Who is responsible for improving the business?
By PJ Stevens
So who is responsible for improving the business... your business?
Firstly, lets agree there is a difference between the profession of Business Improvement – and the related skills and knowledge – versus improving business. I will specifically pay these BI (business Improvement) professionals attention in the article, but lets consider the wider responsibility for business improvement.
I believe that business improvement is too important, too valuable to be left in the hands of the few people with the topic written on their email signatures. In a business, there may be several individuals or teams responsible for business improvement and its delivery, depending on the size and structure of the organisation.
Lets consider some of the common roles and responsibilities for improving business, and the part they play, these include:
The top leaders of the organisation are responsible for setting the strategic direction and priorities of the business, including identifying areas for improvement and allocating resources to support those efforts. Peter Drucker’s triangle ‘Strategy-Culture- Leadership’ defines a clear link with leadership and strategy. Leaders need to communicate the strategy (Mission & Vision) and engage people, there greatest asset, in it.
Business improvement teams:
Many organisations have dedicated teams or departments focused on business improvement, continuous improvement, such as Lean Six Sigma or process improvement teams. These teams are responsible for identifying opportunities for improvement, conducting analyses and implementing changes to improve efficiency and effectiveness. These teams most usually include skilled and qualified improvement experts who collectively seek opportunities for improvement and may ‘coach’ other departments and project teams in delivering improvement.
Operations and functional teams:
The individuals or teams responsible for the day-to-day operations of the business are often involved in identifying areas for improvement and implementing changes to improve performance. This could include teams responsible for sales, customer service, manufacturing or other functional areas. These teams may act on their own initiatives, or work with business improvement teams to seek to improve the process of process improvement.
In reality, all employees have a role to play in driving business improvement, if they want to take it. By identifying opportunities for improvement in their own work processes and suggesting changes, employees can contribute to a culture of continuous improvement and help drive positive change throughout the organisation. If (all) employees sought to improve things, by just a fraction, the cumulative value and impact for themselves, customers and the business, could be significant. This might include a tidier work place, less waste, improved performance or simply an even better place to work.
Ultimately I believe business improvement is a shared responsibility, and the success of any improvement initiative depends on the collaboration and engagement of all stakeholders in the organisation.
Finally, as per Druckers model, the third part of the triangle is Culture. Assuming the business has a clearly defined strategy, is well lead, where everyone knows their roles, goals and purpose, then its Culture that often defines success and failure.
It is very worthwhile checking in with the organisation to see whether it has a culture that supports and enables business improvement, problem solving and empowers people to change? I have seen many businesses that think that they a culture of collaboration, for example, which promotes and enables team work, improvement and change, only to find they do not. Culture needs attention before improvements in other areas can be made with any real impact.
The notion of collaboration is often misunderstood. It exists on many websites, values lists and internal communications. But to work together effectively, to share openly, to challenge and problem solve in a truly collaborative way takes investment, trust and time. Making a couple of cups of tea collaboratively is a world apart from improving or transforming a business.
Business Improvement is a culture, a way of being, and we all play our part in identifying it, understanding and delivering it. Easier said than done, perhaps, but get it right and your organisation will elevate peoples thinking and behaviours, improve customer service, profits and develop its competitive advantage.
Business improvement is so much more than two words.
About the author
PJ Stevens is an expert in organisational change, performance and improvement, with 20 years experience. He is chair of the business improvement network.
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