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Planning to survive or planning to be better?

Posted on December 10, 2012 in Articles

In between planning and execution, a lot of things can come in between. As such, the development and execution of strategic plans becomes critical in order for institutions to realise long term sustainability and organisational process maturity. A common pitfall in this endeavour is the concept of “piece meal serving”, Figure 1.1 illustrates how some organisations fail to look into other areas when developing their strategic plans. With this, it is important to note that a holistic management systems baseline complemented with continual improvement tools can be an essential ingredient during strategic planning when laying down a road map towards process excellence and maturity.

Figure 1.1 (Progression towards Organisational Process Maturity)

Before an organisation can orchestrate a clear strategic plan towards process maturity, it is necessary for top management to look into the following pivot points, these are:
•    Identification of strengths and weaknesses
•    Bridging gaps to better capture the Voice of the Customer (VOC)
•    Optimisation of in between activities to further improve the value chain
•    Course of action towards maturity organisation processes

Of the four pivot points, bridging the gap to capture the VOC proved to be the most vital as it encompasses both the management systems baseline of a customer satisfaction, to operational excellence quality centric organisation. This quality centric framework, once integrated to the strategic planning phase of the company, can help top management realise achieve the 5 levels of organisation process maturity. True for most companies , it may just be a small focus of what the organisation should cover.

The holistic approach to management and thus forward planning not only caters to a small segment of the business unless we will be more than sufficient handling contingencies from time to time. The element of risks from whatever may affect our business is becoming more prevalent as ever. It is on this note that companies who does not consider such risks may basically be just planning to survive, and not to be better.

Various risks abound, and various aspects of organisational processes must be managed. Management System Planning evolved with such realisation so that we see a lot of models now beginning from the foundation of Quality Management System and evolving through Environment Management, health and Safety Management, Information Security, Energy Management, Business Continuity as among the most important nowadays.

Only when you have establish the foundation for such thrusts can process improvement take place. Organisational process maturity follows 5 different levels; each level may be aligned with Neville Clarke’s 6E cycle and specific target areas an organisation wishes to address during strategic planning. However, in order for a solution driven framework to fit in, management must first embark on an exploratory stage to properly identify the different improvement opportunities within the organisation. It is only when these opportunities are identified that management can implement a roadmap towards the 5 levels of process maturity from the operational excellence framework of six sigma methodology (ISO 13053-1:2011)

•    Initial (level 1) / Evaluation Stage – organisational process are undefined, thus the need to identify
     and prioritise the opportunity for improvements
•    Managed (level 2) / Education Stage – customer response process has been formalise through
     proper acquisition of knowledge that are aligned with the business strategy
•    Defined (level 3) / Execution Stage – the whole organisational processes are defined through the
     execution of the projects for improvement opportunities
•    Quantitatively Managed (level 4) / Expansion Stage – all defined process from level 3 are
     expanded internally to support processes
•    Optimised (level 5) / Engagement Stage – efficiency in the processes are achieved through the use
     of indicators to improve the value chain

The different levels of maturity were created in order to assess the performance of a company which could pave way to the implementation of improvement projects. Such improvement projects must likewise be identified during the crafting of the strategic plan so that organisations can position their resources accordingly.

To start your annual planning, let’s start the journey in being better…

Know what makes your business tick – Know what un-settles your day-to day operation – Review your pain points in managing the operational goals and corporate/ legislative requirements.

We all have done our piece of the SWOT Analysis, and it is of importance that we are aware about the current formula for our success and what will make us grow stronger. Using the model of ISO 9001 for Customer Satisfaction has been an essential part of the journey but we know that is only the foundation, and to further delight the customers, we must address other needs and expectations such as the adoption of  industry practices towards  the assurance of a green product, the assurance of consumer protection for safety and information security.

Though a company’s practice may be strong with its ISO 9001 Quality Management System foundation, it is essential to understand the threats and weakness on the aspects of environmental compliance, information security, sustainability and even business continuity. Management system models like ISO 14001: Environmental Management System, ISO 27001 : Information Security Management System, and towards the drive for a sustained organisational success as laid out in ISO 9004.

Bridging the gaps is not only met towards customers requirement but that to the stakeholders as well. 


Assess the voice of the Customers – Determine if your Quality Management System is serving your customers well.

Assess the needs of stakeholders – Determine if you are at risk in breaching your thrust for the people, community and any relevant regulatory requirements.

Gap Analysis, Quality Planning, Competitive Profiling are all means to know how far are we from set standards and our goals. Benchmarking against standards, best practices and even diagnostics against set excellence frameworks can be good to drive the step change framework in the organisation.
Gap Analysis can be done to show the extent of the company’s compliance against set standards / industry practices as ISO 9001, ISO 14001, ISO 27001, ISO 5001, ISO 22301 and even Lean Sigma maturity. Quality Planning endeavours our perspectives of evaluating our current indicators to gauge whether such metrics will propel us to change, and improve our processes. There’s always lesson to be learned if we look beyond our typical approach and even outside of our industry to benchmark on best practices.


Develop accountability in people and prepare them to achieve the goals – Create competencies towards their achievement of goals/ targets and programmes….

Developing a learning organisation is always the thrust of many knowing that the success of any system can only be equated with the capability of its people. The people development goal is always a recognised goal but a thrust that may have been taken for granted for sometime and ony when issues abound that companies realise that we need to develop the people.. People development takes a lot of form, training is a way of making them understand, so they will be qualified to perform the task. On another note, training can also be a way of recognising people such that they will continuously be motivated to achieve such goals for the organisation.

The deployment and optimisation of in- between activities to further improve the value chain has always been the challenge for many companies, and a good structure complemented with the understanding from the people who will be involved in its implementation are always important ingredients into the success of any initiative. There is a general notion  that you cannot underestimate the value of communication and for the message to really get across, you must Communicate! Communicate! Communicate!

The trust of process and performance management will be the consciousness of the factual approach for decision making, making data as bases for our strategies, tactics, operational controls and even our thrust for the continual improvement process.

We need data to establish the baseline, and likewise to establish what we have achieved, and to establish our further direction for further stretching our goals.

With a sound strategic plan and the thrust for increasing the  levels of organisation process maturity . We can easily aim and achieve to be better in a holistic way through the integration of the operational excellence framework, more specifically the six sigma methodology, into the baseline of management systems, any management system relevant to our industry. Through this integration,  the 1st until the 3rd level of maturity can be aligned to the focus the  organisation wishes to deploy in their respective focus areas during the strategic planning. Progression from the 1st to the 3rd level of maturity can be realised through proper evaluation and calibration of the internal processes by capturing the Voice of the Process (VOP). Once the VOP has been addressed accordingly companies can now move forward to the 4th and 5th level of maturity through proper selection of continual improvement tools and operation excellence framework (i.e., Six Sigma). This integration can give a clear cut process based and data driven strategic plan which can help organisations address the 4 pivot points.

The 6E Framework gives us this structure as will be appropriate to the holistic direction of managing our organisational thrust. Strategic planning should not just be a process to define our year-to year budgets and the level of increment for our goals, it should play a very important component in realising an organisation goal to achieve maturity and long term sustainability. While there are several means by which organisational process maturity can be achieved, it is important to note that, a holistic and integrated approach in planning and an integrated course of action are key components to achieving the highest level of maturity. We decide our journey, our achievements is dependent on the quality of our journey, and whether we get to our destination is all our doing. So merely planning to survive should not be the option but planning to be better towards sustaining our organisational success.

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