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Six business improvement ideas you can implement today!

Sometimes us consultants get a bad reputation for making things more complicated than they need to be. We turn people away when we don’t put process improvement tools in layman’s terms that anyone can understand.

I was reminded of this when working with a small family restaurant recently. If I mentioned standard work, theory of constraints, 5-S, kanban, or PDCA, I would have been escorted out the door. They aren’t used to hearing these terms, like some of our larger manufacturing clients are.

I needed to explain it to them, without the consultant “lingo”. In fact, we applied every single one of the tools mentioned above, but we didn’t call them by their name.

As I mentioned in my last blog, there are simple tools that any business can start with, that almost always gain some improvements.

We decided to package them into a one-page sheet. We identified six different suggestions for businesses who aren’t sure where to get started. You can download a copy of them at the bottom of the page.

1) Workplace organization, cleaning and labeling – With your staff, get rid of everything you don’t need very often (put it in storage or recycle it). Everything that remains should be stuff used quite often. Label it and make sure there is room for it somewhere. Clean up the area, to make it shine, so that it looks like a brand new area (this gets the workers excited). Setup a process to put things away after use, and maintain the cleanliness and organization, so it doesn’t go back to the mess it was before.

2) Customer Surveys – send out a survey to your customers, and ask them how you can improve your products and services. Be open to input they receive, and gather the top 3 ideas for implementation.

3) Employee Brainstorming – Gather your employees and “brainstorm” ways to improve the business. Your employees hear the complaints and deal with the inefficient processes, so listen to what they say. Make sure you ask them about risks of problems, not just those that have actually happened (employee turnover, close-call accidents, anticipated issues, mistakes that almost made it to the customer, etc).

4) Reduce backups – Look for areas in your business processes where the work piles up or gets backed up(called “bottlenecks”). If you can improve the efficiency in that area, the results are often seen immediately with your customers.

5) Document tasks – develop a standard and consistent approach for doing key activities and tasks in your business. Write them down, so everyone knows how it should be done. If someone comes up with a better idea, update the steps. Provide as many photos and pictures as possible.

6) Cross-train employees – train other employees to be able to do multiple tasks and skills (not the same as multi-tasking, which tends to be inefficient overall). This gives you a more flexible workforce, so in case you get overloaded in one area, or someone is out sick or on vacation, you aren’t keeping the customer waiting, or providing poor service, or not responding to them at all.

Even really mature and highly efficient companies go back to these basic improvement approaches over and over again. They are critical for success.



Want to learn more about Lean and Six Sigma tools, and apply them to an improvement projects? Check out these low-cost online courses and certification programs



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