Ways to self-improvement for enhanced competitiveness
As the start of Asean Economic Community approaches, many businesspeople are talking about how to prepare for the new challenges it will bring, especially enhancing their competitiveness. This can be done through several approaches such as learning from best practices, seeking help from experts and so on.
However, it is also recommended that businesses perform self-investigation regularly so they can make improvements in preparation for the emerging challenges and uncertainties.
For several long-established companies, improving their internal processes can be difficult because of slow action. Attempts to introduce new procedures or redesign internal processes may be ineffective because of hesitation and concerns as follows:
_ Doubts over the practicality of the new process. Without proper testing of the new way, users may be afraid that the change will not be reliable. They may think it will cause additional work without guaranteeing the promised results.
_ Lack of leadership in the transition. Internal change requires leadership from responsible persons. Unless the management really supports the new developments, it is unlikely that the team members will proceed towards the new goals.
_ Resistance from lower management. Supervisors and middle management are key people driving internal change. Without their full cooperation and belief in the benefits to be derived from such changes, it will be difficult to see success.
_ Lack of motivation. When members of the organisation cannot sense the importance of internal changes, there could be ignorance and neglect of the initiatives. Incentives and rewards tied to success of the improvement project may be considered.
In one example, in an attempt to streamline the purchasing process, the responsible people were requested to review overall flow of documents and manual operations before making suggestions to change it. It was found that the process, starting from purchase requisition to issuance of purchase orders to suppliers, involved seven signatures of concerned parties, with several carbon-paper copies of the forms and supporting documents. It had become obvious to the management that this lengthy and redundant process needed urgent redesign. However, the responsible people seemed reluctant to progress because of their familiarity of the old process.
Many companies are struggling to get away from inefficiency and wasteful processes. To achieve this, the attempt should be made to promote employee involvement in making improvements to their own work. This can be done in the form of a project team, a task force or a quality circle. The company can create a project and give it a name such as "Productivity Improvement Force", "Synergy One Project", "Half Cost-Down Project" and so on.
However, to be successful, a number of factors and actions should be taken into account, for example:
_ A message from top management should call for support and cooperation in promoting the internal change process.
_ Training and education on management tools should be provided to employees so that everyone has basic knowledge to proceed with the endeavour.
_ A facilitating team should be organised to help a particular group of employees who would like to start the project properly.
_ Communication should be enhanced on a consistent basis so that awareness of the improvements can be promoted effectively.
_ Motivation and recognition should be considered in both financial and non-financial form to ensure the project gets support from affected people.
The company should consider internal change a continuous activity that can evolve to the level that it can increase the level of competitiveness. Only by empowering employees to get involved in internal improvement can the company survive in a sustainable manner.
One thing to remember is that change, just like birth, never happens without pain. Thus decisive action is the key to successfully managing change.
Yanyong Thammatucharee is senior vice president for accounting and finance at Central Marketing Group. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.