Explain how continuous improvement models, knowledge management systems, quality systems and sustainability principles can be incorporated into business systems
Continuous Improvement Models
To close the gap between actual and desired performance, decisions need to be made. Decision making involves making a selection from among alternative courses of action. Implementation and evaluation of the implementation provide feedback into the next cycle of group decision making. Effective problem solving and decision making processes follow an ordered format, requiring you to:
- Examine the current situation, in measurable terms, to discover or identify the discrepancy (this could be a problem, issue or opportunity).
- Diagnose symptoms and root causes.
- Gather and analyse data relevant to the situation and the solutions.
- Generate alternative solutions/ options/ projected outcomes.
- Evaluate and assess alternatives.
- Make a choice between alternatives, or a combination of alternatives.
- Assess associated risks and benefits, in terms of organizational objectives.
- Assess costs and benefits.
- Define the intended solution/s, also in measurable terms.
- Express solutions as a set of targets or goals.
- Implement the chosen actions.
- Monitor and evaluate the decision to determinethe success or need for changes to the intervention.
Group decision making demonstrates several advantages over single person decision making. In high performance teams, members and leaders demonstrate sound, orderly decision making abilities – they know how and when to make decisions and accept responsibility for reliably and consistency implementing decisions. The advantages come from the ability of the team to readily source a range of ideas and information and to generate problem solutions through cooperative sharing of ideas.
Consensus-based decision making
Effective group decisions are based on consensus. Consensus means that team or group members are actively encouraged and supported to participate in the decision making processes, and to assume responsibility and exercise initiative as appropriate on the basis of agreement. Agreement is achieved as a result of examination of information relevant to the issues under discussion. Consensus is a method by which an entire group of people can come to an agreement. The input and ideas of all participants are gathered and synthesized to arrive at a final decision acceptable to all. Consensus based decision making helps to achieve better solution and promotes the growth of trust and collaboration.
Consensus is a power sharing mechanism. If there are serious conflicts, consensus can be difficult. A fallback is a good option. If consensus cannot be reached, a vote with two thirds majority might be accepted. Voting is a means by which it is possible to choose one alternative from several and is, therefore, a win or loose model, in which people are more concerned with numbers it takes to win than the issue itself. Voting does not take into account individual feelings or needs. In essence, it is a quantitative, rather than qualitative, method of decision making. With consensus people can and should work through differences and reach a mutually satisfactory position. It is possible for one person’s insights or strongly held beliefs to sway the whole group. No ideas are lost, each members input is valued as part of the solution. A group committed to consensus can utilize other forms of decision making (individual, compromise, majority rules) when appropriate; however, a group that has adopted a consensus model will use that process for any item that brings up a lot of emotions, is something that concerns people’s ethics, politics, morals or other areas where there is much investment.
Knowledge Management Systems
Organisations should value the insights and experiences gained through their business activities and capture them using a knowledge management system. Information in a management system is then available for future reference
and decision making. This means that information captured in a system should be in a format that is easily searched and results retrieved.
Strategies for capturing and sharing insights and experiences include: -Best practice transfer: is the process of sharing the methods of doing business that yield the best results. -Community of practice: a group of individuals sharing a common work practice over a period. -Expert directories: a tool for knowledge seekers to gain access to experts. -Knowledge brokers: knowledge brokers can be public or scientific, industry specific, or firm specific. -Mentoring: is the process of a more experienced person advising and guiding a less experienced (and usually younger) person, typically a colleague. -Post project reviews: or lesson learned debriefings occur either at the completion of a project or activity or at strategic points or milestones during the project. -Story telling: uses anecdotal examples to illustrate a point and transfer knowledge.
A key strategy for knowledge management is actively managing knowledge, also known as a push strategy. Employees enter their knowledge into shared knowledge repository, such as a database. Employees seeking knowledge can search the database. The opposite strategy, a pull strategy, is the use of experts on an ad-hoc basis. The expert provides insight to persons needing information.
To improve quality in your organization:
- set clear, achievable, communicated goals for quality performance -define and communicate quality requirements
- maintain effective feedback processes between suppliers and customers -monitor and evaluate performance
- collect and analyse process data
- develop a quality oriented culture
- ensure that employees check the quality of their work
- constantly identify and diagnose quality problems
- check that improvements are succeeding
- search for new improvement areas
The quality requirements of a product are determined by the customer – by the degree to which the product or service meets their expectations and the perceived value a customer attaches to the product / service. Continuous improvement and quality management are virtually synonymous, in that you cannot have one without the other. Continuous improvement refers to the process you initiate to maintain a competitive edge. This can only be done through efficient and effective quality management practices which emphasize customer focus.
Using the continuous improvement cycle, organizations improve competitiveness, effectiveness, efficiency, and flexibility while actively interacting with customer groups to determine their needs and expectations. Customer focused work cultures recognize that as customer relationships are vital to success, the customer is actually driving the organization. If you do not provide what the customer expects someone else will.
Statistical Process Control (SPC): SPC might aid in identifying areas for future improvement. It involves using statistical analysis to identify process variation.
Common cause variation: This is the variation that is inherit to a process or system- always present- as a result of the combinations of machines, humans, methods, technology, materials and the environment.
Special cause variation: These are the variations that occur due to special or specific circumstances which are not inherit to the process or system.
Process capability: Organisational planning procedures include design and assessment of process capability. Planning identifies:
- What you want the process to do.
- How to do it.
- How to meet specifications and customer requirements
Consistency: Quality means doing the right thing at the right time, over time. Customers expect to consistently receive the same standard of durability, usefulness, ease of use, cost saving, etc that they have received before.
To support improvements now and in the future:
- develop simple systems that encourage participation and understanding by everyone – complexity can thwart flexible execution at the front line and often fails to measure what is important -support initiative taking on the front line
- empower employees to make decisions or to participate in group decision making processes -measure what is important to the organization
- ensure that employees know what is happening and why it is happening -encourage employees to collect and analyse performance data -share information freely
- give feedback and share improvement results
- listen to what employees tell you about processes, services and quality -provide training for employees in how to participate in continuous improvement processes -as part of the improvement cycle make ongoing learning and skill development opportunities available to employees.
Sustainability is about cherishing biodiversity and human wellness, equity and freedom. It means maintaining economic security without contaminating the water, soil and air. It requires creating economic and social systems that concurrently meet human physical needs.
The internal environment consists of people, policies and systems that act to ensure that work is planned, actioned and completed and that goals are maintained.
The external environment is the total sum of all people and things – the
entities, stakeholders or structures that will or can be affected by business operations or that affect the operation of the business.
Associated environmental considerations can include economics, people (including global communities, local communities, families and individual people), health (of both people and the planet), education and governments (legislative and regulatory bodies). All of these act upon or are acted upon by a business.
A well developed workforce development strategy assists organizations to identify the skills necessary to successfully implement and achieve the objectives of their business plans and maintain a compeditive edge. The strategy should guide workforce planning in areas such as training needs analysis, apprenticeship numbers, workforce retention programs and broader human resource management requirements. A workforce development strategy should also consider current and future economic, regulatory and social trends.
A skilled workforce trained in the use of sustainable practices is important to an organization’s success. Training and skills development of staff in sustainable practices and advanced technologies is the key element to generating an innovative culture that creates continuous business improvement and compeditive advantage.
Training staff in sustainable practices integrates environmental and social impact considerations into everyday business activity and will lead to improved business performance. Organisations require a skilled and motivated workforce with a culture ready to meet a new variety of challenges that come with making the organization more sustainable in longevity and practice.