I was driving in to work this morning and I started thinking about all the days I dreaded going to work. I was so sick of it… the job, my boss, the people I worked with, the traffic… I would wake up angry every morning. I didn’t want to deal with the crap of the job, but I was forced to go. I had been homeless, I was broke, living paycheck to hopefully the next paycheck. I couldn’t take a day off for fear I would get fired. I was just frustrated. I thought I hated my life and the job.
It was so aggravating because God had placed all these dreams and hopes in my soul and mind and I had no idea how they were going to come to pass. To have a dream of being something better and living better than the way I was at that moment and to not see a way of getting there felt like death to me. I thought, “Dear God, why would you give me so much hope and not make a way?” But what I learned through prayer was, with no path in front of you and no road map… this is where true faith begins. With faith I realized that I wasn’t frustrated with my life or the job, I was frustrated because I was a person who had dreams for myself, a person who had visions for my life and I wasn’t living it. Have you ever been there, where you felt so strongly that there was more to this life than what you see in front of you?
Most people won’t be successful because they quite too easily. You will never be successful until you learn to deny
The most important thing is at any moment to be able to sacrifice what you are for what you want to be.
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Total Quality Management. Six Sigma. Eight Omega. ISO 9000. CMMI. BPMM. SCOR. The number of process improvement frameworks out there is staggering. Where does one begin? What should we believe? Is there a right way and a wrong way? To be sure, we should make a distinction between a framework and a methodology. While a framework provides a foundation typically designed to promote a standard operational architecture, a competitive advantage may only be derived by applying an improvement methodology that aims to distinguish one company’s processes from another.
Why improve in the first place? There’s typically a contingent of folks who believe the old saw, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But there are competitors out there, each a moving target, each determined to take customers away from you. Insurance companies face a particularly daunting problem: there is only so much room for price reduction. Unless you’re already a major player, growth strategies built entirely on price competition, especially in the personal lines markets, are largely opportunistic and ultimately difficult to sustain. Soft markets demand greater attention to the other side of the profit equation – cost cutting brought about by operational efficiencies is how the game must be played to ensure sustainable growth.
However, over time, the processes that drive excellent operations become written about and spoken about as examples of great ways to do business, and, as such, become codified as part of a larger body of “best practices” to which everyone has access As a result, the competitive advantage they once provided begins to erode as these “best practices” become relegated to the heap of industry standards – thus providing no advantage at all. To thwart this vicious cycle, it’s incumbent upon good competitors to continuously evaluate and improve their operations in order to preserve the competitive advantage that truly excellent operations provide.
WHERE DO WE BEGIN?
So I’ll assume that you accept the notion that there’s a place for continuous improvement, that by itself, it’s not simply a buzzword or a faddish management mandate and that, sure, I’ve got your attention. But where to begin? Organizations can be terribly complex; a typical insurance company manages dozens of operational processes, all important, and all designed to influence the efficiency and effectiveness with which work gets done. There may be hundreds of staff members impacted by a single operational change, and technology – often millions of Naira worth of investment – to consider as well.
To be sure, I’m not advocating an all-at-once assault on the way things are done in an organization; those initiatives often fall flat, take too long and cost far more than anyone anticipates. At the end of the day, the benefit derived is simply not worth the effort (just ask those involved in business process reengineering initiatives in the mid-90s). What I am advocating, however, is the proliferation of a culture of continuous improvement – a workforce committed to monitoring and improving the way they perform their work.
So we’ve set up the thesis: (a) there are many approaches to process improvement; (b) there is a viable argument for undertaking a program of continuous improvement; and (c) given the complexity of most organizations, most folks don’t know where to start. Fair enough? Given this, there are four important “big picture” items that must be in place in advance of an effective business process improvement effort. They are: