We are in the midst of a series of posts on systems, policies and keeping them relevant and fresh. We are tackling the topic from 5 angles:
- Defining a system or process
- Outlining keys for sound policy to support your systems
- Improving and fixing established systems
- Clearly communicating changes to systems and policies so that the changes stick
- Creating an organizational culture that supports all the above
Today we focus on #3, determining the need for a system change as your organization grows and evolves, and how to present the alternatives.
When a change in a system is needed, there are 2 approaches for making change happen. The first is rather straightforward. When an employee identifies the need for a change, and has the authority to decide what the change should be, it should simply be handled. In our next post we look at communicating the change to others, but for purposes of the change itself, if you have authority, take it and make the change.
When a system change is beyond the authority of the individual who identifies the need, a different approach is needed. It is this approach that we are highlighting in this post.
Typically, an employee who identifies a problem in a system takes the question to his/her supervisor to research the options and make a decision. However, a tool that is more effective for both the manager and the staff in the system for clarifying problems and proposing solutions is the Completed Staff Work, or CSW.
The CSW changes the norm of taking problems to management for them to devise a solution into one of taking solutions. The value of the tool is in empowering the front line to identify and research what is truly the best solution for a problem or opportunity for improvement. It frees the time of management and gives more leverage to those working in the systems to find the best methods and tools to do their work.
The CSW was created originally for the military, but is applicable to any organization. The theory rests on a culture in which all staff are encouraged to be on the lookout for sub-standard conditions in a system and then to define alternative solutions and make a recommendation. (More on culture in post #5 of the series.) Using a CSW spreads ownership of problem-solving throughout the organization and gathers proposed solutions from those who are closest to the work.
Here are the main buckets of information on a CSW:
- Situation – a description of what has been observed. What is the opportunity to improve a system? Or what is the condition that is below standard, i.e., what is the problem?
- Relevant Data – the specifics about the system, conditions and/or problem. How many customers are served, how quickly? What is the cost of the current system? How much time does the current system take? How many staff are impacted? What is the waste in the current system? Emphasis here is on providing facts as opposed to opinions or conclusions.
- Proposed Solutions – include 1 or more potential solutions that will improve the system or fix unsatisfactory conditions. In the description of solutions, include what savings the solution will provide as it relates to the data included in #2.
- Recommendation – Indicate the solution that is recommended and why
At the bottom of the form is a checkbox, signature line and space for feedback where the supervisor or team member with the authority to approve the change checks whether to move forward or not. He or she can ask for additional research or information, etc. before making the decision.
The tool is simple and straightforward, and is a key piece of building a culture of continuous improvement and teamwork. If you have questions or are interested in a sample of the tool, drop us an email. Next up in the series, making this system change stick.