How can good people do a great job without the tools, technology, and training in place?

We addressed “the balanced scorecard” as a great management tool and device to develop a business that satisfies customers, suppliers, and employees last month.

Within the balanced scorecard is the thesis that we need to develop “internal excellence” as a means to customer satisfaction. Internal excellence is the continuous development of value for customers, and the elimination of non-value-added processes and functions.

We can arrive at the internal processes in which we need to excel by asking our customers and employees questions. This is the first step. Customers will be quite helpful; all you have to do is ask.

Earlier in the year I mentioned the book Sacred Cows Make Better Burgers when I discussed “grumble and gripe” sessions. These sessions expose those things that are standing in your way on the road to doing a better job. Don’t forget the person doing the job knows the job better than anyone else and if they indicate something is hurting their ability to serve customers, perform their jobs, or use their skills, you ignore them at your own peril.

So once you have determined in what areas internally you need to excel, what then? How are you going to get it done? This is where business typically runs into trouble—implementation. A truth we exposed earlier is that American businesses succeed in implementing their strategy less than 10% of the time. So what will make things different this time?

“Management training, negotiating skills, personnel management, product knowledge, and selling skills are but a short list that needs constant updating and development.”

Well, right from the beginning each employee has been involved in developing what needs to be done. Therefore, they will be able to tell you what they will need to complete the job. Innovation consists of tools, technology, and training.

Tools, Technology, and Training

What tools are required to do the job better?What is required for us to excel and be noticed by the marketplace? I would submit two of the most important tools would be a good telephone system and a good business management system.

The telephone has undergone a rather remarkable transformation over the past few decades—from tied-to-the-desk land lines to cellular technology and Bluetooth wireless technology. How does your telephone system work? Is it current?

Business systems have also gone through rather startling changes. With Moore’s law—the cost of a chip will halve and the speed will double every x number of months, the capability of computers has changed dramatically. They have also become nearly as widespread as telephones.

I was a data processing manager—just the job title should tell you how long ago that was—at one point in my career and we needed to purchase disc drives. Each disc drive had a removable disc of 40 megabytes of storage and we needed eight of them. They cost $100,000 a copy, so for a cool $800,000 we had 320 megabytes of removable disc storage. Oh, we thought we were in good shape. Today, you can buy a 2-gigabyte “stick” for $10 to $20. That’s 2048 megabytes. Wow! Are you keeping up?

Our company has been conducting parts and service management training since the early 1990s. We have a three-level training program. We start with “What It Looks LikeWhen It Is Right,” and then move on to “Performance Excellence” before concluding with “Reaching Market Potential.” A training tool that can be used by dealers and suppliers, it is a developmental tool.

It is absolutely necessary to invest in your employees’ professional development. You can’t expect the skills and knowledge they had when you hired them will satisfy the needs of the market or your business forever. You must continually be refreshing their skills and updating them. Yes, it costs money but there is an adage that asks, “Is it better to pay for employee training and risk that they will leave you with new skills for which you paid, or have them stay with you with old skills that are not current with the needs of your customers or business?”

Management training, negotiating skills, personnel management, product knowledge, and selling skills are but a short list that needs constant updating and development. Are you keeping up? Are you investing in your future? Or are you trying to save money?

Innovation is required in order to achieve internal excellence. Don’t skimp on it. The investments you make on innovation will reap large rewards for years to come. I will cover the business systems and what is available out there next month. That is a very important aspect of innovation as “best practices” is part of internal excellence.

Rising Productivity

As I am writing this, the productivity improvement numbers for the country are being published. The productivity of the American workers continues to rise at impressive rates. Are you and your employees keeping up?

This is a tough question to answer. One thing I will say and feel comfortable about is that if your employees are not continually developing their skills—if they aren’t growing—they will leave you. There are too many other opportunities in other companies for them to grow.

This isn’t just about the younger workers anymore; It’s about workers everywhere. How are you handling innovation?

by Ron Slee
October, 2009
Water Well Journal

About Water Well Journal

The Water Well Journal is the leading resource for those working in the groundwater industry. The flagship publication of the National Ground Water Association is delivered to more than 24,000 people every month and covers technical issues related to drilling and pump installation, rig maintenance, business management, well rehabilitation, water treatment, and more.

Since many of the companies in the groundwater industry are small family-run businesses it is critical that Water Well Journal provide much more than technical content. That is why Ron Slee’s monthly columns addressing management, supply, and inventory issues are valuable. It is that type of information that helps the publication achieve NGWA’s mission of advancing groundwater knowledge.