|Posted on May 7, 2010 at 12:08 PM|
External pressures like recessions, new competition or new regulations force you to look at your products or services and the processes used to deliver them. You move into improvement and change mode because there is no choice.
But when things are going well, the external world isn’t knocking hard on your door and no one in the company seems to be complaining, it is so easy to sit back, smile and enjoy. That is certainly understandable and maybe, for just a short period of time, a necessary rest period for the organization.
Do not rest for long! You have been given a unique and precious opportunity to examine your business, to do what I call the Reality Review.
What is this?
A Reality Review is a brutally honest assessment of the current state of your business or some piece of it. Here’s a sampling of the questions for a review:
For a key business process:
A Reality Review can also take a look at your people management, performance management and leadership strengths and weaknesses.
The point is to take the stance that good can always be better. In fact it is often also true that good can hide pockets of bad.
Why do a Reality Review?
Beyond assuming that you want to know what is working and what is not, here’s a list of reasons that all have bottom line impact:
How do you do it?
You can and should gather some statistics. I would certainly want them as part of the overall picture. But too many organizations get buried in the “data trap”, arguing about which data should be collected and what the results of the data collection are actually saying.
More importantly, statistics are a passive review. A true reality review requires something far more active. Consider:
You, or a small project team needs to get out there, live it, see it and experience your processes as your people do and your products and services as your customers do.
An active review does not have to take a lot of time, though it does require some planning to ensure the time used is effective in discovering the reality of your process, service or product.
A side benefit to this active observation and review is that you will discover data points to track that will end up making your statistics much more meaningful in future. A quick story to illustrate…
A few years ago I worked on a project that was focused on streamlining system interactions for several hundred customer service assistants across the country. The project team spent time sitting in regional offices getting a first-hand view of how the existing systems were used. While in these offices every team member watched the computer network go down unexpectedly, often several times a day. Input data was sometimes lost and the interruption time to restart and get back on track was several minutes. There were no help desk statistics to show this was an issue. People had given up calling to report something that no one seemed to do anything about anyway. The project team put some simple code into the new system they were delivering to track when the system did not close cleanly and were able, over just a few weeks, to statistically prove the network problem. The problem did get fixed and tracking was put in place to ensure the systems really were available and reliable on an ongoing basis.
Make Reality Reviews a part of your culture
You do not have to wait for down time to do a Reality Review. Every project has the opportunity to embed active observation into its work. Not only will the results of that project be improved, you will continually find areas for improvement.
You will build leadership credibility. Your people will feel like they are really being listened to and consulted about the direction of the company.
No one should bury an organization in constant change and knowing when to act on improvement opportunities is key. But go ahead and be the restless leader. The one who can take pleasure and pride in what has been accomplished while still looking for opportunities to further grow organizational capability.