Balancing Efficiency & Quality for Your Customers

Balancing Efficiency & Quality for Your Customers

how to ensure quality in professional services

It’s easy to fall in love with efficiency. It promises big savings to those with the fortitude to see efficiency-saving measures through. Process Improvement is built on small, compounding efficiencies.

As easy as it is to get carried away, we must always balance efficiency with quality. The former is your perspective, the latter is your customer’s perspective. And the customer pays your mortgage. 

Cut processes too deeply, and you’re asking for trouble. It takes too long to process files, customer service suffers, and mistakes happen. 

The solution: build quality into the front end. It’s an integral part of Process Improvement, and it helps us negotiate the balance between cutting for efficiency and maintaining a top-notch product.

 

A Culture of Quality

You can improve your processes from the corner office, but it won’t last. To create sustainable change (and save some real money) you need buy-in from every desk and cubicle. Focusing on quality is low-hanging fruit for cultural change.

Focus on “efficiencies” in meetings, and people get scared. “Efficiencies” tend to mean job cuts. Tilt the conversation toward quality, and ears perk up because:

pros of quality professional services

A culture of quality will deputize every employee to ensure that everything they do represents the best of the company. Once they’re empowered to be stewards of quality, they’ll probably be more receptive to hearing about building efficiencies into daily processes. 

Remember that your workforce cares about the services they provide.The pride is already there, all you have to do is encourage them to actualize it. 

 

Mistake-Proofing Your Processes

Once a document or email with a missed detail or mistaken number goes out to a client, the damage is done. The science is in balancing efficiency with a culture of quality to get the best of both worlds. 

Mistake-proofing (poka-yoke in Japanese) is about catching mistakes early and empowering your employees to prevent them. It builds on the culture of quality that you remind people about every morning at your stand-up meeting.

It’s tempting to give employees instructions so clear that they can shut off their minds. Empowering them, and building that culture, is about asking them to check the numbers twice and use their intuition if something doesn’t add up. 

Everytime a file passes from one worker to the next, it freezes more of your cash into it. Catching mistakes earlier will help you retrieve that cash (by getting a sale instead of a bad review) at the other end. 

mistake proofing professional services

Every employee who touches a company file should be their own quality control. Don’t wait until the end; empower your team to spot mistakes or anything missed and fix them before they cost you another dime. 

 

“Quality is not an act, it is a habit.”

– Aristotle

How to Ensure Quality in Construction

How to Ensure Quality in Construction

how to ensure quality in construction hlh edmonton

Efficiency is a 2-sided sword. It’s easy to get infatuated with the bottom line improvements that process cuts offer, but it’s all for naught if your building’s quality suffers. 

Cut processes too deeply, and you’re asking for trouble. Workers start to cut corners to meet Foreman demands, who in turn is reflecting Head Office expectations. That can lead to Inspectors finding defects in the build which can lead to (very) costly reworks. 

The solution: build quality into the front end. It’s an integral part of Process Improvement and helps you negotiate the balance between cutting for efficiency and maintaining a top notch product.

 

 

A Culture of Quality

You can improve your processes from the corner office, but the improvements won’t last. To be sustainable (and save some real money) you need crew buy-in, and for that, you need to define a focus.

Focus on efficiencies in meetings and people get scared. Efficiencies means job cuts. Tilt the conversation to quality and ears perk up because:

A culture of quality will deputize every worker to ensure that everything they build represents the best of the company. Once they’re empowered to be stewarts of quality, they’ll probably be more receptive to hearing about efficiencies in processes. 

Remember that your workforce cares about the projects they work on. The pride is already there, all you have to do is encourage them to actualize it. 

 

Mistake-Proofing Your Processes

Once the Inspector comes around, all your money has gone into that project. It’s frozen into the floorboards and framing. Any defects that he or she finds, are going to come straight out of your bottom line and impede your ability to thaw out that cash.

Mistake-proofing (poka-yoke in Japanese), is about both catching defects early and empowering your workers to prevent them. It builds on the culture of Quality that you’re reminding people about every morning at your stand-up meeting.

