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Want Process Improvement? Be Obsessive. Be Very Obsessive.

No business process succeeds if it is implemented in a dry, passionless way.

I’m reading Tom Peters‘ most recent work, The Little Big Things: 163 Ways to Pursue Excellence, and there are plenty of common-sense, yet under-appreciated lessons for anyone who seeks significant process improvement within their organizations.

Peters’ message is — as it has been since he co-authored In Search of Excellence back in the 1980s — process needs to be simple, real, and most of all, focused obsessively on the customer.

Here are a few nuggets:

MBWA: More than anything, Peters is a zealot about “Management By Wandering Around,” or MBWA. No matter how much technology we have, nothing beats managers getting out of their offices and into the trenches to listen to and engage with their employees.

Big Plan?  No, Small Steps: “Dive in and try and try and adjust and try again and plagiarize from extant experiments, until you’re blue in the face.”

The 1 Percent Drill: Clearing Away a World of ‘Slop’ in Just 45 minutes: “Any operation at any time can cut 1 percent of its budget.”

Master “milestoning”: “Milestones are all-important, no matter how trivial or repetitive the task.”

Design is… Everywhere: “Design becmes part of every project, tiny to grand, in every department…. Design excellence applies to every business process as much as every product.”

Break the rules:  “Drop the ‘rational analysis.’ Skip the ‘balance’ argument! Cut to the chase! Every person who makes it into the history books is by definition ‘insanely disobedient.’ He or she doesn’t ‘buy the act.’ Love ‘best practices’ if they are ‘cool stuff’ from a jillion different disparate sources inside and outside the company and the industry, available for each of us to learn from. I hate ‘best practices’ when mimicry is demanded.”

An organization is ‘people serving people.’ (Period!): “Enterprise at it’s best is an emotional, vital, innovative, joyful, creative, entrepreneurial endeavor that maximizes individuals’ growth and elicits maximum concerted human potential in the wholehearted service of others.” Imagine the opposite, Peters says.

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