Tuesday 24 January 2012

How organisations improve

Why improving what we do is not enough
There are organizations which are cursed with the culture of IMPROVING WHAT WE DO.  Of course, we all have to always be actively engaged in improving what we do. The virtue becomes a curse where the culture of IMPROVING WHAT WE DO  is a tagged by the culture of NOT INVENTED HERE. Not being willing to receive ideas from outside, closing our minds to opportunities and proposals because they are introduced to us by someone outside our circle, this is a summing up of the NOT INVENTED HERE mindset.
I know of an organization which has been active in its field for just over 60 years. A  certain group of people joined the organization at a moment of great change in the late 1980’s and several of them have lodged themselves in positions where they exercise a power which is disproportionate to their level of seniority.
At the moment in question, more than 20 years ago, the organization was a market  leader   and a point of reference for all competitors as well as being a firm favourite with its customers. During this time, this group of people have dedicated themselves to improving what the organization does and they are now doing those things much better than ever before.
Yet this group of well intentioned staffers have actually been undermining the organization and bringing its continuity into question. There are several reasons:
What made the organization so successful 20 years ago was that it was offering services which none of its competitors had the human capital to implement.  However, competitors have trained their staff or brought in external expertise and the organization has lost its unique character which is what gave it its competitive advantage.
Many of the features which made the organization a leader 20 years ago are not actually current in the sector concerned, so, by concentrating on IMPROVING WHAT WE DO, these workers have perfected a range of products/services which are obsolete. It’s as if they have made a perfect manual washing apparatus. They love it but nobody wants it.
The staff as a whole is becoming disenchanted and morale is through the floor. Productivity is declining and with it the index of customer satisfaction. The IMPROVING WHAT WE DO  has driven away talented staff who were open to innovation and has stifled the initiatives of those were ready to bring in those necessary changes when they joined the organization.
Lastly, the staffers have been so busy IMPROVING WHAT WE DO  that they have had no time or inclination to take a look around at the changing nature of their market and they are simply not now able to offer the services which their competitors offer: the situation has now gone into reverse, and this organization has a human capital deficit which requires urgent attention with external expertise.
When a virtue is contaminated by a vice, there is little hope for an organization, and the following formula is a recipe for disaster:
IMPROVING WHAT WE DO + NOT INVENTED HERE. Simply doing what we do better is not enough.

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