It’s temptingly easy to give workers such clear instructions that they can shut off their minds. Empowering them, and building a Lean Culture, is about asking them to measure twice and take a second look at that angle before moving on. 

A 5 degree error is easy to fix at the time. But build upon it and that error amplifies, with each step forward being another profit-eating step backward later to fix it.

Every worker who touches your product should be their own Quality-Control. Don’t wait until the end; empower your team to spot defects and improve them before they cost you another dime. 

with without mistake proofing comparison hlh edmonton

The Balance of Quality

Ironically, efficiency often trumps quality when it comes to cost savings, even though quality defines the value of your product. Your customers, and the Inspector, don’t judge you on efficiency; they judge your quality.

 

“Inspection is too late. The quality, good or bad, is already in the product. Quality cannot be inspected into a product or service; it must be build into it.”

– W. Edwards Deming

Don’t Sacrifice Quality for Efficiency

Don’t Sacrifice Quality for Efficiency

Efficiency is a 2-sided sword. It’s easy to get infatuated with the bottom-line improvements that process cuts offer, but it’s all for naught if the quality of your product suffers. 

Cut processes too deeply, and quality is the first thing to take a hit. Poor-quality products cause a dangerous ripple effect through toxic word of mouth. 

The solution: build quality into your daily processes. It’s an integral part of Process Improvement and helps you negotiate the balance between cutting for efficiency and maintaining a top-notch product.

 

 

A Culture of Quality

You can improve your processes from the corner office, but the improvements won’t last. To be sustainable (and save some real money), you need workforce buy-in, and for that, you need to define a focus.

Focus on efficiencies in meetings, and people get scared. “Efficiencies” mean job cuts. Tilt the conversation to quality and ears perk up because:

A culture of quality will deputize every worker to ensure that every product sold represents the best of the company. Once they’re empowered to be stewards of quality, they’ll probably be more receptive to hearing about efficiencies in processes. 

 

Mistake-Proofing Your Processes

“Quality control” tends to happen once all the money has already gone into a product—at the end. The farther your defective product gets on the assembly line before it’s pulled, the more expensive that defect becomes.

Mistake-proofing (poka-yoke in Japanese), is about both catching defects early and empowering your workers to prevent them. It builds on the culture of quality that you’ll be reminding people about every morning at your stand-up meeting.

It’s tempting to give workers such clear instructions that they can shut off their minds. Empowering them, and building a Lean Culture, is about asking them to examine and think about the product through every step of the manufacturing workflow. 

Every worker who touches your product should be an extension of quality control. Don’t wait until the product is moments from being shipped; empower your team to spot defects and pull the product from the workflow before it costs you another dime. 

differences-poka-yoke-jidoka

Automated Detection

Jidoka, which complements poka-yoke, is for larger manufacturers who have moved to machines for a portion of their workflows. It works on the same principle.

While poka-yoke is empowering people to think beyond assembly by continually assessing quality, jidoka is programming your machinery to do the same. Whether it’s adding an extra measurement or testing durability, the machine checks and rings the alarm when it encounters any defects.

When a defect triggers the alarm, a person takes over. That’s why jidoka is also called “automation with a human touch.”

 

The Balance of Quality

Ironically, efficiency often trumps quality when it comes to cost savings, even though quality defines the value of your product. Your customers don’t judge you on efficiency; they judge you by how well your product does what you’ve promised. 

 

Quality means doing it right when no one is looking.

Henry Ford

Lean vs. Process Improvement: What’s the Difference?

Lean vs. Process Improvement: What’s the Difference?

The terms “Lean” and “Process Improvement” aren’t interchangeable. In fact, while they both seek bottom line savings, that’s where the similarities end. 

Here are some very broad strokes of what defines these tactics in relation to each other. Bottom line: their approaches feed off each other, and you’ll get better results with an integrated approach than a focus on one or the other.

 

Lean

This is the adaptable orthodoxy that started in manufacturing and has spread across industries. Its core focus is eliminating Kaizen (waste). 

