Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Fine tuning and adjusting a business in the face of change 6: local and business-wide issues and challenges, and prioritizing within and across them

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on September 20, 2012

This is my sixth installment in a series on fine tuning and adjusting a business in the face of changing opportunity and need (see Business Strategy and Operations – 2, postings 303 and loosely following for parts 1-5.) In Part 5 I focused on developing a continuous quality improvement committee approach to this and on getting the right people from throughout the organization involved in the process of collecting, organizing and prioritizing change possibilities. And one of the core challenges I addressed there, and certainly for businesses with widely distributed offices and other physical plant facilities, was in adequately representing the whole organization in this effort. And I pick up on that discussion here in this posting, and with the crowd and crowd sourcing as a mechanism for generating suggestions and insight.

The crowd and crowd sourcing have become buzz words and catch phrases so I would begin here by noting a few crucial details that would have to go into any effective implementation of this approach:

• The crowd is only an effective source of insight and choice when it can be heard, and when someone is listening who can select out the messages that rise to the top for possible action. In this situation, the listeners who would collect and select insights from crowd insight and determine which ones do rise to the top for active consideration comprise the continuous quality improvement committee as its members.
• The crowd can also be a useful source of insight as to who should be on this committee, and certainly as transient members, brought in for their topically pertinent hands-on expertise and their capabilities and interest in doing this form of work.
• Standing committee members and current more transiently included members would look at where the ideas and insights coming in are coming from. And the better presented and the higher the priority and importance of an idea or insight offered, the better a choice its source would be for serving on this committee, and at least while their issue was being addressed.
• And initially transient committee members, brought in for their specific expertise on one issue who prove themselves of general ongoing value to this committee effort, would then be considered for candidacy as long term, standing members of the committee, and certainly when there are vacancies to be filled or if a decision is made to expand the committee core.
• (Note that I am only considering the internal to the business crowd of its employees here, for this posting.)

And this brings me to the point I explicitly noted at the end of Part 5 as the focus of discussion for this series installment: consideration of local and business-wide issues and challenges, and prioritizing within and across them for committee review and action.

• Some issues that arise as potential points of beneficial change in a business would only have local impact, for example affecting one satellite office and its functioning, and be geographically constrained. These issues would run the spectrum of importance and impact for that single facility from minor and only offering slight and special-case improvement, to affecting the overall functionality of the entire facility.
• Some issues would arise that affect and involve operational processes throughout the organization as a whole and for many or even all of its offices and physical plant facilities. But once again, they would run a spectrum of range and significance of impact with some offering minor potential benefit for a specialized and only occasionally carried out function, and some crucial to day to day activities that are always carried out.
• Some, I add, would impact on online and cloud-based work processes and those, by definition would be considered as having impact global to the organization.
• And cutting across these issues of geographic and functional locality, some would and some would not significantly impact on how the business offers value to its marketplace and on how cost-effectively it does so. And some of them might be important for creating or maintaining unique sources of value that sets the business apart from its competition.

These criteria would determine which issues would be considered for action, and with what priorities. And in most cases priority would be placed on cost-effectively maintaining or improving competitive strength. In that, both direct expenses and returns stemming from a proposed change and its more indirect costs/benefits (e.g. any risk management considerations) would all be taken into account in determining significance and priority, and how much could be effectively expended in making a change and have it still be worthwhile.

So far in this series I have constrained discussion to only consider quality improvement as coming from insight sourced from within the organization and from its internal crowd. I am going to add in the external crowd in my next series installment. And feedback and insight from supply chain partner businesses can be as important in that as insight from the consumer and end-user marketplace. After discussing those issues, I will consider the special but increasingly important challenges and opportunities of managing quality improvement while going through a merger or acquisition. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at Business Strategy and Operations – 2 (and also see Business Strategy and Operations.)

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