When you think about your company, what do you see? Maybe a manufacturing plant or a series of them. A hospital or clinic. A network of distribution hubs. Call centers. Maybe a collection of branch offices or stores. People working in offices or from home or remote locations. We tend to most easily see the tangible aspects of our business. These are the anchors of your performance chain, your physical assets. They can and do change over time – and that is a very good thing.
The intangible aspects of performance chains are equally important, but often harder to imagine and can easily be overlooked. Policies, work rules, communications and hierarchy, to name just a few, drive the ins and outs. Without them, people sit idle. Machines rust. Production stops.
Through our individual educations, we are conditioned to be problem-solvers. Business amplifies this orientation through localized accountabilities. Our instinct is to act. We see a glitch or a problem, and we rush to correct it. That desire to solve is admirable, and even helpful, but often masks the real source of the issue and very often will create another – maybe more troublesome – glitch down the line.
In the most challenging cases, you create dueling solutions or waste valuable resources as each functional area points to others as the source of the problem. Think about the organizational squabbles you may have faced, for example, between those responsible for driving demand (typically sales and marketing) and those responsible for producing and distributing solutions while holding down costs (typically supply and manufacturing or service delivery).
If there are improvements to be made – and there almost always are – taking a full performance chain view allows you to have the greatest impact with your limited resources. Think of it this way: See the whole. Mine the meaningful.
‘See the whole’ means exactly that: when you want to drive peak performance, top-line revenue and bottom-line profit, the best possible customer experience – resist the temptation to act before you’ve got a clear, full view and options for improvement. Once you have that, mine the most meaningful actions to get performance on a better path. Corrective actions can and should be decentralized or localized to those closest to the work. Setting a performance chain context helps them learn and appreciate their contributions to the overall flow and creation of customer value.
Ask yourself these key questions—the answers will allow you to start on a path to improved performance:
- What actions cause your inputs and outputs to flow?
- What actions get in the way, cause flow to bog down or stop completely? These actions may be human – or behavioral. They very likely are also designed into your equipment and the way your physical system works.
- Do you know where your performance chain is truly strong and where it needs some improvement?
- Are you confident that all your investments contribute to solving your customers’ needs – without waste?