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GeniusYou Don’t Have to Be a Genius to Improve Your Organisation

As you are reading this I guess you want to improve your organisation’s performance.

There are lots of theoretical, “cleverer-than-you” schemes and silver bullets you can try. These methods have multiple models, packs full of slides and endless analysis.  If they don’t float your boat there are plenty of other approaches that are just plain dull that you could give a go.

I’m afraid you won’t find any of those here.

If, however, you are looking for something pragmatic that you don’t have to be Einstein to understand, this course could be just the thing for you.

The “Organisational Mechanics” e-Mail Course

The course includes:

  • A systematic, simple way to understand and carry out business improvement.
  • A clear approach that will improve customer service and reduce cost within your operation.
  • An organised reference guide to the core ideas that have appeared on the Squawk Point.

“Organisational Mechanics” is a free 16-part e-mail course that shows how it fits together. Subscribe by entering your e-mail address in the box below.

What Does the Course Cover?

I have worked in business improvement for longer than I’d like to admit.  During that time I have found three themes that keep on reappearing. So I have created a series that works through these three themes. It introduces you to the concepts I think every improvement professional must know about.

Big Idea 1: Operations Analysis

Creating a sound understanding of how your operation is working is fundamental to improving it.  You can’t fix performance if you don’t know what needs to be fixed.

  • The first and most important issue is to create focus.  How do you target your activities onto the things that matter?
  • Once you have that clarity, how do you measure performance?  Which of the myriad of key performance indicators are important?
  • How do you provide performance data in a clear, easy to understand format? A way that delivers unambiguous messages?
  • How can you create an improvement conversation in your organisation? A repeatable rhythm that will drive performance.

Big Idea 2: Process Improvement

Once you understand what the issues are, how do you fix them?  There is a lot of mystique associated with process improvement. The e-mail course will take you through the key concepts and how to apply them.

  • How do you get to have your cake and eat it?  Can you create the “magic” of improved quality and reduced cost or are they mutually exclusive?
  • What is the big idea behind Lean Thinking?  How can you explain that simply and use it to improve performance?
  • What was the problem solving technique that NASA used to rescue Apollo 13 and bring the crew home safely?  Could you use it in your business?
  • Once you have fixed the process, how do you make sure it stays fixed?  Is it enough to just tell people what to do?

Big Idea 3: Employee Engagement

This is the backbone of any improvement programme. How do you engage your staff to do what is right for your customers, rather than just turning up to do a 9 to 5 job?  After all, they have a far better idea of what is really going on on the shop floor.

  • What can you do to unlock the enthusiasm of your staff and engage them in continuous improvement?
  • Why trust is all important in driving improvement.  What prevents trust from developing in your organisation and how to address it?
  • How targets work and their impact on motivation and performance.  What are the side effects and how do you avoid them?
  • How do you create a virtuous spiral of engagement and improvement so that your staff members attack problems in a sustainable way?

The Wild Cards

It would be naive to assume that three topics will cover all you need to know about improving your organisation. So I have thrown in a wild card or two to broaden your understanding.

  • What do your staff spend their time doing?  How can you understand the demands your customers place on your shop floor?
  • How does innovation help business improvement. Can you be creative when you haven’t an inventive bone in your body?
  • What is the infection that is present in every business?  How can you learn to see it and what could you do to eradicate it?
  • And finally, my personal hobbyhorse, does “performance management” drive performance?

Pulling It All Together

Each of these ideas reinforces the others.  Together, they’re much stronger than they would be if any of them were missing. “Organisational Mechanics” is a free 16-part e-learning course that’s delivered by email.  Every week you’ll get a new lesson and lots of pointers to archived Squawk Point content. I hope the new perspective will help you “connect the dots” and put this advice to work in your own operation.

What Next?

Enter your email address below to sign up for “Organisational Mechanics”:

It’s important that everyone receiving “Organisational Mechanics” wants the newsletter.  So you will be asked to confirm that you want to receive it by clicking a link in an e-mail you’ll receive after signing up.

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  1. Organisational mechanics has provided me with information on many tools to make me more efficient and accurate at work. The five step to service improvement plan helped me immensely because due to my walking into the shoes of our customers, I was able to figure out a huge discrepancy that helped us to provide better service to our customers.

    I would definitely recommend this to my colleagues, in fact I have already done so, you are doing an amazing job.


    Millicent Hutchinson

  2. I’ve been charged with implementing lean system reviews of services in a local authority after “successfully” implementing a review in my own service – housing. I’ve had no formal training and so am relying on self-teaching, gleaning whatever I can from books and the internet. I’m often only a few days ahead in learning myself before passing that learning onto others.