Lean is an umbrella term for approaches to both cutting waste and (especially with manufacturing) increasing productivity.

Top-Down Approach

Eliminating waste is usually uncomfortable for front line workers. As such, the decision to “go lean” usually comes down from the corner office. 

If you’re a boss contemplating Lean, proceed with caution. It’s tempting (and easy) to cut waste by reducing staffing levels. You’ll get a short-lived bump to the bottom line and, for the next month or so, everything is roses.

But a top-down only approach is fraught with danger. Overworked staff will take unsafe short-cuts, grumble, break down morale, call in sick more often, and erode that cost savings in a host of other ways. 

Before you know it, you’re losing more money than you saved, and your staff are now resistant to Lean in general.

lean vs process improvement comparison table

Process Improvement

While Lean is a methodology, Process Improvement is a tactic. 

This focuses on the countless processes that happen daily in your business. It’s a proactive approach that investigates existing processes and improves upon them, often incrementally, in order to build efficiencies. 

When a process improvement is introduced, we all start out with the best of intentions. The key isn’t to stay excited about those great ideas—it’s to own them. Even after the novelty wears off.

Grassroots

You can’t improve processes without constant dialogue with the people who understand them best. That’s why the first step to Process Improvement is to get out of the office and onto the shop floor, to the front desk, or to the sites and ask your team what’s bugging them about how they do their jobs. 

This is grassroots. It’s listening to your staff about incremental, sustainable improvements. These aren’t the big cuts that come from staff changes; they’re small and meant to accumulate over time.

The side benefits of Process Improvement, which are often as valuable (or more) than the savings, are increased staff morale and engagement, as well as what you’ll learn from becoming more active in the trenches.

But this approach, done solo, is also dangerous. If the changes are all happening in a grassroots, decentralized way, they could end up actually adding costs to the bottom line. That’s why the “Lean big brother” needs to be monitoring and making the real financial decisions.

 

Better Together

Lean is a methodology of cutting waste with decisions coming from the boardroom. Process Improvement is a tactic of learning about how to make processes more efficient by talking to front line staff.

If cost savings were the diamond in the middle, these two are looking at it from totally different angles—but the common goal means they can work together to reduce waste without sacrificing morale, and improve processes without increasing costs.

 

“If you define the problem correctly, you almost have the solution.”

Steve Jobs

Creating a Change Team in Professional Services

Creating a Change Team in Professional Services

change team professional services hlh edmontonChange can come slowly to an office. Processes get ingrained, habits form, and the pressures of doing extra—on top of a long list of daily tasks—can quickly quell cooperation. 

Process Improvement can change the bottom line, but it needs to be systemic. Change that’s top-down tends to make deep changes that aren’t sustainable and fall apart when the momentum wears off. Morale often falls apart shortly thereafter.

System-wide change is bottom-up. It’s about everyone sharing the same vision and being committed to incremental change that is, above all, sustainable. You can’t force that—it has to come from your internal Change Team.

Here’s how to build that team.

best people process improvement professional hlh edmonton

Find Your Change Leaders

Small changes don’t happen by themselves, especially if they’re to be consistent. Your Change Leaders are the ones who, hour after hour, keep Process Improvement top of mind.

Your change team needs to be as all-in as you are. They need to be talking up the need to be nimble and efficient in the hallways, lunchrooms, and job sites. 

But how will you find them?

Think of your existing staff. They drive your company and know its inner workings better than anyone. 

Who are your most engaged employees? The ones already coming to you with ideas on how to do better. The ones who care, not because they have to, but because it’s their nature. 

Start with them. Then let them inspire others to the challenge.

 

Roles in Change Leadership

 

roles change leadershipPeople have unique strengths. Embrace them. Here are the roles your Change Leaders need to fill. Put them into the roles they’re passionate about and they’ll bring their daily A-game. 

Communicators: Don’t fool yourself – you’ll still have skeptics about this whole “Process Improvement thing” you’re up to. You need someone to not only share your vision, but articulate it with purpose when you’re not around. 

