Importance of Consistency Culture in Business
Jo, an owner of a rapidly growing business, was very rightly proud of her achievement. The business had grown quickly with great success. Jo started to feel troubled despite success, something wasn’t right. She’d noticed tensions between staff, things were taking too long, and not working as smoothly as they had before. A few customers were unhappy and there had been a handful of bad reviews. Furthermore Jo was shocked to discover there was less money left over at the end of each month. Jo had shared some of her concerns with Ted, a trusted owner of a bigger business, who had mentioned the importance of consistency culture in business. Ted mentioned that it was one of the pillars of success.
Intrigued by this success pillar
Jo was intrigued by this success pillar and the importance of “consistency culture in business”. Now Jo was a smart cookie and wasn’t too sure what “consistency culture in business” meant. She thought it all sounded a bit complicated and didn’t like to ask. Jo thought, “Time for some detective work, let’s figure out what’s actually going on”.
Jo started with the biggest problem, late delivery. She knew that their biggest customer demanded delivery on time, and threatened cancellation if it didn’t arrive as expected. Jo was really anxious about that and felt responsible for all the staff. The whole business was at risk if their biggest customer wasn’t happy! Jo started with the warehouse, after all, she thought, “that should be fine”.
Not a pretty picture
When Jo reached the warehouse, it wasn’t a pretty picture. You couldn’t move for open boxes. Jo quietly observed what was going on. Jack seemed totally absorbed and didn’t seem to notice. He looked frazzled and at his wits end. Jack opened a box, carefully examined the contents, and then moved on and opened another. After the third box, Jack gave a small smile of relief, resealed the box and took it to the loading bay.
Jo took the opportunity to ask Jack what was going on. Jack looked resigned to the situation, “this batch have the wrong labels, I knew there was a problem because these are much lighter than they should be”. Jack went on to explain, he’d raised the problem with packing and they were figuring it out. Jo looked keenly at Jack and asked “How long has this being going on”. Jack looked a little uncomfortable, “this lot has taken most of the day, but it’s not the first time it’s happened”.
“Thank you” said Jo, having a sinking feeling about shipping the wrong products. Jo reflected that if everything was in its rightful place then we’d do a better job and it would cost less. “Consistency culture in business” thought Jo.
Wondered about the cost and delay
Next Jo headed to packing to investigate. Helen was working frantically to get everything done. She looked like a superhuman and looked very efficient. Jo thought it was very fast and wondered about the cost and delay of the errors. Jo thought it important enough to stop Helen and ask. “Oh yes”, said Helen when Jo asked, “normally I’d label after packing, but this morning there was nothing to pack” she said. Helen went on, “knowing how busy we are, I decided to label the boxes while I was waiting, something must have gone wrong”.
“Thank you” said Jo, wondering what could have gone wrong. Jo reflected that if there was better coordination, then we’d do a better job and it would cost less. “Consistency culture in business” mused Jo.
Shocked by an enormous pile of rejects
Jo started walking toward production and was shocked by an enormous pile of rejects in the quality department. She was rather alarmed, thinking about all the cost and delay, and went directly to the head of quality. “I was walking through, and couldn’t help noticing all the rejects, what happened?”. “Ah well”, said Bill, “we had a bit of an issue this morning, every single one failed.”. “As you know, we always test everything works before we send them out”. “What went wrong?” asked Jo. Bill picked up one of the rejects and pointed to where the chassis had broken – “they all broke in the same place”.
“Thank you” said Jo and asked if she could take one of the rejects, wondering why suddenly they should all break and what had changed. Jo reflected that consistency was important for quality. She was starting to see why consistency culture in business was so important to success.
Get to the bottom of the quality issue
As Jo headed for production, she recalled hiring a rather talented engineer. She remembered her excitement as they talked about product improvements. Right now, she needed to get to the bottom of the quality issue and went to where the chassis was produced. She showed the chassis to Clare. Clare examined it carefully and took a couple of measurements. I can see why that’s broken, this part is too thin, it’s very strange. Clare grabbed one from the assembly line to double check – “umm, this one’s ok. We make these with this machine, and they should all be the same”. Clare looked thoughtful, “I wonder if something happened down the line.” Jo felt a little relieved that the machine was consistent. Jo reflected that systems create consistency.
Jo heard raised voices
Suddenly Jo heard raised voices and headed over to investigate. She discovered two engineers were arguing. One was speaking loudly, “it’s got to be like this, it makes it faster”, the other, looking frustrated, replied “it doesn’t fit, and when we machine the chassis to make it fit, they break”. Ah thought Jo, that’s what’s happened!
Initially Jo felt angry
Initially Jo felt angry by what seemed to be staff stupidity. She thought, “How did it get like this? Why were changes being made that broke everything”. Then Jo realised that staff were too busy getting things done to think things through. She realised that staff didn’t agree on what was important and didn’t know how to settle differences. She felt a horrible sinking feeling and realised that her staff needed clearer guidelines. Jo was the one in charge, and the only person to say what was important and how things should be done. Jo also had the big picture and could change things. She reflected that consistency ensures everyone’s singing from the same song sheet.
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