Government systems can be described like the title of a Clint Eastwood western—the good, the bad, and the ugly. I don't blame the people who work in government for bad systems and processes; they generally adapt to the existing way of doing things. However, if we could infuse public service with Systems Thinking, there would be a dramatic reduction in waste and inefficiency. Government would be more responsive to its customers—US!
An Example of System Innovation
Surprisingly, I like the innovative spirit of the Department of Transportation. Over the years, they have created many system improvements that make travel easier and safer, and reduce the cost of highways and fuel consumption. I am sure you have noticed some of these innovations during recent decades.
- Concrete dividers separate traffic to prevent head-on collisions.
- Reflective tabs on highways make lanes more visible at night.
- Recycled tire rubber replaces asphalt surfaces.
- Commuter lanes incentivize car-pooling.
- Road grooves create vibration and noise to warn drivers they are outside of the driving lane.
- Solar-powered street signs charge during the day and illuminate the sign at night.
- Oversized speed bumps double as school crosswalks, forcing traffic to slow-down where children cross the street.
- Innovative intersections such as roundabouts and synchronized traffic signals allow flow-through traffic with less stopping and starting.
Each of these innovations has improved our transportation system.
Are you making similar improvements to your core business systems and processes?
Opportunities for System Improvement Abound
Every time you make an improvement to a product, service, or business process—no matter how small—it is an innovation. Put a decorative plant in the office. Improve the wording on a brochure. Revise a system checklist. Update a web page. Eliminate recurring mistakes in a process. Each improvement is an innovation that makes your business better.
Every organization has unlimited possibilities for daily incremental improvements that lead to happier customers and higher profits. If you are not growing and prospering, maybe it's because you are not focused on the daily improvements—hundreds per year—that will make your business lean, sharp and distinct.
Innovation at the system level in both the public and private sector is what has made the United States of America so prosperous. Other countries are catching up. Those businesses that will be around in the next generation must have a philosophy of continuous improvement to be competitive. It is the primary task of business owners and managers—YOU!
Spend a little time in "The Zone" every day "working on the business, not just in the business" (Michael Gerber, E-Myth Revisited). Discover four business improvement methods you should know about. Hold a business improvement workshop to get your team involved.
Improve and innovate your business systems and processes so that you are unquestionably the best solution for your target market.
Most businesses have one or two exceptional systems that separate them from their competition. What innovative and remarkabl business system makes you stand out "like a purple cow in a field of brown cows" (Seth Godin, Purple Cow)?