Who’s Running Your Business?

Most of our businesses are run by systems that we have put into place to ensure consistent delivery of products and services. Sometimes these systems are automated and sometimes the systems are manual. However, in every case, these systems are set up, maintained and operated by our people. So, our businesses are run by systems but our people run the systems.

A few years ago I was attending a monthly meeting of The Executive Committee in Calgary and we were discussing some typical business issues that members of the group were facing. We were extremely focused on fixing the business system side of things and one of the group made this statement and it struck everyone as profound.

our businesses are run by systems but our people run the systems

People are the core of every business and every business system. Often times we are so focused on the business tools, processes and systems that we forget about the most important part of our business . . . our people!

Edwards Deming introduced a concept in Japan after World War II that revolutionized Japan’s manufacturing industry. Basically, the responsibility to find and fix problems in their manufacturing process was assigned to all employees rather than just the business leaders. The people on the assembly line – those people who were most directly involved and responsible for creating the end product – were now responsible for;

  • continuous improvement
  • fixing what was broken
  • improving quality and product design
  • Making the manufacturing more efficient and cost effective

In the same way today, whether you are in a manufacturing, sales or service business, employees need to be empowered to identify problem areas and propose solutions to make the business more effective, efficient and profitable. Our people are the ones running the systems that we set up to enable our businesses. Who would be better placed than these people to identify areas in our businesses that need improvement or to suggest solutions when our businesses face challenges.

Our businesses may be run by systems but these systems are set up, maintained and run by our people. Leverage your most valuable resources – your people – to continuously improve your business and solve business related challenges.

What are you doing this week to empower your people and improve your business?

We should trust in people not processes.” Ed Catmull


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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2 thoughts on “Who’s Running Your Business?

  1. David, this is a profound, but extremely significant and innovative way of running a business. Our CEO constantly emphasizes our “open door” policy, whereby everyone is welcome to share solutions, concerns, issues, or questions. As managment, we are encouraged to listen and develop those perspectives into actionable items. My previous manager told me as he was leaving our company, that every mistake or problem we encountered in our business could be attributed to human error. Left with that, there wouldn’t be much hope. But, turning it on its head, we could say that because of human interaction with the processes we have put in place, they are in a unique position to help us understand how to improve those processes (That’s basically what you said).
    Whenever I asked my current boss who was responsible for fixing a particular function/product of our business, he would tell me it was everyone’s job. I understood what he was trying to tell me, but I have never liked that answer very much, because I wanted to know that someone was in a position to run with my idea, question or concern. As a result, the same problems occur over and over again. Now that I am in a management position, I want my team to know that when they see that a process or operation of our business can be improved upon, there are people in place who can lead in addressing those areas of concern. Although, my biggest challenge is finding time and resources, in the midst of all my other responsibilites, to fully and effectively address such improvements. That’s another topic in itself.
    Any advice on how to commuicate the system user’s importance in helping to improve the quality of our service, and my response when they bring ideas/concerns to my attention?

    Really apprectiate the insight here.

    Paul Burgh

    • Paul,

      Thanks for your comments. They are very insightful!

      The process of building this continuous improvement culture is a big topic. There are many potential solutions and many places you can start depending on your specific situation. However, I would start with setting the vision for your initiative and then focus on communicating this vision and following through with actions that support it.

      I will send you a separate email with some more details.