    The Squawk Point has been a real find. As well as the ‘formal’ system review programme I have a few interested people who just want to start doing this stuff in their work area. I have passed on all of the service improvement programme stuff to them and I am beginning to see them utilise it on a daily basis. One of the problems we face is trying to change from a very structured, controlling (and blaming) culture, to one where people feel able to challenge, question and innovate. We all make mistakes, its how we deal with them that matters. I’d like to see a little more on how to get the really senior managers and politicians engaged with this. In our politicised environment the reason for doing things isn’t always the best business reason. That can cause frustration lower down the structure and lead people to question the validity of what we’re trying to achieve.

    Thanks for your programme, it’s really helping me and my colleagues to question and to see new perspectives.

  3. EMV Testing says:

    Hello James,

    The communication of The Squawk Point is interesting with a good frequency and useful information and I enjoy reading and learning from it.

    Have a nice day.

  4. Mirren Hunter says:

    Hi James,

    Just wanted to say how lucky I was to stumble across your site and how useful it has been. I think it is absolutely wonderful full of easy to digest, sound and amusing advice.

    I discovered Squawk point last autumn when working for a Fire and Rescue authority carrying out some staff engagement and process improvement. The 3 lessons form a Firemen went down really well and hopefully a few of the permanent staff now use Squawk Point.

    I have used one day process mapping sessions in the Fire and Rescue Service and a Housing Association which I did some work for. Getting front line staff participating in these sessions worked really well and produced good workable solutions for improved service delivery.

    Prior to finding Squawk Point I had received quite a bit of LEAN/ Business Improvement training but have found the information on your site probably more useful, certainly more digestible and it makes me smile.

    In my new job, I have given someone earlier this week the link for Squawk Point and have recommend it to people who I think will actually look at it.

    The thing I always find most difficult to deal with in any organisation I have worked for has been change management. I find trying to embed cultural change hugely challenging. Many people pay only lip service to continuous improvement, don’t think of their organisation as a business and certainly don’t empower their staff or value their customers, so I would appreciate advice on cultural change.

    I signed up for the course and I found that basically it reinforced much of what I already new and, as always was full of common sense, almost stating the obvious. It still amazes me how many people have to make things complicated, but maybe they are just plain stupid……

    Many thanks for your fantastic site which I cant praise enough.


  5. Dear James,

    I have just finished reading the entire set and found it really, really useful. I haven’t done the homework yet and if I’m honest (truth) I probably won’t do it all. The articles and examples have really helped me understand some of the stuff I’ve been working with for a few months now. I will use some of the stuff in my improvement work – particularly the engagement with people and the TIMWOODs example was a really good way of explaining something that you can get overcomplicated particularly when trying to relate to health services.

    My particular area of weakness is statistics so I guess more about that would be useful to me, but also about the relationship between reduction in defects = cost savings – even if they are not cashable.

    I will be using your stuff and certainly recommending to colleagues, particularly those involved in the project work I’m embarking on.

    Thank you very much for the free opportunity to study and share. Long may it continue.

    Best regards


  6. Hi James,

    I have recommended your course and blog to lots of my colleagues as I find it very helpful in a number of ways which I will try to describe… At the moment I am going through a black belt LSS certification course which your material compliments nicely as I find you describe things from a more common sense, practical perspective. I also agree with almost everything you write, but find that my organisation is often at odds with these views so the articles provide an ‘impartial’ way of forwarding on best practice to help people see a different viewpoint. In particular I really liked the article about the GE Work Out which I had not heard before and plan to run as lunchtime sessions towards the end of the year; nothing like a lunchtime work out is there?!

    One small point though is that all of the emails get caught in our spam filters requiring me to manually release them all. In some ways this makes the anticipation even greater, but overall it’s a bad thing as I worry others who I recommend to sign up will not be so diligent at releasing them.

    I am very grateful for the time, effort and insight you put into all of your articles/posts and am certainly developing my approach to business in light of them.

    Many thanks,

    Phil Norton

  7. What I like most about your pages and blogs is how you distill all the ideas around lean/6 Sigma/business improvement/continuous improvement into very simple, clear and understandable messages.

    You always come back to the fundamentals that underpin all of these consulting practices.

    I recommended all of your stuff to others and I think you are getting quite a fan base developing.

    You and Dilbert that get me through the working week.

  8. The email course has some topic shattering damn good principles, unfortunately I and all my associates end up filing the email posts in various locations, which dilutes the educational effect. It would be great, if at the end, you will post the links for all lessons in one spot.



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