Solving Problems is good; not having problems in the first place is better
There is an old joke about two campers wakened in the middle of the night by a large bear tearing up their camp and tent. Knowing that their lives were on the line, one camper jumped up and quickly put on his running shoes. The second camper looked on incredulously and said “Why are you doing that? You can’t out run a full-grown bear!”
The other camper continued lacing his shoes, and said “I’m not trying to out run the bear. I just want to out run you.”
In this segment, we will look at the final prevention profile that is beyond “fixing” and “maintaining”. This profile is simply called “Prevention” but it has been alternately described as continuous improvement. Prevention is defined as “causing something not to happen.”
Part 3: Using “Prevention”, turn your business from a mosh pit into ballet
An organization focused on “Prevention” executive-level emphasis on prevention. Prevention is seen as a key contributor to lower costs, higher profits, orderly work environments, customer satisfaction and employee pride and commitment. Improving upon processes is seen as a way to protect against yet-unknown challenges that the marketplace may throw at the organization.
Work processes are clear, requirements are followed and improvements are searched out
Improvements are driven by specialists (engineers; marketing researchers) and by the people involved in doing the work. The nature of work process improvement driven by specialists is usually a “step function” or a breakthrough. Improvement that comes from workers is incremental but often more frequent. Both are valuable, and both are encouraged in this Profile.
Measurement is done before, during and after
Measurement on the process is done on an on-going basis. The measurements will take place as work input is received (input metrics), while the work is being done (in-process metrics) and final output metrics (output measures). Customer inputs are sought out through the process looking for potential improvements or advantages. Continuous process improvement becomes a significant driving force. All errors, waste and inefficiency are seen as unacceptable.
Training is regarded as vital to continued success
Systematic formal training, on-going coaching and long term mentorship are done across the organization. People not only know what is to be done, but why it is being done. This offers an opportunity for personal accountability, a high level of independence and mastery of the work being done.
Management is very attentive
Quality and continuous improvement are discussed daily, in both formal and informal ways. Measurements are shared openly with employees. Senior management interest in continuous improvement shows it to be a top management priority.
Problems are prevented and Processes are improved
Problems are rare. If they do occur, they are seen as an opportunity to learn more about the work process and a way to incorporate new knowledge in to the existing work process. The few and rare problems that exist reflect a low cost associated with error, waste and inefficiency. Higher productivity, employee commitment and development and customer satisfaction are additional benefits of continuous improvement.
Organizations that work on process definition, measurement, training, management attention and problem levels can migrate into the “Prevention” profile. This is the high ground in the battle for more customers, greater profits and brand recognition.
We’ve looked at three Profiles for organizations: Fixing, Maintaining and Preventing. Each profile has a recognizable set of characteristics that follow along with it. And each profile has costs and benefits associated with it. Only when an organization focuses on the last profile, Prevention, is it going to lower costs, increase productivity, encourage employee pride and commitment and win market share
Put in other terms, Prevention will let you out run your competitor. Leave them to the bear.
(Note: The pioneering work of Philip B. Crosby is the basis for the Prevention Profile.)