01 July 2015
So many aspects of a business can and need to be controlled. As business owners we put procedures and processes in place to help make things efficient and profitable (and easier for all concerned).
Take for example a biotech firm I worked with a few years back. These ingenious people worked out a way to cultivate the cartilage from elite athletes so that in the event of an injury, cultured tissue could be grafted back into their bodies. As intriguing as the science is, what fascinated me was how they managed every specimen in their care.
Each specimen lived in a Petrie dish, stored in an incubation chamber. But the business did not call them specimens. They called them “patients.” Why? Because they were living parts taken from living people.
I remember the CEO taking me for my first tour of his facility, with beaming smiles and obvious pride in his achievements (he had started the business from scratch). The thing that sticks in my mind today is not so much the high tech environment, or the positive air pressure “chambers within chambers” designed to ensure that no form of invasive bacteria could get close to the patients. It was the ethos of the place. The fact that each point of control had been designed around a context of “if we get this bit wrong, our patient dies.”
If we took that attitude into our everyday business, at what point of the process would the client die? Am I being dramatic? Yes. But the question is an interesting one when it comes to testing our controls and processes for the things that matter. It may be client satisfaction, product quality or another measure that ‘dies.’
Rather than having to undertake a post-mortem on a business issue that has gone out of control, why not run a pre-mortem – or better still, do both…
The first question could be “If we ran this process really well, and everything turned out as we hope it will, what did we do right at each step?”
Then ask the opposite, “If it all goes wrong, and we don’t achieve our goals, what went wrong?”
We can learn from the answers to both questions and feed that information forward into designing the controls we need.
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