Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Company Growth Through Customer Focus

What is growth? Growth can be defined as the process of increasing in physical size. For years companies have focused on growth through sales, new-product launch, and advertising their product features against competitors. Companies have even gone as far as a reduction in headcount or eliminating incentive and/or benefit programs to ensure growth. With fierce competition and the drive to make products/services better and less expensive companies continue to drive down cost to keep customers buying from them vs. the competition. However, companies can only cut the product/service margins to a certain point.
With the growing number of large corporate retail chains and numerous online sources to buy the same product from at the same price, how do you keep customers coming back to buy from you? This idea can be applied to retail, service centers, healthcare, and the food industry.
The company I work for is aware of this challenge and has decided to switch gears and move their entire focus around the customer. They realize that prices can only drop so low therefore; they must find other ways to keep the competitive edge. The vision is to not only make the customer 100% satisfied with our products but more importantly, the service we offer. With the idea in mind that the more satisfied customers are with your service (including price of your products), the more likely they are to continue to do business with you.
The Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award Criteria puts a strong emphasis around customer focus. It brings light to something that for years many companies have ignored…the customer. Without customers a company cannot exist. Should companies put more of a focus around customers? Also, are customers willing to pay more for products or services from a company with a greater focus around customer satisfaction?

-K Janowiecki

Monday, November 22, 2010

Focus on Worst Practices!?!?

Throughout this semester we have been focusing extensively on the Malcolm Baldrige Quality award which awards companies that have best practices and maintain the highest quality.

There was an interesting article posted last week on from the Harvard Business Review titled “Why You Should Focus on ‘Worst Practices’” which really caught my attention. The overall view of the article was stated “If you want to be disruptive, don’t start with best practices. Try, instead, find your industry’s worst practices and take tiny steps – or better yet, giant leaps – towards bettering them.”

The article itself raises an interesting question of whether or not we should focus on the worst practices, instead of the best practices. Most companies tend to make statements or highlight their best practices to show how successful or forward thinking that the organization is. Umair believes that to become more successful a company must identify worst practices and then bettering them to form the basis of a disruptive competitive position.

Umair gives four great tips in identifying worst practices:

To find the worst practices in an organization the person must first, ask critics, whether they be competitors, upper management, or in a manufacturing environment, the operators that work on the floor and struggle with daily tasks due to the worst practices currently in place. He states “Your critics are worth about five hundred times their weight in management consultants, consultants, pundits, and assorted beancounters”, and I couldn’t agree more! From my experience when attacking an area in industry the people that work with the products and struggle with the way a line was set up or engineered are always the hardest critics, but they usually have very ingenious ideas to solve the problems.

The second way to find and identify worst practices is to spend a day in the trenches. Look at the process or problems that someone is experiencing, and experience it yourself. In theory a process might look great on paper, but to actually perform that process might be quite different when it comes to applying it to daily duties.

Third, is examine the past. Some processes at one time were best practices and became worst practices...what happened? Look at old files, talk to people who started the processes, look at what has changed to the process. For a best practice to become a worst practice, something must have changed for it to happen. Find the root cause to fully understand the problem and fix it. After it has been fixed, control it so it does not happen again. There is no reason to continue to reinvent the wheel...

Finally, he has a section titled “Diet on your own dog food”. This was by far the most interesting of the article due to the economic crisis that the world economy has experienced over the past few years. He states if “you make it, you use it – exclusively”. If everyone who made the products that they produced were forced to use them, would some of them be designed, processed, and manufactured differently?

Overall it’s a great article, and it does pose the question, focus on worst practices?

Your thoughts…