Organisations seeking to successfully undergo lean transformation must, first of all, identify and clearly define critical target goals that are to be achieved.

These goals may originate from different perspectives, such as commercial, market share and execution, the latter generally related to efficiency, effectiveness, consistency and quality, to mention a few.

The company should identify the level of investment it is committing towards the change plan. A well-designed master execution plan should be created, and put to good use.

Given that the plan is built, it then needs to be set into actual action. The outcome from such execution yielding the achievement of anticipated tangible results. The result of such change should enable the organisation to reap its desired benefits.

This is a brief outline of what is possibly a mammoth feat!

Calling in support

Some organisations may not have the capability, nor the capacity, to undertake such mystifying assignments. Their focus, rightly so, is generally set towards their core business activity. That is where the support of a competent and experienced mentor starts to make sense. Someone to stay on with the organisation: to guide and hand-hold them through this – otherwise perplexing – change process, all the way through, until its successful accomplishment, and possibly beyond.

Indeed, if the organisation does in fact engage an outsourced specialist to facilitate the change process, it is in the best interest of the organisation to ensure that there exists the right chemistry between its own team and the engaged specialist(s), with the latter being sufficiently competent and experienced to expediate the mentoring process. The specialist should be open to contribute towards the effective transfer of knowledge and expertise onto the organisation’s internal team. This ensures that the organisation’s core resources are engaged, onboarded and ready to take ownership of their future state modus operandi, even after the outsourced specialist support is no longer offered.

Technology comes last, possibly!

As I might have already emphasised in my previous articles in this series, lean business process management revolves around three important factors:

  • people,
  • methodology, and eventually,
  • technology.  

Without the right methodology being defined, and the proper skills held by core people to accomplish defined tasks, improvement can be somewhat limited.

Technology may be regarded as that component within the business process context that may be exploited (… a tough word, undeniably!) only once we have mastered the first two factors.

If technology is brought in, within a situation in which people are being utilised ineffectively, or if the process design and its methodology of execution is less than optimal, technology will at best, marginally assist at the facilitation of the performance, to at the worst, help an organisation generate waste… even faster! And this is not something we are after, of course!

Big or small, evolve

While evolution is a hefty challenge for businesses of all sizes, implementing it carefully is especially important for small but growing businesses. 

The bigger boys may generally be supported through their own extensive corporate backing structures. So let us primarily focus on those smaller businesses for the sake of this discussion.

Micro, small and medium sized organisations still need to evolve, progress and embark on some growth route for their own maintainability. Properly handled business changes should help them maintain progression in their flexible, sustainable and measurable systems development. It is inevitable that a small business growing at pace will need new arrangements and processes to keep moving forward, but while scaling up sounds racy in theory, in practice it can be a minefield.

Whilst dealing with clients seeking to understand the real meaning of adaptation, I generally remind them to bear in mind that wildlife teaches man an awful lot.  Creatures that evolved over time are the only beings that have proven to be the ultimate survivors. If a business owner is not geared to evolve in anticipation of upcoming change, business success may be jeopardised.

To this effect, measures that are most recommended and that I generally come round to discuss with clients undergoing some kind of lean transformation include the reduction of unnecessary process wastes through the consideration of different ways of doing things, introducing (even simple) changes to methodologies.

Other key aspects of the discussion generally evolve around identifying available capabilities, or sourcing, recruiting and maintaining competent staff, and promoting flexibility through encouraging multiple skill capabilities and cross-functionality amongst the general workforce. Of course, a vigilant dose of skill and capability specialisation cannot be ignored, where needed. Organisational re-thinking, role re-assignment, and re-design may also play a part of such a change process.

Automating voluminous and repetitive tasks that are generally expected to remain unchanged for a considerable number of activity repetitions, ought to be considered. This is where we start talking technology (engineering solutions, software, data and information technology applications, and the sort).

Approached correctly, lean business process management can help organisations adjust to the changes that rapid growth brings. By tackling the changes prudently, transformation is expected to contribute towards reducing costs, improving cashflows, and improving the overall company performance. 

One needs to keep in mind an appropriate degree of organisational flexibility, enable and create a route towards maintaining a leading edge over competitors in the market to secure endurance within an ever-changing, more demanding playing field.

A regular exercise

Whichever way one goes about it, reviewing one’s business processes on a regular basis ensures that these evolve in step with business growth, market shifts and demands. Having simplified systems and procedures makes it easier to ensure that things are done consistently, and that staff operates in an expected and consistent manner.

With any business process deployed, organisation leaders should keep in mind that the beauty of a start-up is its agility. At that level of operations, such ‘young’ and flexible entities can generally change, adapt, and evolve their business model, possibly overnight.  

Most, if not all, start-up cultures are in a position to implement efficient process changes to make growth manageable, striking opportunities, and manoeuvring themselves towards securing business success. 

As organisations grow, they tend to lose out on this responsive capability. Many get overburdened with extra weight that hinders such swiftness. Lethargy tends to take over, fast.

So, hang on to that ‘start-up’ agility within your organisation for as long as you possibly can.

At the end of the day, ignoring any waste generation activities that subtly tend to creep within your business will only encourage negative development.

Only systematic discovery and elimination of processing waste can in fact lead to and instigate a movement of improvement that ensures positive development. 

Ultimately, maximise on your output opportunities, and build on profitability growth. And that is, after all, one of the fundamental objectives that every business manager should be aiming for, securing shareholder interests, delivering value to clients/customers, being a motor towards the economy and securing the wellbeing of fellow employees, and him/herself.

And, by ensuring wasteless productivity operations and fulfilling your employees’ expectations as regards empowerment and process ownership, the organisation is effectively on the right track towards contributing to its ESG responsibilities.

Ing. Joseph Micallef is a freelance Consulting Advisor, bringing with him over 30 years’ worth of experience across various sectors. Working in areas related with quality, lean, business process transformation and project execution and programme management he can be contacted directly on m +356 9982 2244 or e: [email protected]

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