Business improvement workshops are an excellent way of focusing attention on the specific areas of your organization that are preventing you from achieving your full potential. These muscle meetings are the foundation for creating a remarkable company.
Highly-productive workshops are among your most important business systems. Below is a workshop procedure that will give you outstanding results.
- Assign a workshop leader. This can be the CEO, department manager, or a team leader. Others may be invited to lead a specific workshop discussion.
- Set a schedule for weekly meetings. Attendance is a non-negotiable requirement of every person's job description. The workshop can be held at a company, department, or team level, depending on the size of your organization. Keep groups under twenty people.
- Begin the meeting by providing brief training on a relevant business improvement principle. You can include topics from the Box Theory™ eCourse, the System Thinker’s Blog, or other good books and articles. This is also a great time to review your company’s mission, values, strategy or goals. Consider inviting team members to take turns presenting this five-minute instruction.
- In your initial workshop, ask one of the following questions. Give people a few minutes to think and write their answers.
What are the things preventing us from being a great company?
What frequent frustrations or complaints do our customers or employees have?
What challenges are we facing? What are the consequences of not changing, improving or solving these problems?
What specific things could we do to improve some aspect of our company, department, or team?
- List the unique responses on a whiteboard. Go around the room and ask everyone to name their top three choices. Put three tally marks by each person’s first choice, two for their second choice, and one by their third choice. From this count, you can determine the highest priorities and topics for future workshops. If you are a company of Systems Thinkers, write next to each response the name of the business system or process that needs to be created or improved.
- At successive improvement workshops, write the selected topic and/or problem on the whiteboard. Discuss your current condition or results, and what new outcome is desired of the improved process. Spend time planning, working out better procedures, and refining the company policies—the three P's. As appropriate, focus on the six key system elements—process, components, people, quality, speed and measurement.
- Following the workshop, the leader or a designated person should write up the new policies and procedures. Give the document a title such as “Customer Service Responses,” “Hiring Procedure,” or “Quality Control Checklist.” Copy everyone for review.
- At the next workshop, take a few minutes after the brief training to evaluate the previous draft document. Ask for feedback and make any adjustments or refinements. The leader should delegate assignments and set a date to have the new policies or procedures implemented.
- Put a final copy in a procedure binder (physical or digital), which is a training manual for new people. Each document is one or two pages. At the end of a year, you will have 50-100 pages of policies and procedures. As you refine your business systems, replace the old documents with new ones. Assign someone to keep the binder updated.
- Remind people of the date, time, and topic of the next workshop. Make any assignments necessary for them to prepare. Compliment everyone on a job well done. Be sure to recognize the accomplishments of the group as improved systems or processes come on-line and begin to pay off. Celebrate victories… Do I hear pizza party?
Preserve Your Best Practices
Imagine if you planned and implemented policies and procedures for every step of your core business systems such as sales, customer service, hiring, employee training, and so forth. When new people join the company, they get the collective wisdom and “best practices” that have been developed over time by experienced people. When top people leave, your high-performance systems remain intact.
Collaborative workshops are easy to do and draw the best ideas out of people. They unite them on the vision of the organization, and get everyone moving together with aligned goals.
In a year, you will be a different organization, with dramatic improvements in all areas of your operation. One hour a week is all it takes to grow a remarkable business! Don’t put it off!
1. At the next workshop, take a few minutes after the instruction period to evaluate the previous draft document. Ask for feedback and make any adjustments or refinements. The leader should delegate assignments and set a date to have the new policies or procedures implemented.