In my last discussion I focused on language and definitions as they relate to the business world and the importance of ensuring that everyone on the team is working from the same definitions. This is critical to the success of your team’s initiatives and meeting their objectives. These sound like they should be simple factors and that these factors have been the topics for countless training programs, books, articles, even organizations are built around these concepts and methods. I guess the simple fact is that this foundation of understanding and the shared vision and mission is an extremely tough proposition, to paraphrase an old saying – if it was easy, everyone would be doing it.
In this installment I will present my thoughts and suggestions why this is such a challenging topic. I suggest that there are just a few reasons why this seemly simple objective is so elusive:
- Sometimes in order to gain acceptance by leadership they must believe that they have uncovered a new method!
- The training, speaking engagement, book fields are extremely lucrative and ‘new concepts’ sell!
- As a bookend to my first point above, sometimes people have not heard of the practice, at least consciously, and truly believe it is new.
Let me start with the second point. First off, I know it is cynical, but I still believe it’s a logical explanation for the phenomenon. It also allows for at least a hint of intelligence in developing these ‘new’ programs.
The first and third points are essentially opposite sides of the same coin. While people will argue that their programs are all different because they have modified or added steps to the process, the bottom line is that they are working with the same program and rather than ‘tan’ they decide to call it ‘khaki’!
So based on an admittedly cynical evaluation of various programs and methods I can’t help but to come to the above conclusions. This has been going on for as long as I can remember and every time the cycle turns, and especially with new technology and toolsets, a brand new crop of ‘new’ methods and concepts are ‘discovered’ to explain why its different this time around. In fact I think one of the most honest is the simplest to understand ‘continuous improvement’. This method I think was one of the key foundational methods to provide background and inspiration for the vast majority of new methods.
So let me walk through a few examples – Lean Six Sigma at its basic levels is a continuous improvement program with a couple of new, or renamed, steps and a whole lot of formal terms. Business Process Improvements is another example of an extended continuous improvement program, the new point in this method is the introduction of the process maps. Business Process Improvement methods is a little more honest, I think, because they do call out the fact that at its heart is a continuous improvement method.
These are just a couple of the more important methods and I know there are many examples of this same type of practice with many, if not all, of the generally accepted business methodologies. I come back to an early observation I had in the supply chain. I always wonder if there are really only a limited number of ways to be successful in supply chain management, or if there are only a limited number of consultants that bring the same concepts from client to client?
Now for the audience participation portion of this program……
What are your favorite examples of business methods or concepts that have at their base the same foundational concept? Have you noticed a timeline involved in these ‘new’ methods?