What about the people?

By | September 26, 2012

In my previous blog, I focused on technology and inkjet.  After thinking more about this I realized that in our rush to new capabilities and new technology, we often seem to forget the people who have to work with the new technologies.  From my personal experience, if you have a great technology but do not have the right people behind it you never reach the full potential.  In looking for some insight into this I found as usual it gets back to the basics.

  1. Involve the people who need to execute in the planning and specification process.  Those who do the work are in the best position to know the detailed steps in each process, the common roadblocks and bottlenecks, and the key contacts in the organization to get things done. Our workers are our greatest resource, however many organizations do not tap in to the enormous wealth of experience that walks through their doors each morning, and walks out again each night.
  2. Identify process owners who will take responsibility for a process end to end. This passes the ownership to the people, and uses their experience and knowledge to bridge the gap from the present to the future.  It will also help to break down the silos in an organization.
  3. Empower the line managers to drive business performance on an ongoing basis.  Action plans, communication resources, and employee development tools are all critical in affecting positive change.
  4. Work on developing requirements for each of the suppliers and customers within the organization the same way you do for external customers. Seeing how their own local processes and procedures fit into those of the wider organization and its goals allow employees to see the “big picture”. For many, this is incredibly empowering and motivating. Don’t assume you know what another function needs, especially when implementing new technologies.
  5. Commit to and deliver on investing in the people as well as the technology they utilize.  Provide training and resources for them to become as comfortable and effective with new technologies as they are with the current way of doing things.  Remember that change can be a frightening thing and forcing it upon the people will lead to inefficiencies and possibly “revolution”.
  6. Make change the norm and part of the company culture.  Through a  continuous improvement culture, employees will remain emotionally engaged with the organization and motivated to continue working toward common organizational goals

In looking for parallels to our industry, I was struck by some research in Health Care and Performance Improvement1.  Our industry is a labor intensive one, and relies on people with a variety of skills and knowledge to deliver superior offerings.  We all hear about the move from Print providers to Service providers, so looking at a high tech service industry I think offers some clues and reinforcement to the role of people in performance improvement.  Not everything was transferable to our industry however some ideas from this article which should be considered are:

  1. “Sound and effective leadership is critical to a healthy clinical operation. Without it, optimal financial performance is rarely achieved”
  2. “Making business decisions without reliable data is, especially in today’s environment, a costly and unforgivable mistake.”
  3. “Using available technology and a few simple management practices, virtually any clinical operation can improve decision making and deliver optimal outcome performance.”
  4. “In many healthcare organizations, managers are inundated with unreliable or outdated data, making it next to impossible to monitor operations and, more important, respond quickly to effect change to meet budget and productivity goals.”
  5. “A major area of weakness in many clinical operations is ineffective management of direct care hours. Too often, human resources are not aligned with other resources, or restructuring personnel for maximum advantage is seen as a low priority in times of organizational change.”
  6. “A network of support fosters better service and optimal performance.”

I see some opportunities for us to continue to learn from areas outside our normal scope, and help our people continue to be one of the major elements of change and improvement.  The old saying about People, Process and Technology being the three legs of a stable and successful operation may have never been more applicable than today with more and more change required for us to thrive, not just survive.

1.  Ten Components of Successful Clinical Health Care performance – A Phase 2 Consulting White Paper. 

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