A well-oiled machine

One of the businesses with which I started working last year had a management system than was humming…not like a well-oiled machine, sadly, more like a rotting fish. They had a lot of the right components in place to have their operations purring like a cat, but they had problems keeping all their management review and communication processes “joined up”. Management review and communication is Pillar One of Flintloque’s “Five Pillars of Quality” TM for a reason!

Usually a gap analysis of the existing methods of review and communication provides a good indication of the general health of the existing management system, but in this case, it wasn’t really the gap analysis that provided the information; it was the process of trying to do the analysis. The interviews with the management team were made difficult due to them having what I refer to as “leaky management pipework”; the components of a review and communication system are in place, but all the joints aren’t tight, with the result that the system “leaks”.

In short, their problems could be summarised as: no specific start finish times for their meetings, no agendas, no SMART targets being set, and no records of actions agreed at each meeting. I went through this short list with the CEO and her senior management team, asking them what problems they thought might occur given the absences identified above. To their credit, they all identified myriad problems that they could envisage and pointed out that most of them were within their regular experience. We then discussed what could be done to solve these problems.

What was pleasing was that they knew the answers. Why was this pleasing? Well, it meant that they knew what to do to solve their own problems, but there must be something “blocking the pipes! In such a situation, my job becomes facilitator rather than the trainer and whilst I love helping people to learn, it is good every now and again to help managers build the processes that solve their problems rather than have to convince them that they have a problem in the first place. The first step on the road to a solution is the recognition that there is a problem.

So, in short order, we agreed which meetings were to occur and when they were going to start and finish, guaranteeing that “non-leaky” management pipework was in place. Then, we agreed the broad agendas that were required to ensure that the right parts of the management system were being reviewed at regular intervals and that communication flowed freely. We established the principles of generating SMART targets (Flintloque uses, Specific, Measurable, Agreed, Realistic and Time-limited for targets) and producing short minutes of meetings for each attendee.

Straightforward, obvious stuff, but the results were great. Gone was their dread of meetings that last “forever”, of meetings that become rambling, talking-shops with no planning and agreed actions, and gone was the problem of people retaining different memories of the same meeting. The CEO was pleased as punch and her senior managers felt in much greater control of their departments. The operation now hums like a well-oiled machine rather than a dead fish. The bottom line is that productivity has gone up (the CEO says it’s because the personnel are better motivated) and late deliveries and customer complaints have gone down. There are other changes being made to complete the implementation of a Flintloque Management System, but the above is a pretty good start.