Every company is different, but there are some common threads to what must be done. Any book, company, or consultant that comes on as “I have a solution, what’s your problem?” is wrong.
This is a popular subject among the “theoretical” Lean and Six Sigma crowd but their experience beyond teaching and writing theory is light. The theoretical crowd has never spent time in the shoes of the people they are trying to give advice to. They are also really hung up on the lack of statistical rigor and general discipline associated with traditional process metrics and think they can solve that problem with new metrics. My experience is that a company that lacks discipline, well, they lack discipline. You will not solve that problem by changing the metrics. People like Deming and, more recently, Kaplan and Norton have been giving good advice on metrics. Most companies still don’t have the ability to look in the mirror and see themselves clearly and without that, advice on metrics is meaningless.
With that said, I think the common threads are:
1. Strategy taken seriously by the C-suite committing at least 50% of their time. This means at least a 3 – 5 year horizon on the things Collins talks about (your Hedgehog Concept), knowledge about your market and appropriate technology that will affect you, and that sober look in the mirror.
2. Strategy articulated clearly and cascaded through the entire organization with a special emphasis on where you play, what needs to change, and how much change you need in the next 12 months. This should have rational ties to the annual budget and planning process.
3. The output of #2 should focus you on SOME value streams and SOME measures of those value streams. These streams should be mapped to show flow of information, flow of product or service, flow of cash, etc. Metrics should be in place to show where the value-adding activities are being disrupted (Goldratt is right you know!). From this, you get a list of adhoc projects (read Adhocracy by Waterman if you have not already). These should be prioritized, scheduled for resolution, and sponsored.
So simple. Except this is tedious, “roll up your sleeves,” type work that can offend and frighten many if the communication and culture have not been tended to.