A customer throwing tantrums, an investor not happy with the returns, a manager not happy with the output, a child not happy with the food served on her plate and so on are commonplace. How can we make our life better? We need to bring down dissatisfaction, convert satisfaction into delight, reduce costs, prevent wastage, crash cycle times; no doubt, life gets better.
Nearly 3 decades ago, Motorola wanted to make six sigma products. And 2 decades ago, GE made it a religion in the company. Then, a lot of companies have refocused their drive towards excellence on some of these possibilities. They have rebranded their quality programs, invested a huge amount of mindshare and management attention on measuring current behaviours and results, set targets for improving those results. Leaders have gotten themselves oriented on some of these statistical methods that they learned in their colleges and universities long ago. Workbooks and training programs have been plenty to disseminate the knowledge. Many people have been trained all around the world on the techniques to define a problem, measure current performance, analyse them, go deep into the stated problem to find out what is really critical to the desired state and what actions should be taken to improve. And finally they put a few measures to control the process in such a way that the results stay on the desired course.
The steps seem very logical. There are many brains in any institution who can easily master the steps and the statistical tools required to measure and recommend improvement in their state of affairs. However, not always, life gets better! These are large change management initiatives; they need a lot of attention from the senior leaders in the organisation and they need to personally drive the change. Organisation culture has to facilitate continuous improvement; adequate efforts are to be deployed to make sure that concerned actors are encouraged to challenge the status quo and think of ways to improve them. There could be a flood of ideas and then, the senior leaders need to prioritise the actions which have the potential to produce the highest impact. Else, there would be a lot of action but the needle will not move forward.
So, in summary, it’s firstly the humility to learn and change; secondly, it’s the way life is lived everyday where there is a continuous zest to raise the bar; and last, but not the least, personal involvement of seniors in making sure that the right lever is chosen and pressed consistently. It’s not so much the tools but the spirit behind them which determine if customer is delighted, the food served is tasty, the investments are yielding good results!