Evolution or revolution: which approach is the best?

Nigel Reaney, CEO of LMAC


Disrupters are all around us. Uber, Space X, Deliveroo, they are all breaking with conventional thinking. In this digital age, it can sometimes feel as if another massive breakthrough is just around the corner and, that if we get caught napping, our business could be threatened.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is currently the hot topic and it will certainly revolutionise particular industries in the coming years. All organisations across all industries should watch this space very closely to understand what AI can do now and what it is on the cusp of achieving. Then we have Industry 4.0, which incorporates AI with other concepts, such as big data, increased automation, system integration, the Internet of Things (IoT) and so on. All of these concepts focus on making processes quicker, more reliable and cheaper than our current human processes. Elon Musk has recently admitted that he got things wrong with over-automation of his Tesla 3 production lines, and humans have been drafted back in to meet desperately needed production targets. Well done Elon for pushing the boundaries and providing everyone else with a valuable lesson.

So, the issue really comes down to humans versus machines in some form or another, and this is where we currently see a significant issue for most businesses – what is the current trade off for valuable CAPEX and internal resource right now? And what if things don’t work out as hoped? After all, despite decades of productivity improvement initiatives, including TQM, Lean, Six Sigma, and so on, wasteful and broken processes are all around us. In some cases, we see poorly thought-out and poorly executed change initiatives as a direct cause of this. Instead of reducing problems, they can be exchanged for a whole new set of problems – take TSB as a recent example. Not that major change should be avoided, that would only result in a slow death rather than a quick one, so the challenge for any organisation across any industry is in establishing these three simple things: why, what and how. All too often, we see organisations trying to change the wrong things in the wrong way and, in the wrong priority.

A fresh set of eyes

 
We believe the first step is to understand just how effective and efficient your current human processes are. In our experience, 40% human efficiency is a common finding, sometimes less in certain industries. In many cases, this can either be attributed to broken processes, broken workforce, or both. This doesn’t provide a very good baseline to make major technology change decisions upon and it can lead to a “silver bullet” solution temptation. LMAC’s philosophy is that new technology needs to be embraced whilst maintaining focus upon the fact that an organisation’s people are its only appreciating asset. Now is the time to challenge just how efficient those assets are.

To do this effectively, an organisation needs a fresh set of eyes from the outside. Why? Because those within an organisation become accepting of the complexities that cause inefficiencies within their organisation, it’s human nature and that’s one thing that can’t be overcome. As a business, LMAC have an advantage in this respect. Not only do we engage with many different organisations, we also span many industries. We’re often told that we need to understand why we can’t apply manufacturing techniques in a different industry – we understand this, after all, manufacturing is just 30% of our industry coverage. What we also understand very well is that this is often an excuse not to try new approaches that are already proven and are working very well for the competition. To overcome this apprehension of new approaches, we at LMAC use our case studies together with strong scientific reason to paint a vivid picture of how a new way of doing things will work and succeed. We believe firmly that any organisation can succeed with a revolutionary step change if it has some key ingredients in place. The first is a strong operational strategy (not to be confused with business level strategy).

Most problems begin with the operational strategy, as often there is a cavernous divide between what the organisation needs and what is being done. The key issues we find are:

    • The organisation’s strategy suffers from a silo development approach. Each division interprets what their priorities are to meet the business need.
    • Divisions fail to support other areas of the business effectively because they have their own initiatives to complete.
    • Many initiatives are “nice to haves” and are not properly qualified against the business objectives. This leads to many things being started but executed poorly.
    • The workload that comes with strategic improvement is underestimated and clashes with daily demands of running the business. This is especially so when other departments are required to support. If it’s not their priority, then deadlines are missed.
    • The call for urgency is often lacking and people are not engaged. Organisations often just hope that people will step up and make things happen without a clear “how” of making this a certainty.

At LMAC we have developed our approach to address these issues over decades of learning and experience. We provide a conduit fast-track for those organisations that need to change and improve quickly.

Further information
www.lmacuk.co.uk