Boosting efficiency: new opportunities to explore

N°231b – Synopsis (8p.) – Continuous Improvement
Boosting efficiency: new opportunities to explore
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Is it still possible to gain in efficiency when everything has already been tried? In a complex environment where traditional methods prove counterproductive, other drivers must be found.

In most organizations, employees, managers and project managers are under a great deal of pressure to improve performance constantly and ensure quality of service, while staying ahead of the competition—always with fewer resources. To accomplish this, companies try to harness all possible organizational and human means. Resources are carefully calibrated and processes scrupulously streamlined. Low-value tasks are centralized, handled by shared service centers or outsourcedroRationalization techniques inspired by Taylorism, common to manufacturing, are now applied to the service sector. One bank, for example, took inspiration from production lines to rethink its retail loan process—eliminating all bottlenecks and overlaps and standardizing every step, in order to keep its promise to examine loan applications within 48 hours. These initiatives are frequently accompanied by the installation of management software and lean approaches. Combined with employee training and financial incentives, they have driven major efficiency improvements.

However, these proven methods are not the only opportunities to explore. Especially since they can be misleading! In our more complex and uncertain environment, traditional rationalization drivers no longer automatically produce the expected results. For instance, a hotel chain wanted to improve profitability and the quality of reception. Its first reflex was to redesign the reception process, install yield management software and train and motivate receptionists to be more customer-oriented. Six months after a rather rigorous implementation of the improvement program, customers were even more disgruntled, receptionists were demoralized and the occupancy rate had not risen! Only when teams were finally encouraged to collaborate with one another did the quality of reception and profitability finally improve. Indeed, promising opportunities may be created when companies dare to take measures that allow employees greater flexibility to coordinate with one another and respond to events, rather than attempting to maintain firm control over every step in the process.

In this synopsis:
- Identify sources of efficiency in your organization
- Find new efficiency drivers
- Foster cooperation and autonomy through visual management

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