How Organizations Can Identify Areas for Improvement

Typically, organizations will identify a problem and then work to identify the root cause of the problem to come up with a solution for implementation. But what if there are several, few, or no problems in the organization, but you would like to improve your organization? How do you go about identifying areas for improvement? One of the best ways that I know how an organization can identify areas for improvement is to use a Lean assessment methodology.

The Lean assessment helps an organization identify potential opportunities for improvement at a high level and provides an understanding of the process before change occurs. It is a methodical evaluation that documents the current state of the business and what can be expected in the future state. Typical areas that are evaluated through a Lean assessment include the company’s current culture, market expectations, customer satisfaction, employee skills requirements, readiness to change, and other areas that may be identified by management: Ultimately, any area can be evaluated. Here are the steps to performing a Lean assessment in your organization:

  1. Meetings. Meet with key and controlling stakeholders to determine expectations and timeline for the Lean assessment.
  2. Determine the project scope. Write a project charter to contain the project.
  3. Conduct interviews with staff to gather answers to specific questions. What are the perceived levels of empowerment in the business? There is value in speaking to as many staff as possible to identify the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to the business. Also include other situational topics specific to your business.
  4. Develop benchmarking for several areas in your organization. For example, include strategic and operational planning in your review, workplace organization, IT systems, human resources development, current accounting practices, operational performance, sales and marketing, and other areas that you feel could or should be included in the assessment.
  5. Prepare summary and detailed reports of your findings and include specific areas for initial improvement, reasons, and possible solutions. Estimate amount of internal and external resources and provide high level recommendations resulting from your findings.
  6. Meet with the key and controlling stakeholders to present your findings and recommendations and determine steps forward.

But what should a company do now that you have all this information? At the beginning, start with a minimally intrusive area such as corporate culture or readiness for change. Then get stakeholder buy-in for change in that area. Your initial efforts should include a full-scale investigation in the area that you have chosen as well as extensive benchmarking as you establish your go-forward plan.

Whatever area you choose and however you choose to implement it, a crucial ingredient is and will be people. Include as many people from your organization as possible in the project. And remember to include them early in the planning stage, so that ideas are captured and heard. There is nothing worse than initiating a project and implementing it on your own in an effort to not make waves for staff. You need to make waves. You need to get staff involved. The more involved they are, the more accepting they will be of the change. And during the project, it will be much easier to implement the changes.

Ultimately, identifying areas for improvement in an organization is really dependent on what areas you choose to study and evaluate and what areas stakeholders agree to be priority – those areas that, once improved, will markedly improve the organization’s performance and bottom line.

And don’t forget – no matter how you proceed, document your lessons learned, so that subsequent projects can be conducted even better.