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Discover alternative ways to solve your business problems

Effective Problem Solving

On 15th January 2018 the UK’s second biggest construction contractor, Carillion, filed for insolvency. The Independent newspaper headline read “Carillion collapse: A flawed system is to blame more than management excess”.

This catastrophe is an example of the impact that system errors can cause to businesses of all sizes. In Carillion’s case, it was using systems in a seemingly unmonitored and uncontrolled manner for subcontractor and employee workload management – a function that was fundamental to its business.

While Carillion had issued profit warnings, few had anticipated its sudden collapse. Business owners need to be alert to signs of trouble in their own business. It is essential to put systems in place to monitor key metrics such as the sales pipeline, hitting delivery dates on time or customer payment cycles. In a small firm, it’s easy for Managers to become so engrossed in delivery that they fail to notice that projects have overrun or sales enquiries are tailing off.

In this blog, you will learn:

  • Why implementation of an ISO9001 Quality Management System will ensure problems are identified and dealt with effectively
  • A summary of the benefits offered through ISO9001 accreditation
  • How to ensure your problem solving is effective
  • How GBS can help your organisation to implement and manage an effective ISO9001 quality system and efficient problem solving

Having accurate and timely reporting systems in place allows you to compare the margins on different jobs and focus your attention on the most profitable. You can then look at the various ways of improving overall margins, for example speeding up turnaround times, reducing waste and selling more to the same customers.

Make sure your business is not the next Carillion by using an effective ISO 9001:2015 Quality Management System

An organisation's management system is the glue that holds everything together. When correctly implemented it enables management, office and shop floor workers to work in a coordinated and focused manner towards the stated business strategy and objectives.

The management system should enable a business to demonstrate its ability to consistently provide products and services that meet customer and applicable statutory and regulatory requirements, whilst enhancing the overall customer satisfaction.

Quality management is a topic that is more layered than meets the eye. There are a wide number of different regulations, policies, and best practices that are integral to best practice.

The requirements of ISO9001 calls for companies to get serious about their methodologies, as well as setting realistic systems in place for measuring and tracking processes. In other words, it’s not enough to look at a few numbers and call the operation a success - businesses have to use a proven framework to dig deeper and turn over new insights into how the company is really running. In this way, problems are identified and acted upon before it can get to the catastrophic proportions that Carillion experienced.

ISO9001 is important because it sets the standard for record keeping

If you are running a business that isn’t keeping good records, you’re out of compliance in more ways than you think. ISO9001 demands accurate records that aren’t just valid today, but also valid several years into the future. This means that you’re going to have to set up a special kind of version control system to keep track of the paperwork.

The benefits of implementing an ISO9001 Quality Management System

ISO 9001:2015 is a globally recognised and auditable Quality Management System with over 1 million certificates issued in 2015 alone. It is the benchmark standard used by most businesses today in over 170 countries.

One of the strongest benefits to implementing the ISO9001 standard is that it helps you keep customers satisfied. Most customers want to have the same experience from the company over and over again – it just doesn’t make sense to deviate from a proven platform. It also helps company’s look at where their weaknesses are and fix them as soon as possible. Without having this in place, it could easily swing the other way — customers would be dissatisfied, and companies would have no real way to track why that’s occurring.

Regular and recurring processes help to build a more profitable business, which in turn protects the lifestyle that the company’s entire team enjoys from a day-to-day basis. It’s when companies are in a state of disorganisation that people begin worrying about their jobs.

It details best practice and includes topics such as Context, Leadership, Planning, Support, Operation, Performance Evaluation and Improvement. The management system boundaries cover everything from design and development, supplier integration, evaluation and control through to obtaining and acting upon customer feedback and requirements.

The benefits of ISO9001 are not overstated; companies large and small have gained numerous benefits from using this standard by discovering both cost and efficiency savings.

