Description of the Method and Results

The method is described in detail. A detailed description doesn’t mean that you need to provide a lot of organizational details (history, list of products and services, description of the installations, equipment and buildings, etc.). Try to answer the questions:

■ What contributes directly to the achievement of the objectives of the Best Practice?

■ Which factors have an influence on the results?

■ How is this process aligned with the Business and Strategic Plan?

The text needs to be precise and balanced.

The owner of the Best Practice can use the BEST-tool (detailed checklist) as a guideline to describe his Best Practice. By doing so he avoids missing important characteristics.

BOX 4.2 Impact of Company Culture on Customer Complaint Process

An industrial company where a Best Practice is developed has a constructive organizational culture, i.e. the constructive thinking styles are dominant. This culture is characterized by values such as integrity, team spirit, trust, empathy, respect, self-actualization, entrepreneurial spirit, open-mindedness, prevention, and pro-activity.

An organization structured in a hierarchical way with more developed defensive thinking styles might face difficulties in translating the BEST- method into their culture. The following values are most prevalent in a defensive thinking organization: conformist, distrust, individualism, reactivity (fire fighting), criticism, avoidance, skepticism, gossip, power, and dependence.

When the Best Practice describes a process where frequent human interactions are involved, the company culture can have a tremendous impact on the way the process is managed. In a defensive culture the customer complaint treatment will be handled in an ad hoc way. While in a constructive culture a totally different approach is followed. They ask questions like “How can we avoid a similar complaint in the future and how do we build prevention into the process?” People living in a defensive company culture will not grasp the importance of such questions and will not investigate longer-term solutions.

Defensive cultures have difficulty understanding the role leaders play in support of a proactive customer complaint process.

If the Best Practice is well written, the reader should be able to make a translation to his own situation based on this documentation. After investigating numerous Best Practices, the authors see that often the descriptions are far too vague and therefore not useful (in the sense of the definition of Best Practice described in Chapter 1).

Besides the description of the method used, the Best Practice also shows the results achieved. These are the outputs and outcomes of the method used. A clear cause and effect relationship must exist between actions (enablers) and results. However, in many cases, it is difficult to put this relationship into words. To be useful to others, the method and ensuing results must be described at the level where the reader can see why decisions were made for specific actions (e.g. per segment, by region, by country, by type of customer, by product type, etc.).

Measurement Method

Effective decisions can only be made based on correct principles, criteria, methods, and results. This implies that the results are described in detail:

■ Precision of the measurement method. What is the measurement error?

■ Significant results. Are the results appropriate and reliable?

■ Representative results. To what extent do the results of the sample reflect the results of the population?

■ Random sample. Is the sample taken at random and does it reflect the composition of the population?

■ Calibration method. Which calibration method was used? What standards were employed?

■ Reproducible results. Are consistent results achieved if there are multiple users?

If a standardized method is used, such as ISO[1] or ASTM,r you need mention only the title of the referenced method.

Process Description

In many cases it is useful to develop the description by creating a flowchart of the process. This allows the reader to see immediately if the method is simple and robust, if the methods are foolproof and where problems might arise.

Maturity of the Process

The owner of a process documented as a Best Practice should audit the process on a regular basis. Best Practices are those that are assessed at the highest levels of organizational maturity. Figure 4.1 is a duplicate of an example of maturity levels covered in Chapter 2.

A Best Practice is assessed at least at a maturity Level 4. As stated before, the authors find that often executives think they have a Best Practice, although they have only achieved a maturity Level 2 or 3. It is not enough to have good plans (e.g. a description of a procedure in accordance with ISO 9001 is considered a maturity Level 3), you must demonstrate that the procedures not only give the desired and planned results, but these procedures are systematically revised and improved. For example, any error in a product or service is an occasion for a revision of the process, procedure, and/or instruction (Level 4).

Figure 4.1 Example of maturity levels of a process.*

In many cases, the overall cycle time, i.e. the time between the first step in the process until the last step in the process, is a very good measure of the efficiency of a process. After all, the total cycle time includes not only the steps with added value (for customers and end-users), but also all the steps which do not have an added value for the customer. The shorter the process, the more robust the process and the more reliable the results.

A process description which looks complicated is an indication that the process is probably not audited and improved often. Excellent processes are simple, transparent, short, and robust.

Pitfall: don’t describe the process only in major blocks. This type of “high level” description may hide underlying complexity of activities and decisions. Provide enough detail of the process to show where enabling and control measures provide data for continuous improvement.

Interne Audit Vlaamse Administrate, Annual report 2008, p. 63.

Key Performance Indicators (KPI) and Results

Once the measurement and calibration methods and process description reflecting the corresponding maturity level are provided, it is time to identify indicators and corresponding expected results.

The following are the required components of a Best Practice indicator:

■ KPI title (KPI: Key Performance Indicator)

■ Name and function of the KPI owner. This is a simple illustration to identify the accountability of the leader

■ Objective, scope, and target of the indicator

■ Relationship of the KPI to the strategy of the organization (alignment)

■ Current results (in table and/or graph) reflected through the indicator for a period of 5 years or longer

■ Segmentation of the results over the different departments and work units

■ Interpretation and discussion of the results plus decisions and next action plan

Distribution of the Results

It may be useful to point out the standard deviation of the measurement parameter used. If the variation of the measurement is low, there is no reason to do so. However, in cases where the standard deviation is high, it is worthwhile to explain why the variation is so high and whether the distribution is normal or not. Often processes working with humans rather than machines have wider variation, such as healthcare or customer service activities.

Accurately reporting the variation in measurements and results is a good indicator that the company documenting their Best Practice is at the level of maturity where processes and systems are so well defined that the data can be gathered and analyzed reliably.

Cause and Effect

As mentioned above, the description of cause and effect between enabler and result is important. It is imperative to show that the results planned are caused by the chosen approach and not achieved through ad hoc interventions.

If the Best Practice is documented using the criteria and characteristics mentioned thus far in this book, the reader of the Best Practice can see the consistency of the approach, the logic between approach and results, and the relationship of measurements, results, and strategy.

Assessment of Enabler and Results

As you assign a maturity level to a process, you can also attribute a degree of excellence for the methods (enablers) used and results achieved. Chapter 3 describes the use of the BEST-tool for assessment of enabler and results. The strengths and areas for improvement in your Best Practice are immediately apparent.

Limiting Conditions

Limiting conditions and preconditions are mostly internal factors such as staff education, level of technological expertise, and organizational design (e.g. centralized, decentralized, hierarchical, matrix structure, etc.). Limiting conditions influence the approach and implementation of a Best Practice, just as the context in which the business functions influences the method used and the results obtained.

Context conditions are usually external factors (taxes, licenses, climate conditions, industrial standards, etc.). Therefore, a Best Practice should mention both context and limiting conditions.

Date and Revision Number

Finally, specify the date and revision number of the Best Practice document. It is recommended that Best Practice documents reflect revision numbers, so you can immediately observe whether the owner of the Best Practice is applying continuous improvement. A small revision number indicates a slow evolution of the Best Practice method over time. If the Best Practice has not been updated to reflect improvements, it is questionable whether this description is truly a Best Practice.

  • [1] International Organization for Standardization, httr).s:/Avww.i.so.org/home.htrnl accessed 23 April 2020f ASTM International offers global access to fully transparent standards development. https://www,astm.org/BOOKSTOUE/BOS/index.html accessed 23 April 2020
 
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