One of 12Faces's goals is to provide clients with training materials which facilitate rapid and simple implementation of various activities that are intended to improve the profitability and productivity of the business. In order to achieve this, we have developed a standard process and recommend a range of tools that you are likely to use over and over again.
One of our training design philosophies is not to repeat the same material in many different articles.
This is one of the faults in a book. Of necessity with its linear format, books repeat a lot of material you may already know.
Instead, we have adopted a "hyperlinking" strategy.
We put material that is widely referred to in many articles into just one, specialist, article. We then link to that specialist article from whatever material you happen to be reading. If you already know the topic that the link connects to, there is no need for you to read it again.
If you don't know that topic, you can click on the link and go to the article to study the material before coming back to your original article and continuing forward.
The Plan Do Check Act (PDCA) Cycle is a productivity and quality tool. It was developed, originally, in the Japanese automotive industry to undertake Projects that were, by their nature, one off activities. They needed some method of routinely executing Projects effectively and efficiently.
You can read more on the PDCA Cycle here.
We use the PDCA Cycle in our training materials because every introduction of a new management technique can benefit from the same Cycle.
Unless, and until, you use a method like the PDCA Cycle, many of your Projects will deviate from what they were intended to do.
The outcomes may therefore be different from what you hoped. Many disorganised Projects do not have a clear completion and therefore cannot be readily evaluated for their contribution to the business.
By introducing the PDCA Cycle for the training materials, each training Project will have a very clear sequence and a very measurable set of outcomes.
You can base a well informed decision about what to do at the end of the Project on the results that have been forthcoming.
The first step in any Plan stage of the PDCA Cycle is to set Goals for the Project.
Without clear cut goals, you lack a "road map" to what your final destination is.
Once you have a goal, you have a clear destination. You can then fill in all tasks that are necessary to reach that clear destination.
12Faces has training materials on the setting of SMART goals.
Go to the article: Goal Setting
Any Project is made up of a number of tasks. Presumably, all of these tasks need to be done and sometimes they need to be done in a particular order. It is therefore common for Projects to have different priorities starting with the highest.
It is also very common for people to become overwhelmed by the number of tasks to be done and have trouble separating them into some sort of logical sequence.
Many techniques have evolved for this purpose and some of them are referred to in our Planning section.
Go to the following articles for further reading:
Kanban: Work Flow Tool
Critical Chain Project Management (CCPM)
Agile / Scrum / Kanban
Another problem with Projects is that people try to do many things at once. This is called multi-tasking.
It is sometimes considered to be a good thing but in reality is almost invariably a bad thing.
Go to the article: Multitasking Tool
In order to control the negative impact of multitasking, such techniques as Kanban have been developed. It forces a discipline of only working on a few, high priority, things at any one time. Kanbans are a very well established and proven way of managing Projects efficiently.
As you work through our materials, there will be times where you have to make decisions on complex matters.
1. You may have a number of candidate solutions to solving a need but the range of decision criteria is vast and no one product is the obvious choice.
If you think about all the decision factors you have to juggle when buying a car or a house, you will be experiencing examples of this problem.
You may require off the shelf software for your Project and there is an extensive choice. Each will have various strengths and weaknesses for your particular Project. Trying to make a decision on which one to use, from this complex matrix of strengths and weaknesses, can be very challenging.
We provide some guidelines to techniques that might allow you to successfully manage these complex decisions.
Go to the article: Weights and Scores Prioritising Techniques
2. In the course of implementing the training, or as part of the Project you are working on, you may come across problems with an unknown or unclear cause.
For example, when you increase the price of your service, the results may not be what you expected and you have to try to separate a number of possible causes into the most probable causes.
This will allow you to address any adverse impacts over the pricing change.
One of the common techniques for such problem clarification is the 5 Whys Problem Solving Technique.
It is probably intuitively clear to you that a large proportion of the outcome of any activity is done fairly quickly, easily and cheaply. But the last few things you have to do can take disproportionately long and be disproportionately expensive. This is the Pareto Principle also known as the 80/20 Principle.
Effectively, it says that 80% of the success of the Project is contributed by 20% of the tasks in the Project.
Conversely, 80% of the resources consumed in the Project (people, time and money) are consumed by 20% of the tasks.
Clearly, if one can focus on doing that 20% that has 80% of the impact, that will lead to the fastest solution with the least expenditure of time and other resources.
12Faces is a great fan of the 80/20 Principle and has a number of articles on the general principle and its specific application to various aspects of business operation like (e.g.) Sales.
We do encourage you to read about the 80/20 Principle for your own professional enlightenment if you are not already familiar with it.
Go to the: 80/20 Rule Menu
For those of you with a more classical business education, an economist refers to this 80/20 phenomenon as the Diminishing Marginal Return on Investment or similar.
This indicates that as you get towards the end of things that have to be done, any change tends to have less and less incremental impact.
You probably have a very clear mental impression of an hour glass. It is 2 containers that hold sand connected by a narrow bottleneck. You may not have thought about it, but it is immediately clear that whatever you do with your hour glass, it is not going to run any faster than the bottleneck will allow it.
