What do we truly mean by "best"? How can we define and measure it?

Todd Herman

Many times, potential clients ask, "What can you do to make my business the best?" These prospects have an unrealistic expectation of both consulting and business. The problem is the word "best." What do we truly mean by "best"? How can we define and measure it? In certain types of problems (for example, production scheduling), "best" can only be determined by exhaustive trial and error – that is, enumerating and testing all possible configurations. Even if you identify "best," how long would it take to implement it? Can a company really afford "best"? Most times, when people say "best" they really mean "better, given certain budget, staff, and other constraints."

What Clients Love, a small and very practical book by Harry Beckwith, passes along several tips in this vein, which I have illustrated using my most progressive client.

"Good beats perfect" – This client, along with others, has gotten to "best" by always striving for "better." In these cases, I find several common factors:

  • The "tone at the top" – that is, the attitude among the top executives – is to focus on constant improvement.
  • There is a focus on processes. In these companies, when things go wrong, the problem is viewed as an opportunity to fix a process – and not to blame an individual. By not taking things personally, people can openly talk about process problems without feeling threatened.
  • Goals are set that require cross-functional cooperation. This mutual striving fosters true team spirit better than any team-building exercise.
  • Goals are always moved higher regularly.

"Dynamic people require dynamic environments" – The people at this client, in a span of 8 years, have:

  • Reduced physical inventory shrinks – which had been 1% of cost of sales – are now less than .008% of cost of sales.
  • Shrunk the time required to produce the first draft monthly financial statements from 4.5 days to 1 day, over a period of 4 years.
  • Cut the cycle time required to develop new products to one-third the original time within 18 months.
  • Moved several production processes completely offshore, and automated the required commercial invoices and value statements in the process – all within 2 years.
  • Overhauled, over a period of 18 months, the entire product line to introduce two new manufacturing techniques.
  • Yielded a return on investment (that is, operating income as a percentage of equity) that is over 8 times higher today than 8 years ago.

"Moving organizations tend to keep moving" – This company, as good as it is, is still moving, still getting better – this is true even though the CEO who first began these changes was promoted out of this company 3 years ago! Thus, the legacy of this CEO is a dynamic environment that challenges people to excel.

So, if you want your company to be the best, it is really quite simple – figure out some ways to get better, implement them, and repeat over and over. Get moving, get better!

Todd L. Herman

Todd L. Herman

Client Project Update:

I am pleased to provide you with an update on our client projects. Projects we have completed over this period are...

Reviewed Outside and Offshore Processes

Reviewed the outside and offshore processes for a manufacturer, documenting the flow of goods and documents and evaluating tracking and control procedures to improve inventory accuracy.

Developed a Lotus Notes Application

Developed a Lotus Notes application to collect and store performance appraisals for a pharmaceutical company, allowing past due monitoring and secure storage of the word processing documents.

Analyzed the Development Process of A Textile Manufacturer

Analyzed the color development process of a textile manufacturer, identifying process changes to improve internal coordination and documentation, allowing more timely and accurate responses to customer requests for new colors.

Resolve Issues in Converting to a New Financial System

Worked with a manufacturer to identify and resolve issues in converting to a new financial system, allowing accounting and closing process improvements achieved over several years to be preserved in the revised environment.

Defined Product Development Process

Assisted a yarn manufacturer in defining their product development process and making recommendations as necessary, thereby gaining consensus and understanding of the process, and devising a method to implement the new process.

Designed and Implemented a Web-based JavaScript Sales Quote

Designed and implemented a Web-based JavaScript sales quote application for a distributor, providing the sales force a tool to accurately evaluate a project within company margin and pricing policy, with automated workflow routing for approval of exceptions.

Future projects we are planning include...

Paper-Based Process to Lotus Notes Application Conversion

Transform a paper-based process for new product development to a Lotus Notes-based application, providing a tool to shorten the overall process duration, manage the process more efficiently, and improve communication, project visibility, and overall coordination.

Month-End Closing & Reporting Process Analysis

Analyze the entire month end closing and reporting process for a large apparel company, identifying techniques to cut the current cycle time in half while improving accuracy of reporting.

Customer Relationship Management System

Implement a customer relationship management system for an international pharmaceuticals manufacturer, providing a secure library of competitive intelligence and efficient collection and reporting of daily sales activity.

Improving Sales Analysis & Regulatory Reporting

Develop a Lotus Notes database to provide an international pharmaceuticals manufacturer visibility into end user customer purchasing habits, improving sales analysis and regulatory reporting.

Implementing Revised Product Development Process

Assist an international manufacturer in implementing its revised product development process, reducing cycle time for the process and helping to prioritize requests based on marketing objectives and development resources.