Aim to perform through continuous improvement

Have you bumbled your way through most of the year, believing that what you have always done will continue to serve you well in future? If so, it’s time to reflect on the challenge facing most business owners in the current economic climate: adapt or face extinction.

In a bid to stave off the worst and to adapt to a rapidly changing world, as the speed of change continues to accelerate, more and more businesses are trying to take incremental steps towards greater achievement or focussing on a mind-set of continuous improvement (CI) to ensure their long term sustainability.

Here are a few tips to help you create a working environment in which improvements are made regularly as you strive towards your business goals. It does not have to entail massive change; for you it may mean consistently aiming for improved performance and taking the steps needed to get there.

Keep the whole picture in mind

It makes sense to support your employees in such a way that it makes them better able to focus and deliver on their workplace tasks. This means getting involved and helping them to live better, healthier and more balanced lives. Organisations that take this approach are seeing drastic reductions in absenteeism as well as improved business results.

Empower your people

Help your employees to effectively develop a wide range of skills. Then take this one step further by creating an environment in which your employees can then apply these skills to the benefit of the business. It doesn’t mean learning something new every day, it means gathering skills over time to allow them to perform better at their jobs.

By delegating and handing over the responsibility for projects and tasks, you will be making the best use of everyone’s time and skill. The impact is certain to be positive. Moving away from a bureaucratic system will also mean that you and your team can react better and faster to change, competitive threats, as well as new ideas and opportunities.

High level objectives should be set with your business strategy in mind. But if the above steps are followed, your employees will now be enabled, encouraged and required to define how they can best contribute to these goals.

Engage your customers

Considering the vast amount of information easily accessible via the internet and the ability of news to go viral on social media, many companies have realised that it is time to strategically pursue people engagement as a competitive advantage. For that reason, businesses on the cutting edge of innovation are using social media as a key tool.

Aim to retain

Many companies have been burnt by flawed traditional recruitment strategies and are now turning to a more practical approach for getting the best candidates on board. There is also an intentional shift away from monetary reward systems to establishing reward systems that deliver benefits that employees truly value and that makes them want to stay with their employing companies – developing employee loyalty that cannot be “bought”.

Collaborate

Collaborate with your key suppliers and leverage your partnerships. There is plenty of value waiting to be unlocked in your supply chain, something that many businesses forget about. A great strategy is to identify partners who target the same or similar customers as you and who are willing to refer their clients on to you and vice versa.

If you target start-up businesses, you may form a referral relationship with a legal firm that also specialises in this arena. After your “partners” are done helping the new business owner with the necessary legal matters, they can refer them to you for marketing assistance. And you in turn can pass them on to further down the value chain, perhaps to a recruitment agent.

In view of the above possibilities, how far are you on your continuous improvement journey? Are you a trendsetter and excelling in your industry? Or are you lagging behind, thereby delaying the pursuit of continuous improvement? Don’t delay or you may just find your business wasting away in 2014. Ultimately the choice is yours – to continuously improve or become extinct.

Johann Koegelenberg is co-founder of Adapt To Change (www.AdaptToChange.co.za). He has extensive experience in operations management, quality, supply chain and continuous improvement and has a strong financial background.