A lot of my clients talk about enjoying a new sense of control over their business operations once we have worked together. Many of these clients came to me because of an on time delivery issue, but what comes first? The delivery performance or the control?

In pretty much every case there have been a number of things we have had to do in order to gain control over certain business activities. It is this that has led to improved on time delivery results. Let’s look at a few of the key things that led to improved control and then improved on time delivery.

Developing a routine

All of my clients that have made a real difference to their business performance have developed routines. These aren’t rigid school-esque timetables but a clear picture of what key tasks have to happen when.

When the senior members of staff hold each other accountable to this timetable a real change in the business can happen. If you have ever read any time management material about “urgent versus important” tasks you will recognise this principle.

Developing a routine can be quick to do also. Building on it and developing it over time can be done later. A great example of this approach is the Sunrise Meeting. This daily meeting can drive the right behaviours and is an excellent manifestation of putting a routine into action.

So, if you don’t have a routine defined for your business yet the I recommend making this a priority.

gain control

Becoming disciplined

I talk with my clients about discipline a lot. When I first start talking about this subject they think I mean it in the sense of disciplining people and reprimanding them. I am not.

I am talking about doing the things that you have do without fail. I am of course referring to self-discipline and using the routine to fall back on for reference.

It is easier for many people to be reactive and work on whatever comes along. This is how a lack of control, and therefore chaos, emerges. We have to do the right things at the right time.

A great strategy with putting a routine into effect using discipline is to start your day with the routines. No matter what chaos is ensuing doing the right things first can make a big difference.

I’ll come back to this point again at the end of this article.

Driving the systems and the processes

Leading on from high levels of discipline being demonstrated around your routine is making your systems and processes really work and produce the right results for your business.

When your processes are working correctly and being operated in a disciplined manner you will find that you get more consistent results. This is evidence of control improving in the business.

The systems you employ should make you more productive. If they aren’t then it might be time to have a hard look at them. More often then not it is the previous two items that will have a bigger impact on the performance of a system or a process than the (software) choice itself.

How do you go about improving your systems if they aren’t helping you achieve control and results? Well, that brings me to my next point.

Observing, experimenting and learning

Now we’re venturing into the realms of continuous improvement.

I could get very philosophical about continuous improvement and very detailed. However, the sub-heading above sums up enough to get most businesses into a very effective place.

If you take the time to look at what is going on in your business you should be able to make some observations. Some things will be good, some won’t be and some will just make you scratch your head.

With all three of these points you can decide to do something about it, to carry out an experiment. I am not going to go into detail about creating improvement projects but even the most basic action plan should yield a change to some degree. If you have some form of basic performance measurement in your business you will be able to gauge whether your change was good or requires further work.

This brings me to the learning part of these three sub-points. If you don’t learn from the process of change you are missing a serious trick. With every improvement you get the opportunity to reflect and improve personally. This means that next time you come to implement a change you will be fitter and more capable to do so.

continuous improvement skills

Making a decision to change

The problem with all of the above is that you need to do it.

Everyone is busy with their existing workloads. It can therefore seem impossible to make the shift. How do you do this?

Firstly you need to make the decision to change. Like most changes in life there has to be a will, a motivation. Without this the previous points are purely academic.

You will need to find your own motivation. I have found mine in the past and I am sure that you will find yours too!

One comment I hear all to often is that people just don’t have the time to do the above, to carry out these activities. These are also the same people that seem to get caught up in re-work and fire-fighting situations.

A small amount of time invested might not seem to yield much today, but after a couple of well directed hours the savings could be huge. I have seen minutes turned into days of saved time when the right choices have been made. These saved days have turned 

But, it still boils down to you making a decision to do something different.

If you feel that you are not fully in control of your business then I hope the above points will give you some ideas that you can take forward. If you get even a couple of these ideas to work you will find business performance improving. And, if OTIF performance is one of your challenges you should notice that improving too!

Giles Johnston

Giles Johnston is a Chartered Engineer who consults with businesses to improve their on time delivery performance, ERP system performance and deploy Kaizen / Lean production methods. Giles is also the author of 'What Does Good Look Like?'.