The current crisis that the world finds itself in certainly makes us all think a bit deeper than usual. During 2001, in my MBA studies, I wrote the following:
Organisations in South Africa used to be quite safe, and operated in a fairly predictable environment, before the political transformation of 1994. Many industries were protected by government regulations. Since the transformation, South Africa has, however, been forced into a jungle of international competition. Restructuring, improved business processes ,and enhanced customer service have become the order of the day. In this new environment, the scenario of “only the fittest will survive” becomes the order of the day. The problem for South Africa was and is, however, that neither management nor employees were prepared for this change. Suddenly, transformation, business processes re-engineering, increased productivity, and effectiveness became daily buzzwords.
We now find ourselves in a totally different kind of a jungle – one of isolation and social distancing. The situation that we are facing right now is described by some as the gravest kind. As business people we do (and we should), however, realise that over a period of a few decades, there will inevitably be major challenges to overcome. This surely then tells us that we should be prepared for such inevitable challenges, and we should not operate within a horizon of short-term goals.
When I first studied the impact of the 20 Keys programme almost 20 years ago, I realised then how the holistic nature of the 20 Keys programme would support companies who are willing to take a long-term view. Many single-focused initiatives, although useful in themselves, lack the lateral support necessary to achieve long-term, sustainable business success. The 20 Keys programme attempts to integrate all initiatives, in order to create a solid platform to operate from. Once you have a solid platform to operate from, your ability to adapt to a changing environment becomes far more sustainable. The ability to adapt will ultimately predict future success.
Over the last two decades of facilitating and consulting on Continuous Improvement, I would often refer to the fact that a real world-class company will have the ability to start manufacturing or producing a product or service totally different to what they did just a month before. All of a sudden, we see it happening all around us. Examples include:
- Going from selling swimwear, to delivering fresh produce.
- From manufacturing household appliances, to suddenly producing ventilators; changes that would normally require months of preparation,
Hardly a day goes by where one does not see the innovative abilities of companies.
The 5-Level benchmarking system of the 20 Keys programme gives any company a clear insight into where they find themselves. At any given time, it will pinpoint the strengths of a company’s foundation, and what they should strive to do going forward. The higher a company’s score is, the easier it will be for them to adapt to changes. The 5 Levels are briefly described as follows:
|Level 1||This level of organisation performance is characterised by very traditional, “old style” thinking.|
|Level 2||In level 2 organisations, thinking has changed, and improvement efforts are under way|
|Level 3||Positive results are being achieved, with significant improvements in motivation, productivity, quality, cost, and speed of delivery.|
|Level 4||Organisation-wide teamwork is required to move to this level. In addition, the company usually needs to introduce new technology. The company adds value through all of its activities.|
|Level 5||At this level, companies are highly flexible, reliable, innovative, productive, and competitive. They are able to continuously improve themselves.|
LONG-TERM SUSTAINABLE SUCCESS
Over the years, I have heard people say that the 20 Keys programme is too big to manage. This certainly is not the case, if your view includes long-term, sustainable success. Within the 20 Keys programme, there is a time for quick wins, and a time for building a long-term foundation. The long-term view relies on a company getting all the basic things right; those things we know we should be doing, but often neglect, while also spending time on innovation and quick wins. We see again now that nothing is more important than building a strong foundation for lasting success.
When I reflect on the holistic nature of the 20 Keys programme, it reminds me of Stephen Covey’s Time Management matrix. The 20 Keys open our eyes to the important “management” quadrant, where the actions that are Important but not Urgent lie.
One only needs to look at the essence of the 20 Keys programme, to realise that it speaks to the heart of survival for any organisation. The aims and objectives are to:
- Achieve the strategic goals of the business.
- Improve the speed of learning and innovation of the business and improve the productivity and flexibility of the organisation, to adapt more readily to changing market requirements.
- Eliminate all forms of waste (non-value adding activities), to improve customer satisfaction and market share, by making products and services better, faster, and cheaper.
- Energise and motivate employees to work towards achievement of the goals of the business
- Improve competitiveness, profitability, and long-term sustainable business success
At ODI, we have taken this time of isolation to reflect again on what is important. It is easy to list the many urgent things, and to let that distract you from what is important.
We encourage all businesses to focus on the long-term; to build a foundation in your company that will stand you in good stead during the good and the bad times.
Author: Huibie Jones: MD at ODI
Over the period of its existence ODI has successfully implemented continuous business improvement principles in a wide variety of industries. We have developed a systematic improvement framework for a number of clients, to guide their improvement drive globally, using examples relevant to their industry and company, and also using the clients’ look and feel. To read more about ODI’s Continuous Operations Improvement System, click here.