Article précédentLinks for 01/02/2009
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Are organizations trying to push their limits or to please their indicators ?

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Whatever the period is, whatever the company’s context is, the goal is to do better. Many projects are launched, what can be changes is changed, sometimes it’s sucessful, sometimes not. Whatever, people will soon have to start over, either for fixing what didn’t work or to improve one more time what’s been improved.

Must we think that managers are doomed to endlessly face the Sisyphus myth or would there be a mean to focus on what really works.


First of all it could be useful to define what “better” means. For some it would be a qualitative notion, for some others it would be to do more, or with less resources, just when other people would focus on the way their team work. So “better” means a wide range of things.

As for the fact people have to always start over new projects in order to do “better” or “more”, I think it’s something that won’t change. Since the word permanently changes it’s obvious that any solution that works at a given time will be outdated one day or they other. The search fort “better” is not a goal in itself but rather an ongoing process. Those who are interested in this question may have a look at Deming‘s work.

That said, distinguish projects that worked from projects that failed is not that easy. First, before a project can be successful (cost, quality, deadline) without having any impact on the organization and its performance. There are also projects that have a positive impact which is the unexpected side effect of a failde project (remeber 3M’s Post It…) or a lucky idea implemented locally without any macro consideration.

If every project’s purpose is to improve what exists, it’s important to know what has to be improved, since everything can be improved provided enough time and money are available. So the common attitude is to try to improve everything that can be. Decision makers have a wide range of options at their disposal, starting from consultancy, organizational change to the acquiring of new machines, new technologies, in which they have to chose what to do. Most of time, due to the presure of having quick results, they chose what will bring the most visible results for the fewer costs, which is not often a good solution.

Exampple : a small investment allows to raise a machine’s capacity. It could be done in a short time without any impact on the organization nor on people. Very quickly an higher production and, mechanically, a drop in cost prive will be shown. So things are “better”. Now imagine, this machine already had too much capacity, that’s to say the market didn’t need its whole production. So the only impact of the improvement are the fact more stocks are produced or not to use the added capacity you just invested in.

Another example : a manager notices a part of his team in not very busy. Horrified to support useless people on is  budget, it decides to put them at work. To he assignes some of them peripheral and useless tasks, some others are given a new mission that is not that usefull but that will keep them occupied. And then since they have time, he asks them an higher level of reporting. Now imagine (sure…it’s something that never happen in any company) they are not fully occupied because they are only a step in a process and the people in charge on the previous step don’t produce enough or as quickly because of any reason. The manager’s decision doesn’t have any impact on the final result, they don’t create any value. Worse, perhaps those people will be overwhelmed when they’ll be needed for something really useful, when things will come back to a normal situation.

In both case the same mistake was made : the improvement didn’t impact something that what a limit. It may look appallingly trite but any improvement that impact something that is not a limit in a system doesn’t have any impact on the overall performance.

Now, how many times when trying to decide anything, to launch any kind of projets, issues thare are not related to any limit appears in the discussions and prevent people for adressing what is a true limit ?

In these times when all companies try to improve the way they work, does either their focus or objections point at the right things ?

In other words, according to you, what are the true limits in our organizations ? Things that, if they are fixed, will really bring an added performance compared to those that won’t change a thing.

indicateurs, Management, organisation

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Head of Employee and Client Experience @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler

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