This series of monthly ISO articles addresses the major business issues facing moldmakers - and the quality objectives that are being built into the process. The successful CEO will take overall responsibility for the commercial and technical management of the company, setting policy and devising a strategy to ensure the continued growth and development of the business. The CEO also will require a sound knowledge of financial and operational management within a commercial moldmaking/molding environment, including P&L, sales and marketing, technical management and human resources responsibility.
The Overlooked Resource
The "maturing" process for some companies is presenting some perplexing challenges, and some good example companies have very similar histories. Most began in the mid to late '70s, have grown from small "start up" entrepreneurial beginnings to around the $7 to $30 million in annual sales range, and have prospered due to close, careful "hands on" management and hard work. The beauty of these companies is that they typify the "American Dream" of prosperity attained by hard work, ingenuity and robust competition.
However, the owners of these companies are now unsure of what to do with the companies that they have built. They are faced with a number of challenging issues that are taking the "fun and excitement" out of their careers. Some of these issues are:
- Increased competition in the marketplace.
- Increased competition for skilled help.
- Very few "next generation" family members who want to "work hard the way Dad did" and take up leadership of these companies.
- Corporate buyouts of their neighboring custom processors.
- New customer demands that they are not accustomed to dealing with.
- Some of these owners who have successfully delegated significant portions of their management responsibilities to key managers are worried that these key employees may leave and take some of their customer base with them.
- Senior staff employees are costing so much to keep that there is a greatly reduced profit margin expectation for the owner.
- These owners have prospered financially in the past and are tired of the continual work demand that they have to endure, or they are exposed to the risk associated with ineffective delegated management.
- Some of these owners have let financial prosperity distract their management focus.
- Some of these owners have bled their companies into such financial anemia that their customers are beginning to sense the loss of vitality and are seeking out "fresh" vendors.
These owners' struggles have a similarity to them. They are suffering with the "awkward size" company syndrome - they aren't small enough to operate as a part time or comfortable enterprise nor are they large enough to support the costs associated with "departmentalized management." The core problem is that these "awkward size" companies have been working in a "person dependent" management structure from top to bottom for so long that they have only recently discovered how "them dependent" their operations are.
It is possible, however, to bring a large amount of relief and sanity back into the game. And it doesn't have to cost a fortune. You may be surprised to hear that the ISO 9001 baseline of management involvement for quality is so sensible that small businesses can realize internal benefits that far outweigh the cost of implementation.
But there is one major catch. Only when the ISO 9001 system is properly orchestrated and hand-fitted to a company's unique needs and style will it be a value-added system rather than a "cost added" marketing manipulation. The real core benefit of the ISO 9001 system is the opposite side of the same coin of "person dependent" management. Correctly interpreted, the ISO 9001 system demands highly accountable, full management participation from the top down, with systemic structure rather than person dependence. In other words, it demands the provision for management and lead employees to be absent from time to time without creating havoc or delaying the continuance of the usual day-to-day processes.
Because the ISO 9001 system has been so broadly sold as something it was never meant to be, many small business owners have been rightly hesitant to respond favorably. Why should these owners turn their companies over to strangers whose agenda is to "force fit" a unique company into a one-size-fits-all generic quality management plan and garner an exorbitant fee for the carnage? The horror stories associated with these experiences are everywhere.
What are some of the specific internal benefits of ISO 9001 that an owner should realize?
- An organized documented system is in place that procedurally explains how your company typically performs every normal function so that in the event that the usual person is suddenly unavailable, that normal function can be successfully performed by a trained alternate rather than postpone the activity or have to drag the boss in to rescue the situation.
- Systems of calibration and accurate accountability are designed and implemented to assure that the system is functionally healthy and serves the persons and the company.
- Audits (internal checkups) are scheduled and followed, requiring persons and the system to illustrate their successes or areas needing improvement.
- Audits (external checkups) are scheduled and followed, requiring that outsourced goods and/or services are meeting the expectations of the company, and that the procurement function is performing effectively as well.
- There is a major emphasis on training to assure the best and safest performance possible as early as possible.
- A management checklist system reduces the "gray areas and management overlaps" to achieve and maintain effective management and support.
- Systems are in place to make the work of management easier by well-planned organizational delegation and interaction.
- Systems are in place to make producing goods and/or services easier, which enhances employee loyalty and fulfillment.
- Systems are in place that demand continuous improvement in all aspects of the workplace.
- These systems are not as profit driven as they are performance and professional identity driven.
- The focus is primarily on realizing internal benefits and improvements. As you realize these benefits, your customers and vendors will automatically see the difference in your vitality.
- Learn to build on what you have and discard negative baggage. Learn to listen to your instincts as well as your intellect. Then implement systems that communicate effectively what you want to achieve as an owner without having to be there as an interpreter.
- Enable your managers to succeed by providing them with systems that demand the following ingredients:
- Learn to finish the job.
- Learn to plan rather than react.
- Learn to separate excuses from reasons.
- Never accept "dumping." (Never say, "OK, I'll handle it," when it clearly was left on you unnecessarily by an able subordinate.)
- Learn to see and hear peripheral things going on and identify the advantages and failures of the moment. Then communicate appropriately with the person in charge by teaching peripheral awareness.
- Learn to be happy with yourself and constantly affirm your subordinates for good performance.
- Watch for exceptional performance among your subordinates and challenge them with new and/or greater responsibilities within the ISO system.
- Always be sure the "system" is serving the needs of the people and the company. Demand changes and improvements in the system to assure its optimum performance in serving the people.
- Learn to be confident and truthful.
- Never lower the standard to accommodate mediocrity.
- Expect to be recognized and rewarded for excellence.
It is amazing that so very few businesses perceive ISO 9001 as an excellent tool to accomplish such a vast array of valuable goals.
If any of this catches your attention, or if you see yourself in any way identified in this perspective, please give yourself the opportunity to explore ISO 9001 with these goals intact. You really can "do it your way."