- Written by Ronald van Haaften
Getting things done.
Pushed forward with our endless to-do list and KPIs we are often so occupied with our daily routine and activities in life that we simply forget why we do what we do and for what reason we do it. Once a while reviewing the processes behind our activities and added values could leverage organizations, teams, and individuals significantly.
Pessimist or optimist?
A pessimist is more into the outcome as where an optimist is more attached on the process. A pessimist will always tell you why something is not possible or achieved due to something that’s beyond the pessimists influence. They are more focused on what is wrong with others.
Where the optimist will constantly discover that there are so many questions left to be answered about; what, why, how, whom, when. Their learning cycle will keep challenging them.
Being aware of what kind of work is needed to accomplish the outcome we should be able to identify the structures by which your organization performs best. In other words what is necessary to produce a real added value for its customers. Because doing more of the same tomorrow will only push you faster onto the pitfall of constrains
A nice story
Some years ago I have read a nice newspaper column written by Rob Knoppert. I have read it with a smile as it underlines the above. Hope you going to appreciate it as mutch as I did/do... have fun reading.
It was late and I was drowsy. The host was, as always restless, having his birthday but not entirely happy. Energetic and fresh as a daisy he sat down next to me ready to discuss serious topic. "I have observed you and your team during the last high school parents' meeting. I think it's a weird organization.""Why, Hans?" I asked, fearing the worst. "You should approach your school from a business point of view, like a production company. What do you think your product is? "'Knowledge?” I asked. I was right: a conversation started here.
"No, you blockhead. That is as much a misunderstanding as in TV. Commercial broadcast companies doesn’t produce television programs, they produce viewers. Because the customer of the broadcast company is the one who pays for the commercials, and who is watching the commercials? Yep the viewers at home. In other words the customer pays for viewers. And who pays you?
"'The government', I say, 'or the taxpayers, you even might say the parents of the school kids."
"Exactly," said John, 'the parents are your customer and so your product is: smart kids with diplomas. You see, you are part of a secondary industry. You will process half-finished products, children, and adds some value to it. Just think of the clothing industry. They make from textiles, the consumable raw product, all sorts of clothes. Now clear your mind and pay attention."
"Your consumable raw material are children. You get your raw material for free, which is obviously supplied by the customer. If you do not have enough customers, you have no consumable raw material (resource) and therefore no income. The quality of your raw material varies but is more or a less controllable with a ethical admission policy. This dangerous and makes you very fragile. If you select only the best consumable raw material, you will have no customers, no business. If you allow everybody, then your consumable raw material will have a poor quality. This will be a serious bottle neck in your production process. It is not a capital intensive industry. You only need a building; a school. Your industry is just labour intensive. Time to automate! Look at your tools: books, notebooks, pens, blackboard, chalk. That's a piece of futility."
"But we also have overhead projectors, computers, copiers, laboratory equipment, you know," I murmured. Hans was already moving on. "Your organization is as flat as a dime. That means extensive delegation and little control. Are you beginning to grasp my theory? "
I became more and more excited. So it was. A factory, a knowledge production plant. "But you make a big mess out of it," said John."O dear here we go, this is going to end with a headache," I thought.
"Let's unleash some simple management tools. What do you do to control costs? Nothing at all because parents pay the same price regardless of the type of education. What about the duration of your product? You try to control class repeating in an organized way? No, because your consumable raw material is free. But your customers are not pleased, though.
What about the quality? Do you buy a pair of pants without buttons? No, because every clothing company knows that a pair of pants without buttons do not sell. How is that with your students? Do you push them through the exams and swindle with SAT scores, but honestly do they really know something if they get their diploma?"
I was getting tired of this. But Hans was full of adrenaline and unstoppable.
"Do you offer training and development programs for your employees, what percentage of the budget is put aside for this? What is your return on investment? What percentage of your consumable raw material, your students, leaves your knowledge factory and is ready for the next step, with good qualifications and diploma? Is there some kind of diversification? Have you ever tried to produce another product?"
"Hans, please stop, I want to sleep." I sighed with a relief breathe out, "I’m having class H3C tomorrow morning and they are uncontrollable, even in the morning."
"Do you still remember how we call that phenomenon?" Yelled Hans, 'bad process control.
Original Dutch text by Rob Knoppert
Published in "W&O-bijlage" of NRC/Handelsblad
Free translation by Ronald van Haaften