No pain – no gain?

Unless you are naturally well organised or meticulous from the start, becoming process focused is key to creating a low stress working environment. I am increasingly being asked by growing companies to help them organise their processes. It’s not that they want external accreditation or that they don’t know what they are doing or how best to do it, but new staff working in a different way, conflict with a customer or supplier or demands for copies of policies that they never imagined they’d need suddenly start eating into their time and making life very stressful.

Getting organised and having a framework is crucial to reducing stress. An efficient, working system is important in order to survive in the current economic climate. Using any of the well-known quality standards or models, whether it’s ISO9000, Business Excellence Model or another business model, will provide structure to the processes. They have been developed and refined over years, if not decades, through practical application by organisations both large and small.

Starting with the business plan and using it to set targets – financial, sales, people, markets, growth and then building the processes to support those targets helps to identify what is important to the business and the direction that you want to take it. Using the standards or models as the framework raises questions that may change your view on how you deal with certain aspects of the business, or strengthen areas that are currently weak. ISO9004 (the guidance document to IS09001) suggests both active and passive ways of collecting customers’ satisfaction information to improve performance, such as customer surveys, product feedback, contract requirements, market needs, service delivery data, competitor analysis. The Business Excellence Model suggests looking at non-financial as well as financial outcomes for measuring performance, such as market share, time to market, volume and success rates.

Not everything is relevant to every business and most companies are doing some of these things but in an ad hoc way. You don’t need to be preparing for formal assessment to apply the principles of quality systems. The point is, they make you step outside your working world and look at ways to improve your efficiency. Getting there might be a painful time but at the end of the day it should create a less stressful environment, where people understand how the company works and everyone is pulling in the same direction. And, as the company grows, all that hard work could be channelled into achieving formal recognition to ISO9000; an incredibly powerful marketing tool!

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