Improve your customers and suppliers

As a Lean Leader, don’t accept bullshit from your clients or suppliers.  The most expensive comment you can ever make in your business is “that is just the way it is”. Utter BS.

Any opportunity you have to influence the behaviours and actions of other businesses is a good day.  I have had clients who have worked hard on improving their processes and workflow that clients have had to change and lift their own performance. Without this level of influence, true Lean outcomes will never be achieved.

In the Lean and quality world there is a mantra we all try to live by:

“Don’t accept errors and don’t pass on errors”. 

This saying has its roots with Dr W. Edwards Deming, one of the founders of the quality movement. This is all about building in quality and quality checks all through a specific process and value stream. It is easier to set that standard and influence internal processes through your own workflow and staff. But that mindset shouldn’t remain the exclusive domain of any internal processes.

It is more than OK to put some time aside and chat to your suppliers about how you want to operate and begin setting the standards and expectations.  You might be quietly surprised on how many other businesses are keen to come onboard.  It might be the first time that anyone has approached them to think differently and raise an opportunity to improve an aspect of their business.  Customers are much the same.  If they can do a certain thing, provide information using a new template within a certain timeframe, they can expect a specific level of improved service from your team.  It is all about collaboration.

By challenging the status quo, pushing out a vision of your big picture, it can be the catalyst for others to lift their game and improve.  This is creating real impact for the SME sector in NZ.

I have seen trade teams turn up to a construction site only to wait longer than the task itself.  This is absolutely crazy and shouldn’t be like this at all.  Spending time working with suppliers to deliver on time, in the required volumes, standards etc.  It can be done, it isn’t an easy path at times, but the opportunities for everyone to gain from this approach is enormous.  By prioritising time to have these conversations can set a better, improved set of expectations, a better standard and ultimately an overall lift in performance for your clients and suppliers.

Start by not accepting poor products, late deliveries, any quality issue from other businesses.  This will eventually erode your reputation, not theirs.  Reset the mindset that it is not OK to accept sub-par services that will impact your business. Bet better through better expectations, improved standards.  Put time aside to have the right conversations, jointly solve barriers so you can all lift your performance.


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