Posts Tagged ‘Efficiency’

Effectiveness, value then efficiency

December 10, 2013

All of us have a responsibility for achieving more with less. To be more efficient, we experiment to see what works for customers, what nearly works and what does not work.

Organizations should start by studying themselves as systems. Once their leaders understand how their system helps employees to fulfill their mission or not, they think and work differently. They start their efficiency improvement cycles by developing their management system to drive their processes through the walls of silos to focus on customers. Then they can focus on improving the system to deliver what customers value.

Given an environment that supports such thinking, together with our colleagues, we start the experiment by studying customer demand, what customers’ value and waste. We may then set ourselves a hypothesis to test the best way to satisfy value demand and reduce failure demand. We carefully work to our new or updated procedure to see if it is effective. We try again until successful. We institutionalize the successful new process so others in the system can depend on it. This also enables us to improve efficiency further with another cycle of improvement.

Improvement often starts by eliminating the local causes of problems from a process. Perhaps by mistake-proofing the riskiest processes too. But, after several improvement cycles, we find the wider system has the greatest impact, both adverse and beneficial, on our process. System-wide impacts come from other processes in the system. These impacts include the shared organizational beliefs (or culture) that leaders reinforce or weaken with their processes.

When the continual improvement cycle is effective it continues to make the system and its processes more efficient. The speed of this investment should be a result of the calculation of risk and reward on behalf of investors who share the mission for customer value. The management system should deliver the information needed for these risk-reward decisions from the data collected on what customers’ value.

Conformity is necessary for effectiveness and predictable effectiveness is necessary for delivering value and improving efficiency. Predictable outcomes are a mark of effective processes and systems. “Luck” best describes an organization happening to fulfill a requirement with an unknown process or system.

Start by understanding your organization as a system. How does it help your organization to fulfill your mission? What are the leadership processes? Be prepared to think and work differently. Start your efficiency improvement cycles by developing your management system so it is process-based leaving no silos. Then focus on improving your system and its processes to deliver what your current and future customers value.

Sustainable Efficiency

October 8, 2013

“Designed in California and Made in China” or “Designed in Cambridge and Made in China”.

What do these source declarations reveal? Do they show the companies optimized their inputs for sustainable outcomes to create stakeholder success?

Efficiency can be shortsighted and remorseless. Since the 1980s, developed economies have exported jobs to take advantage of much lower wages. Outsourcing to factories based thousands of miles from customers in the name of efficiency. Considering only the wage costs and the transportation costs can result in half-baked decisions to offshore manufacturing.

What could go wrong? Chasing efficiency with incomplete reasoning is not true efficiency. Sustainable efficiency is much more complicated. Sustainable organizations work to ensure their business networks to address the needs of all stakeholders.

The Raspberry Pi Foundation soon found their costs were higher than they had hoped. Their shoestring venture had to make and sell 10,000 computers at $50 each before ordering another 10,000 units. So many units had failed to meet requirements that the Foundation had to pay for quality control oversight in China to get computers as designed. Nonconformity costs had threatened to sink the fledgling venture.

The Cambridge-based Foundation went back to the drawing board to continue their reasoning and costing including the nonconformity costs. They then opened a Raspberry Pi factory in Britain. Run by Sony, British workers are expertly baking these tiny educational computers in Wales.

The Foundation has now sold 1.75 million basic little computers but it cannot stop improving. The educational computer outstrips the computing and programming skills of their teachers. Many of whom have not ventured far beyond their tablets or packaged software programs.

By engaging more stakeholders to understand their needs, we may see a sustainable future for the Raspberry Pi enthusing future engineers of computers, software and the web. Moreover, failing to recognize and meet stakeholder requirements the first time will probably decrease overall efficiency.