Company leaders, consider the following questions: How many surprises have you dealt with this week? How many customer relationships have had to be rescued or late orders escalated? How many apologies delivered, numbers explained, or presentations redone?
Every leader I know wrestles with these and other crises as a matter of routine. Yet leaders also recognize that running a business through constant firefighting puts them at risk of stressed-out employees, customer defections, a damaged brand, and safety or ethics catastrophes.
The vast majority of fires are preventable. They are essentially “rework” — the added effort and cost required because something was not done right the first time. Unfortunately, firms can get stuck in a vicious cycle of rework, shortcuts, and more rework. In aggregate, rework costs can be huge. The Juran Institute estimated in 2010 that 15 to 20 percent of revenues for manufacturing companies went to rework; for service businesses, it estimated 30 to 35 percent.
Several of W. Edwards Deming’s “14 points for management” can be adapted to help business leaders cut down on unnecessary rework. In this post on strategy+business, Why Your Employees Are Always Putting Out Fires, I share tips to prevent wasting time on rework.
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All the best,