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Sharpening the saw

By Peter Windatt

BRI Business Recovery & Insolvency

HAVING previously covered starting up in business and getting through those difficult early years, here we are going to look at the ‘Staying in Business’ part of the title.

Most businesses will follow the usual birth – growth – maturity – decline cycle. The trick, which differentiates the great from the good, is that as they enter the maturity stage, they find a way to re-invigorate things such that they experience a further growth period rather than a decline that might lead to our door.

In Stephen Covey’s best seller, The 7 Habits, he covers the move from dependence, to independence to interdependence. Businesses and the people who work in them can have parallel journeys through life. Unlike people, though, a business can carry on for many generations providing that it can adapt to the world around it.

Once our lives, and those of our businesses, are well under way we have to practice the seventh habit, to Sharpen the Saw. In business you have never arrived, you are continuing along a journey. We know that, as a manufacturer releases their latest big thing onto the market, their development team are working on its replacement if they are to survive. You have to move quickly to keep up these days.

Sharpening the Saw and Kaizen, continuous improvement, have been adopted as great ways to live and to do business because they work and have been proven to work.

Both should be a daily review of processes – becoming a habit – going beyond just productivity improvement. They should humanise the working environment, eliminate overly hard work (some short-term gains but for long-term pain) and teach people how to perform their reviews with some rigour (scientifically) and, in this way, identify and eliminate waste in materials and processes. The idea being to encourage the team in ways that will help bring about improvements which will benefit all. All levels of an organisation from the CEO down to janitorial staff, as well as external stakeholders, when applicable, should be involved. Kaizen is most commonly associated with manufacturing operations but has application in non-manufacturing environments too.

At Toyota, seen by many as the birthplace of Kaizen, improvements are usually spawned from within a workstation or local area and involve a small group in improving their own work environment and productivity. This group is often guided through the Kaizen process by a line supervisor; sometimes this is the line supervisor’s key role. Kaizen on a broad, cross-departmental scale in companies, generates total quality management (TQM) and frees human efforts through improving productivity using machines and, in an office environment in particular, computing power.

For us and our businesses we should make time to practice – working on ourselves/on our businesses rather than just in them – to renew resources, energy and health and to create sustainable lives and businesses. Bodies, minds and our businesses need to be exercised to stay strong and ahead of the game whilst remaining ever mindful of the part we can play in the world around us. Win/win is a worthwhile goal.

Call Peter and the BRI management team at 100 St. James Road, Northampton, via their website www.briuk.co.uk or on 01604 754352 and they will be happy to help you review your businesses health and fitness for the journey ahead.

Companies mentioned in this article

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