Advocates: Your skeptics will say they’ve heard this all before and swear it’ll fizzle soon enough. Change Leaders will need to be consistent about why change is vital and how to make it happen. Ideally, you’ll have an advocate at every step of your process.

Liaisons: Sustainable change is organizational. It affects employees and customers alike. No one likes surprises in business, so each group needs to be advised and guided through what is happening and how it benefits everyone. 

Coaches: Your team will need guidance and they’ll need to be challenged. Coaches do both. Coming from a peer, ongoing motivation is a powerful thing.

Resistance Managers: You’re going to get criticism. Rather than stifling it (which doesn’t end well), your Change Leaders can engage and respond constructively.

 

Empower Your Change Team

How many employees are driven every day to change your business for the better?  How many are doing the bare minimum until the end of their shift? And how many are somewhere in the middle? 

No one is going to be proactive about positive change unless you show them that the business is worth the investment of their energy. And that means investing in them first. 

Empowerment is a leap of faith. You need to give your employees the opportunity to contribute their perspective to the Process Improvement project. 

 

Not everyone will step up, and that’s normal. But give everyone the opportunity to be a part of a special initiative, and often your Change Team will come out of the woodwork organically. 

 

“Change is the law of life and those who look only to the past or present are sure to miss the future.”

 John F Kennedy

Creating a Change Team in Construction

Creating a Change Team in Construction

change team construction HLH edmonton

Staying profitable in the construction industry is about being able to adapt to change. Projects overrun, site conditions change, regulations close in: the businesses that stay nimble stay prosperous. 

Change management on a project-by-project scale is about building processes that both standardize best practices and anticipate changing conditions. Change management on a business-wide scale is no different.

To make your business more nimble and efficient, you need people to help you get there. You need a team dedicated to sustainable change.

 

 

creating a change team in construction

Find Your Change Leaders

Small changes don’t happen by themselves, especially if they’re to be consistent. Your Change Leaders are the ones who, hour after hour, keep Process Improvement top of mind.

Your change team needs to be as all-in as you are. They need to be talking up the need to be nimble and efficient in the hallways and lunchrooms and job sites. 

But how to find them?

Think of your existing staff. They drive your company and know its inner workings better than anyone. 

So think: Who are your most engaged employees? The ones already coming to you with ideas on how to do better. The ones who care, not because they have to, but because it’s their nature. 

Start with them. And let them inspire others to the challenge.

 

Roles in Change Leadership

 

roles change leadershipPeople have unique strengths. Embrace them. Here are the roles your Change Leaders need to fill. Put them into the roles they’re passionate about and they’ll bring their daily A-game. 

Communicators: Don’t fool yourself – you still have skeptics about this whole “Process Improvement thing” you’re up to. You need someone to not only share your vision, but articulate it with purpose when you’re not around. 

Advocates: Your skeptics will say they’ve heard this all before and swear it’ll fizzle soon enough. Change Leaders will need to be consistent about why change is vital and how to make it happen. Ideally, you’ll have an advocate at every step of your process—from the office, to the floor, to the trucks. 

Liaisons: Sustainable change is organizational. It affects employees and customers alike. No one likes surprises in business, so each group needs to be advised and guided through what is happening and how it benefits everyone. 

Coaches: Your team will need guidance and they’ll need to be challenged. Coaches do both. Coming from a peer, ongoing motivation is a powerful thing.

Resistance Managers: You’re going to get criticism. Rather than stifling it (which doesn’t end well), your Change Leaders can engage and respond constructively.

 

Empower Your Change Team

How many employees are driven every day to change your business for the better?  How many are doing the bare minimum until the end of their shift? And how many are somewhere in the middle? 

No one is going to be proactive about positive change unless you show them that the business is worth the investment of their energy. And that means investing in them first. 

Empowerment is a leap of faith. You need to give your employees the opportunity to contribute their perspective to the Process Improvement project. 

 

Not everyone will step up, and that’s normal. But give everyone the opportunity to be a part of a special initiative, and often your Change Team will come out of the woodwork organically. 

 

“Change is the law of life and those who look only to the past or present are sure to miss the future.”

 John F Kennedy