Here is a summary of six main benefits and why they are important:

  1. Improvement of your credibility and image – When a company is looking for a supplier, it is often a requirement to have a Quality Management System (QMS) based on ISO9001 in order to be considered. This is particularly true if you are competing for public sector jobs in many countries. Attaining ISO9001 certification can be a powerful marketing tool
  2. Improvement of customer satisfaction – By improving your customer satisfaction you will retain more repeat customers since happy and satisfied customers are the key to keeping customer loyalty - and such customers bring in additional revenues
  3. Better process integration – By eliminating the waste and implementing efficient process flow, you will drive efficiencies towards fewer errors and resulting reworks, which can improve cost savings
  4. Improve your evidence for decision making – By driving your decisions based on the evidence, rather than on gut feelings you can be more focused on applying resources to the areas that will improve efficiencies and increase cost savings with less trial and error to find the right decision
  5. Create a culture of continual improvement – By adopting a continuous improvement culture to improve your processes and organisational output, you will find efficiencies and cost savings, including the use of systematic processes when problems occur in order to reduce the impact of the problems and increase the speed of recovery
  6. Increase employee engagement – Employees who are involved in the improvement of the processes they work with are happier and more engaged employees. Engaged employees are more productive and will help the company better improve and save, especially when they understand how the quality of the process depends on them.

How can you ensure your problem solving is effective

Every company has problems. Every single one! The difference between the outstanding, world-class performers and the average companies is how well they react to issues when they arise. More importantly, how well they put to bed issues that have arisen so that they do not come back.

The better performing companies have also found ways to get better at what they do – continuously.

Problem solving strategies are commonplace in business, but it is essential that the right tool is used for the specific problem in hand.

To gain their maximum potential the selected approach needs to be correctly applied and managed. Quite often teams will be tasked to resolve a particular problem only to have the project stall or take longer than anticipated.

In business, errors are made and issues arise - so how do you know what problems to deal with amongst the mountain of problems that may exist? Where do you start? What problem strategies are there to help diagnose and eliminate the causes amongst the myriad of issues?

Simply put, one must find the biggest impact, either by the number of times the issue arises or the financial impact it has on the business, or any other scoring method. Then it is a case of focusing the problem solving effort on this issue until it is resolved.

“If you define the problem correctly, you almost have the solution” Steve Jobs

Having a clear understanding of the problem faced, the required objective and delivery timeline is the key

This enables the most appropriate problem solving methodology to be selected along with a business owner and a suitable team of process experts. A delivery plan can then be completed and the problem solving activity managed through to successful completion.

Successful problem resolution incorporates more than just tools and techniques

Softer skills such as understanding team roles, team dynamics, engagement methods and facilitation skills are also key ingredients for success. This course provides an excellent foundation in the methodologies and tools commonly used in problem solving activities today.

Continuously striving for this relentless identification and elimination of problems will mean that your company is more competitive and is effectively using problem solving strategies to gain leverage on the competition.

GBS offers training in quality management systems and problem solving

GBS is an approved training provider for the Chartered Management Institute (CMI), the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) and the Chartered Quality Institute (CQI). In fact many of our solutions can lead to a person having Chartered status.

The GBS PT205 – Managing Problem Solving course has been designed to equip Managers, Team Leaders and Improvement Leads with the practical skills, tools, and structured methodologies for problem solving activities.

This 3-day course is highly interactive, enabling attendees to immediately apply what they have learnt across different business scenarios.

GBS offers a range of Chartered Quality Institute certified Practitioner courses and completion of two Practitioner level courses together with demonstrable work experience, can lead to the gold standard Chartered Quality Professional (CQP) status, which is recognised alongside other roles with Chartered status.

GBS will help you bring quality management, continual improvement and effective problem solving into the heart of your organisation, helping to enhance and monitor the performance of your business, with an aim to enhance customer satisfaction.

Our next public course is being delivered on 4th – 6th April 2018 in Fleet.

Book your place by using one of the following methods:

Call 01252 618400
Email [email protected]
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