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Identifying and Acting Upon the Elusive “Critical Few”

Process improvement consultants often talk about the importance of focusing your efforts on the critical few—those 3-4 things that, as a business, you can (or can’t) live without. Everyone agrees that process improvement is necessary; but the process utilized to determine how, when, and what needs improving is a stickier issue.

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Do you base your analysis on benchmarking? Institutional knowledge? Tea leaves? All of the above? In many cases, employees are expected to come up with a short- and long-term strategic plan during a two day offsite marathon with the aforementioned process improvement consultants who often save little time for benchmarking (or tea leaves for that matter). And, to compound matters, the issues (too-quickly) identified during the accelerated strategic planning session might be adopted by management and your office held accountable for producing those results.

 

I’m sure that methodologies employed by process improvement consultants are very impactful in certain environments, but requiring staff to learn these methodologies, particularly in a short time frame, may not be as productive. In the career offices I’ve been affiliated with, the issue has not been recognizing the “critical few,” the issue has been how to address those items and make improvements.

 

What’s your take? Are we better off learning Kaizen and/or other forms of process improvement methodologies? Or could that time be better spent benchmarking against competitors, assessing productivity gaps, and implementing changes?

 

Shawn Graham is Director of MBA Career Services at the University of Pittsburgh and author of Courting Your Career: Match Yourself with the Perfect Job (www.courtingyourcareer.com).

 

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