Exactly the same phenomena will occur at many points in your business. There will be activities, or Project stages, or People that are the limiting factor on the activity of that area.
No matter what productivity changes you make elsewhere, until you have optimised the productivity of the constraint, you will see little or no improvement in the productivity of the entire activity.
This also applies to our training processes. There are comparatively few areas in the full implementation of a training Project that are "mission critical" bottlenecks. These control the rate at which the entire Project can be implemented and so should get your strong attention.
An Israeli Physics Professor, Eliyahu Goldratt, introduced this concept as the Theory of Constraints.
We discuss it and use it widely in 12Faces.
Go to the article: Theory of Constraints (TOC) Menu
Whenever you introduce change into an operating business there are a whole range of issues to consider in order to get that change widely accepted and properly implemented in your organisation.
The "science" of this is called Change Management.
Go to the article: Change Management for Profit
It is not possible for us to advise which of your systems need to change but you will need to give consideration to, at least, the following:
You should give some consideration to the skills that are going to be required to implement the changes you have in mind.
These fall loosely into 2 groups, leadership and implementation.
For any new Project to work, it will require leadership to survive and to be successfully and permanently installed. Leadership starts at the top of the organization and may have to work down several supervisory layers till it gets to one or more Team leaders charged with the responsibility of getting the change to work.
If you are the most senior leader Project leader in your organisation, you need to give thought to:
- Who those Team leaders are going to be.
- What, if any, additional skills and support they are going to need.
- How to clearly express to them the nature of the Project.
- How you will be monitoring the implementation.
With respect to the implementation, you may have staff within your organisation who have the necessary skills and time to implement the changes.
There are pluses and minuses to using existing staff:
- It will reduce the availability of those resources elsewhere. You need to be careful that you are not having a negative impact elsewhere in your organisation while you aim for a positive impact in the area of the Project.
- It is very much human nature, once you are in a particular "groove", to be hard to get out of that groove and into a new one. You are going to need to find staff who are going to move out of their "comfort zone" and implement the Project.
- Related to that is the fact that the rest of the organisation may not see much benefit in assisting the Project or even worse, might actively oppose it as it imposes on their traditional "turf".
For this reason, many organisations spawn a separate group that undertakes major projects.
This is out of the normal chain of command and reports directly to the Leader of the organisation so as to get the necessary support.
Such concepts have various names but possibly the best known in management circles is "Skunk Works". There have been famous examples of remarkable results from such Teams.
If you don't have internal staff to do a task, or it is a comparatively short term task and you don't want to gear up internally to manage it, you may seek to find an outside expert. This immediately brings in superior skill sets. It also means that the expert can be let go at the end of the Project and/or be dismissed in the course of the Project if they are not doing a good job. That is much harder to do with salaried staff.
For this reason, our sister business Backstop was formed to be an outside source of reputable experts to facilitate any short term Projects that you are doing in your business.
12Faces has the philosophy that the role of leadership is to drive a wedge into a big cloud of uncertainty and turn it into a system.
Depending on the nature of your business, you may have documented guidelines on how to undertake certain activities. if so, when a new Project has proven to be successful, it will be necessary to update the system documentation accordingly.
Systems documentation often seems like a bit of a laborious and time wasting exercise. In its defence, consider (e.g.);
- if you want to sell the business some time in the future, buyers can be reassured that they can continue when you can provide manuals for critical steps.
- when the owner/operator is trying to get out of the day to day execution in the business so that they can work "on" their business rather than "in" their business, manuals will allow others to do the boss's job while the boss can feel fairly comfortable that "best practice" will continue without them being actively involved
- other people can execute the system reliably without the stress of working with the uncertainty that leadership does.
Increasingly, businesses are "buying software off the shelf" to get high quality software comparatively cheaply and with all the principal bugs removed.
If this is the case with your proposed Project, there will be a stage of selecting and implementing the systems software and settling it down so that it can be used by staff.
You may not have that sort of expertise within your organisation because you may not need it on a day to day basis. A good alternative would be to hire an outside specialist just for the software implementation and configuration phase and possibly the training of your existing staff.
Our sister business, Backstop, is designed to help you find such experts.
If your system is moving into new areas and/or has new modes of operation, you should consider updating your monitoring systems.
This will allow you to keep an eye on how the change is tracking while you are undertaking the Project and after you have adopted it and put it in the mainstream of your organisation.
There are a number of software packages available that help you visualise the impact your Project changes are making on your business.
12Faces has several "Boards" that provide you with a Dashboard of Trends within your business. Workflow changes and Sales for example.
Regular loading of your data to one of the 12Faces Boards provides you with a rapid monitoring system for affected changes within your business.
As mentioned at the start of this article, we will frequently refer to these types of problems and their solutions throughout our training materials.
We will link to other training resources within the training module and our central library of relevant "Tools" that you can apply widely.
It would be to your advantage to have a general understanding of many of these techniques so that you can apply them throughout your business as appropriate.
12Faces places high importance on what we call the "Toolkit". These are skills that will help any manager execute their job faster and more productively.
Because we encourage their widespread use, the Toolkits are available to any registered user of 12Faces, no matter what part of 12Faces you happen to be visiting.
Go to the Profit Growth Toolkit Category