep your organization moving forward.
It’s a virtual certainty that there’s room for improvement in even the most elegant process or system. Don’t rest on your laurels when it looks like things are humming along. Instead, to optimize business, examine the data and metrics you’ve gathered and see how your company is performing against expectations and against industry peers. With an open mind and expert guidance, you’ll find opportunities that can transform the organization.
Establish Business Optimization Goals
Ultimately, every company should seek greater customer satisfaction. A business optimization effort designed to increase customer satisfaction will increase your competitive advantage and may allow you to enter new markets. Of course, increased profitability is an eternal goal for any business. By continuously improving existing processes, a business optimization project can reduce costs, reduce defects, improve productivity, or increase revenues for a demonstrable return on investment.
Select Business Optimization Opportunities
As you pursue growth and improvement, the smartest first step is to engage a seasoned business optimization adviser. Your adviser’s objectivity and expertise will help you identify high-impact opportunities. Draw on your business intelligence – a combination of company key performance indicators, performance compared to your industry, and what you learn every day from customers. Work with your adviser to analyze this data annually with find high-potential, cross-functional areas for improvement that aligns with your long-term strategic goals.
Ensure Business Optimization Success
Business optimization begins with the right people and the right methodology. Your trusted advisor will help analyze your situation and identify improvement opportunities, but that shouldn’t be the end of the engagement. Maintain a consultative relationship between the advisor and the internal employees who developed the process that will be improved, and who will carry the business optimization forward.
Once you’ve identified the project, pursue business optimization by applying a systematic approach using the appropriate methodology. Six-sigma projects achieve long-term defect reduction where the final outcome may be unknown. Other opportunities may call for a more direct or immediate approach.
Gathering the right business optimization team is a critical piece of the puzzle. Seek out subject matter experts on the processes that will be addressed. Your team should be a blend of people with open minds who will consider alternative solutions, along with devil’s advocates who will keep the group grounded.
Be sure to establish controls in the project that will allow you to demonstrate improvement. Whether your investment is just the team’s time, or the significant expense of a new automated system, you must prove a return on that investment. Incorporate controls that will point out the project’s impact on business metrics such as increased productivity, reduced cost, or greater customer satisfaction. Proper controls will allow you to monitor progress along the way and make adjustments if needed. Ultimately, these controls will prove business optimization results, whether that means getting an under-performing organization up to target, or moving from satisfactory performance to an industry leadership position.
Finally, celebrate success. Business optimization is a time-consuming effort that deserves recognition. Honor the people involved and their achievements. In addition to raising team morale, you’ll build enthusiasm for the current successful project, and for future business optimization efforts.
Business Optimization, Customer Satisfaction & ROI – by Lucile Williams, Six Sigma Master Black Belt
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