VOL. 13 March ISSUE YEAR 2012
in Vol. 13 - March Issue - Year 2012
Change? But everything’s fine
Suppose you came upon a man in the woods, working to saw down a tree. He is exhausted from working for hours. You suggest he could take a break to sharpen the saw, as it will help the work go faster. He replies, "I don’t have time to sharpen the saw! I’m busy sawing!"
People and companies who don’t take time out to "sharpen the saw" – to take a step back and review the way they work – may not be well placed to deal with change when it occurs. Indeed, Abraham Lincoln famously said, "Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe."
This is really about working "smarter, not harder". Of course, you might say "if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it". It’s too easy to spend your time planning and thinking and not enough time producing anything; that’s no good either. An appropriate middle ground needs to be found in order to pursue excellence. Too much or too little planning detracts from this effort.
While many different aspects contribute to the success of a company, they can be distilled into distinct categories. For time-pressed companies, asking a simple question focused on each of these elements will help to stimulate ideas and anticipate change both in the short-term and the long-term. Some areas to consider include:
People: what if... a member of staff leaves the company? Having an interim plan in place to handle their workload, and a succession plan to deal with the situation more permanently, will help the company react to the change without disrupting productivity.
Financial: what if... sales drop? There needs to be robust financial contingencies in place to ensure that the company can continue to operate efficiently and effectively in the short-term to allow time to consider the next steps for the ongoing stability of the business.
Customer: what if... customer complaints go up? In an ever-changing world, customer expectations of excellence also move with the times. Keeping in regular contact with your customers to ensure you understand and anticipate their needs will help the company adapt quickly and pursue excellence for their customers.
There are many more areas to consider, however asking "what if..." is a good start to pursuing excellence through increased flexibility and openness to change. Don’t make life hard on yourself by working harder; take a moment to sharpen your saw.
The Aerospace Example
Nadcap is a great example of a whole industry taking the collective decision to work smarter, not harder: prior to 1990, major aerospace prime contractors audited their own suppliers, which was a time-consuming and expensive exercise. It was also ultimately unnecessary because they were all doing it, leading to duplication of effort with no associated added value.
In 1989, the US government met with several key aerospace organisations to determine how this could be done better. The result was Nadcap – an audit and accreditation program managed by the aerospace industry as a collaborative oversight tool, conducting audits on their behalf and reporting the results to them for approval. Since its inauguration, Nadcap has grown and demonstrated its value not only to the prime contractors and US government who initiated it, but to the global industry, including the supply chain. The last global aerospace supplier surveys found that 83% reported that Nadcap had helped to improve their quality, while 60% believed that it helped to improve standardization, 15% that it helped to improve productivity, and 14% that it helped to reduce waste. At the same time, 54% reported that Nadcap helped to increase sales and/or attract new business.
Learn more about Nadcap at: www.pri-network.org/Nadcap/