Developing a Strategy at the Awakening Stage
(Part 1of 3)
Step 1: ASSESS
The awakening firm has spent time trying to stabilize their processes often with limited success. They have well entrenched processes but often these are processes of convenience and “the way we’ve always done it” rather than from good design. These firms are frustrated with the status quo and want to get a breakthrough.
A critical factor to keep in mind is that moving through this stage is best done with the guidance of an external expert. It is too early to invest in full time resources within the firm and an external expert while expensive will be cheaper than the mediocre results that can be expected from the wrong hire. Bear in mind you probably have never hired a quality improvement expert and wouldn’t yet know what exactly you are looking for. Frankly, you will need an entrepreneurial external expert who understands your business development stage. This is a rare thing!
As with the entrepreneurial firm, here we want to ensure your innovation and forward thinking is protected while capitalizing on improvements in your customer focused processes.
How are your customer facing processes performing year over year?
Excellent, above average, mediocre, below average, worse? Any process not rating an “above average” score as measured by your customer must become a priority improvement target.
How will you know?
Again, the best way is to ask your customer. At this stage I highly recommend a simple customer evaluation be conducted on at least a quarterly basis. It need not be onerous and complicated. Just ensure it is unbiased and accurate. You will also want to review your customer complaints, rejects, claims, online reviews, and customer facing employee comments.
What are the priority opportunities?
Create a priority list as inputs into the next section
What problem solving method will you use?
At the awakening stage we undoubtedly have an over reliance on band aid reactionary problem solving. Now is the time to make a decision to incorporate a more sophisticated problem solving approach.
My recommendation is to embrace the Lean Kaizen approach. This problem solving method utilizes a powerful and effective plan - do - check - act loop rather than the three step model introduced in the entrepreneurial level strategy post. This model is easy for frontline employees to understand and contribute to while being so effective that professional problem solvers swear by it. I highly recommend that training in this approach be integrated into your continuous improvement strategy.
How effective is your leadership?
Yes! we ask this question at every stage. In this case we want to know a few things;
Are your leaders embracing the challenge of learning and growing? If not they will soon be a potential liability.
Are your leaders demonstrating leadership in that they are facilitating problem solving and integrating it into the culture. If they are not, your continuous improvement strategy will stall out at this stage and not progress.
Remember that leaders are the change agents that either help a strategy succeed or cause it to wither and fail.
I ask again, how effective is your leadership?
Once you've done the assessment, advance to Step #2 PLAN.
If you' re ready to begin building your continuous improvement strategy, we're here to help. Schedule your complementary STRATEGY SESSION and together we will design a plan that fits your unique business.
Dr. Ron Hurst
Avid cyclist, dog lover, life long learner, enthusiastic problem seeker. My life's work is to challenge leaders like you to grow your abilities to create empowering, positive, high performing workplaces.
Developing Leaders Inc.
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