Have you ever wondered how some organizations grow and capture a large market share? It might be easier than you think.
Increased market share is the result of products and services that not only meet but exceed customer expectations.
Organizations grow by constantly striving to improve their products, services, and internal systems.
These efforts result in systematic change and improvement.
As an example, think about Apple products. Consider what the iPhone was like 10 years ago. It was really cool when it first came out.
Remember how people waited in lines to get it? The bells and whistles wow’d most of us and I don’t know about you, but I felt like I was one of the cool kids for having one!
Now think about how far those products have come. They have new features, upgraded designs, technical improvements, etc.
The newest iPhone boasts an amazing camera, display, and battery life. Upgrades we would not have imagined 10 years ago!
Another example is the service that retailers provide to customers since the pandemic. Retailers had to scramble to help consumers who feared going in public during the height of the pandemic.
These retailers went back to the drawing board and created services to meet the need.
They utilized technology and were thoughtful in their approach to creating a safe way to transfer goods from the store to consumers.
Who would have ever expected to have groceries or home products delivered to your car as you waited?
These improvements were the result of the pandemic and businesses thinking through ways that they could meet customer requirements during the challenges of the time.
I don’t think I’ll ever go into a Target store again when I can place an order on my phone, drive up, and have someone happily deliver the goods right to my car!
That is an example of improving products and services for consumers.
Improvements Don’t Happy By Accident
Product development doesn’t happen by chance.
It happens through an intentional focus on improvement.
What is an improvement model?
FOCUS PDCA is a process improvement model that is used to identify improvement opportunities and utilizes a systematic approach to implementing changes.
The original problem-solving model was first birthed out of one of the early quality gurus by the name of Walter Shewhart.
The model is used to learn by doing and experimenting with improvements, examining what is learned, and implementing what was learned into further improvement efforts.
FOCUS PDCA is an acronym for:
Find – An improvement opportunity.
Organize – A team that understands the process.
Clarify – Current knowledge of the process.
Understand – The causes of variation in the process.
Select – The improvement that needs to take place.
Plan – Study the improvement opportunity and develop a plan based on what needs to be done.
Do – Execute the plan.
Check – Study the results of the plan to determine whether the plan worked.
Act – If the plan worked, write a policy and standardize the change. If it didn’t work, go back to the drawing board and try something else while going through the cycle again.
How Does A FOCUS PDCA Cycle Work?
Ok, now let’s walk through the process to see how this works. Let’s say you’re a small organization that hires occasionally but not often enough to have a designated Human Resources Department.
You hire employees occasionally but because there is no formal onboarding process, important information that an employee should be aware of is missed in the process.
This results in a less than ideal experience for the new employee. So in this example, using the FOCUS PDCA cycle, you would:
Find – The opportunity to improve the new hire experience.
Organize –A team of employees who have gone through the hiring process.
Clarify – The understanding of the process for newly hired employees.
Understand – Collect data to paint an accurate picture of what the hiring experience is like.
Select – The action to be taken.
Plan – Plan what needs to be done to improve the hiring experience. This may include creating a new employee orientation checklist. Do this by asking employees what information would have been helpful for them when they started their job.
Do – Roll out the plan and test it on new employees as they are hired.
Check – Follow-up with new employees who have used the new process and collect data on how well that process worked for them and if they could suggest any other changes that could help improve the new process.
Act – Incorporate what was learned into the new process and implement it. Repeat the process again.
This is a very simplified example of FOCUS PDCA but I think it’s important to understand that this does not have to be a difficult process; just one that keeps on task and that there is consistent followed-up.
How Do You Identify Improvement Opportunities?
Ask Your Customers
Talk to your customers. Conduct a customer focus group and get them talking. Ask them what they like about your products or services (so you can keep doing that) but more importantly ask them what you could do to improve.
For instance, in the current pandemic environment, ask about ways you can better serve them.
Ask Your Employees
Employees have unique perspectives because often they are on the front lines and have an understanding of what is working and what needs improvement.
Talk to your employees and ask:
- What kind of complaints are you hearing from customers?
- What are the biggest challenges for doing your job?
- If you were the decision-maker, what areas would you like to improve?
- In what ways can we better support you?
Any of these questions will provide ideas for improvements.
Study The Data
Keep a database of customer complaints.
Compare all of the data, look for patterns of issues and then prioritize the list.
For instane, if you are getting feedback that wait times are too long, go through the FOCUS PDCA cycle and see if there are ways you can improve. Collect baseline data and use it to compare after an improvement is made.
The Status Quo Doesn’t Work Any More
I am always sad when I see a new business get off to a great start. They offer a great service or product, but over time the quality and care seem to get lost in the shuffle.
These business owners very often are operating out of burnout and allow the business to run off of fumes and they simply maintain the status quo.
What makes me sad is that the environment is so competitive that we know that it is just a matter of time that someone will show up down the street and do it faster and better.
Invest the time today to think about the next level and find a team to help you go through the FOCUS PDCA process so that you can continue to grow your business and market share.