A No Cost Way to Improve Operations
July 23, 2015
An efficient way to improve operations is to simply observe. The best part of observation is that there is no cost to the business and lessons learned can be implemented immediately.
Employees are always doing something...or should be doing something that is productive and beneficial to the business. Employees might be doing a specific job, interacting with co-workers, or engaging customers. Whatever they might be doing, simple observation can give an owner (also meaning managers) insight regarding an employee's job performance.
Owners, however, cannot observe operations and employees by sitting in an office. They must be "out there"...listening, talking, and observing. When owners are involved with employees and observe first hand actual operations, immediate corrective action can be taken if necessary or compliments given as warranted to keep enthusiasm high.
Employees must act as a single, cohesive unit all striving to achieve the company goals. When employees bicker among themselves, talk about colleagues behind their backs, or fail to effectively communicate with each other, productivity suffers.
Likewise, employees are the link between a business and its customers. A single employee acting inappropriately can turn a loyal customer into a competitor's newest customer. And, this scenario plays out many times over without the owner being any wiser.
Customers, obviously, are the lifeblood of any business and should be treated accordingly. When owners observe customers' reactions to products and services, employees, questions, or comments, they ultimately learn what customers want and how the company's products or services can be improved to meet their needs.
Accurate feedback from customers does not always come from employees; therefore, an owner's knowledge through observation and interaction is important. There is no one better to know what customers want than from customers and prospects. When a business meets customer demands better than its competition, the business lays a solid foundation for future growth and long-term sustainability.
It is great to observe one's own business, but it is equally important to know what the competition is doing. Observation of competitors is crucial to compete in today's marketplace. How are they managing their operations? How are they marketing? What is their price structure? Why are customers going to the competition? How is the competition better or different?
Businesses do not operate in a space reserved only for them. Businesses must know how they stack up to the competition in order to differentiate their products and services. Knowledge of the competition allows a business to improve upon what it is doing in order to gain a competitive edge.
Observation, whether with employees, customers, or the competition, must be ongoing to be effective. Since observations are a simple, no cost management tool used to improve business performance, there is no excuse for this very practical approach to improvement not be continuous and ongoing.
It is so simple, yet so often overlooked. Observation takes little time, costs nothing, but does the following:
- Improves employee performance
- Enhances owner/employee communication
- Increases awareness of customer likes, dislikes, and desires
- Ascertains strengths and weaknesses of competitors
Downside or Upside
Is there a downside to observation...or is there only an upside? As a business owner, try it. Instill this same practice in your managers. You might start to actually see and feel what your employees and customers see and feel. Would that be a bad thing?