We've just got one of those electric doors put on our garage at home, and one of things I had to organise was an electrician to wire up the door and some lighting. The very different responses I got from two electricians raised some parallels to the different process improvement outcomes we see across our client base and beyond.
I got two quotes, as you do, both for more than expected, also as usual with home projects. One was almost $1000, the second was a no-quote. He wanted to talk to me first. I was about to take the first quote and just get the job done when I called the second sparky. I was curious, and it was lucky I did call him. He had checked my power mains box, he felt it was close to overloaded, and in checking it, uncovered a problem that indicated the whole of our downstairs power sockets were putting my family at risk. He recommended we rewire the power mains at the same time, at a cost of $4,000. He wasn't keen on the job otherwise.
Of course he got the job.
The learnings and parallels I picked up from this experience:
- Technically quote 1 delivered on my request. I would have had power and lighting delivered to my garage, nothing worse everywhere else. Many organisations go through the motions of process improvement, ticking the boxes they always have, producing the same results they always have, at a manageable cost.
- Critical weaknesses and significant opportunities for improvement? They can be ignored amongst the noise of doing the everyday jobs. If they are left to be spotted reactively, it could be after a crisis.
- Standing up to decision makers isn't necessarily confrontational, it can be as simple as expressing the right way to do things, the benefits of doing so, and the consequences of not. And it takes a bit of guts, knowing the right time to put your foot down.
- Empowered, skilled, knowledgeable, confident people are worth gold. Innovation is nothing special to them, it's just how they work.
Process improvement is not a cost centre. Too many organisations fail to look beyond compliance and audits, missing out on opportunities that can transform their business.