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Batteries Not Included

There’s nothing worse than waking up on Christmas morning, opening a shiny new toy but finding that you’re unable to play with it because your parents forgot to buy batteries for it?

Customers, supplier and managers are no different – they hate surprises. Customers want to know what they’ve purchased, when they’re going to get it, and how they’re going to use it. Any unexpected need for additional items leads to lower satisfaction.

Managers, Executives and Shareholders want to know the business forecast so that they can make the right investments in resources and deals. Deviating too far from the projections will cause heads to roll!

Suppliers and business partners also want predictability. This enables them to do their work or produce their goods on time and on budget; rush jobs, delays and rework all add unnecessary cost.

Preventing surprises means being able to do the same or similar activities in a repeatable manner such that the outcome is predictable. It doesn’t have to always be the same – stuff happens – just predictable. This predictability also has to be retained as the company grows, markets change or personnel rotate; It has to be sustainable.

Predictability, repeatability and sustainability all come from having a common approach or method to work performed, and supplying rapid access to the same information about the customer, product or market. The difference between having these capabilities and using these things is accountability.

A balance must also be struck between drivng consistent and repeatable work behaviors, and tolerating enough flexibility to allow the innovation that drives continual improvement. This requires a focus on what is produced rather than how it gets produced. Unfortunately all too often managers focus on the tasks and activities rather than the results.

My final point is to note that, just as batteries eventually run out and die, so do process improvement initiatives. New batteries must be installed – or at least recharged – at regular intervals in order to keep the machine operating well – unless it has a Permanent Means of Operating (PMO). Funny how that acronym keeps coming up in the context of sustainable results.

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